If you are a fan of horror and mystery novels, why not branch out into the world of true crime books. They are better than any fiction novel because they are about real people and events. True crime books offer interesting insight into the crimes, trials, and the lives of those involved. I find the study of crime fascinating and if you do too, you will love these 7 true crime books.
1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is the book that started all other true crime books. Capote is credited with creating the true crime genre with this 1966 novel. The book is based on the 1959 killings of the Clutter family. Capote spent 6 years writing the novel and interviewing those involved in the crime and the investigation. It’s even rumored that Capote developed a close and personal relationship with one of the killers during this time. Although he did plenty of research, Capote chose to include things in his story that did not actually happen in real life, which makes many consider this a fiction novel. However, it is still known as one of the best-written true crime novels of all time. This book is a classic and if you haven’t read it yet, you simply must add it to your reading list.
2. The Stranger beside Me by Ann Rule
Imagine finding out that one of your good friends is actually one of the most brutal serial killers the world has ever seen. While most of us couldn’t fathom having a close friend that could do such a thing, that’s exactly what happened to Ann Rule. Ann was working with the police in Seattle while they were trying to solve the disappearances/murders of several young girls in the area. The only information they had was that the man all the girls were last seen with drove a Volkswagen Bug and went by the name “Ted.” It wasn’t long until Ann realized the murderer was none other than her good friend, Ted Bundy. Part of what sets this novel apart from others in the same genre is the personal connection Ann has to the story. The original novel came out in 1980, but there have been many revisions made since then. So if you’re looking to add this book to your reading list, look for the 2008 version because it has an updated Frequently Asked Questions section that’s very interesting.
3. Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper – Case Closed by Patricia Cornwell
This controversial true crime novel attempts to solve one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases of all time – Jack the Ripper. Cornwell claims that beloved British painter Walter Sickert was the man behind the brutal slayings. Some of the theories she presents in her novel are weak, but other ideas make quite a good case. Right now, there is no way to know for sure who the actual Jack the Ripper was, so all we are left with is speculation. Find out if you agree with your theory by adding this true crime book to your “must read” list.
4. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry
Helter Skelter is about the infamous Charles Manson “family”, the crimes they committed and the trial that followed. What makes this a truly unique novel, is that it was written by the prosecuting attorney for the Charles Manson trial. This provides a personal perspective to the infamous murders. If you have ever wanted to know more about these horrific crimes and the people responsible, then you must check out this book.
5. Devil’s Knot: the True Story of the West Memphis Three by Mara Leveritt
Devil’s Knot is about the 1993 murders of 3 8-year-old boys and the following trial of 3 teenagers who were convicted for the murders. What makes this such an interesting read is that many people believe the 3 convicted teens were innocent. They have come to be known as the West Memphis Three. The public first became aware of what seems to be an injustice in the court system when HBO filmed and documented the murder trial for the 3 teenagers. Damien Echols, the “ringleader” of the group, was sentenced to death for the crime. However, in 2011, the West Memphis 3 had the rare opportunity to enter an “Alford Plea” – which is a way to plea “no contest” while still maintaining innocence. The boys got time served, but are still guilty in the eyes of the court. The Devil’s Knot was written before their release, but it is still worth it to read because Mara Leveritt offers some insight into who she thinks actually is responsible for the crime. The answer may surprise you.
6. Mommy’s Little Girl by Diane Fanning
When Caylee Anthony went missing, the world wanted answers. The police arrested her mother, Casey Anthony, for her murder. The trial shocked and stunned the nation. Diane Fanning’s book was the first novel released about the case in 2009 while Casey was incarcerated but had not yet gone on trial. In her book, she points out the evidence and builds a case to what she thinks happened the night Caylee Anthony died. If you are like many who wanted more information about the crime, then this book is a must-read.
7. Most Wanted Killer by Robert Scott
The novel, Most Wanted Killer is about Jesse James Hollywood (yes, that’s his birth name), a drug dealer who is living the highlife. In 2000, Ben Markowitz had quite a big debt built up with Hollywood that he wasn’t paying. Tension was building and it hit a peak when Hollywood and some of his friends spotted Ben’s 15-year-old brother, Nick, walking down the street one day. They end up kidnapping Nick and holding him hostage until they decide what they are going to do with him. If the plot sounds familiar, that’s because there is also a movie about this true crime called Alpha Dog. This is one of the saddest and most disturbing crime stories I have ever heard. Robert Scott’s novel tells the story and follows the arrests and trials of those involved.
True crime books are great to add to your reading list. While they do entertain their primary focus is to educate and offer additional insight into the crimes we just can’t comprehend. These 7 novels are some of the most acclaimed in the true crime genre, so I can guarantee you will not be disappointed if you pick up one of these books! What’s your favorite true crime novel?