When it comes to guilty pleasures of the literary kind, there’s nothing I like better than a good true-crime thriller.
Be it murder, mayhem, corruption or conspiracy, I’m all about those haunting stories that keep us up at night.
If you’re in the mood for something similar, check out this list of amazing true-crime books that will leave you itching for more…
18 Creepy AF True Crime Books
My Story, Elizabeth Smart
On June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was taken from her home in the middle of the night by a religious fanatic. Elizabeth was chained up, raped and hidden from view until her rescue nearly one year later. This book recounts her amazing story of survival in her own words.
The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, Ann Rule
Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, one of her closest friends, was the savage slayer she was hunting.
Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed, Michelle Knight
For more than a decade, Knight was kept hostage in a basement in Cleveland, Ohio. Kept in captivity with two other women, Knight and her fellow captors endured horrible torture and pain. Their escape in 2013 made headlines around the world and Knight’s account will leave you shook.
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
In November of 1959 in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by a shotgun to the face. There was no motive and there were no clues. As Capote tries to reconstruct the murder and the investigation that led to finding the killers, he generates great suspense and astonishing empathy, making this book a true classic.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders, Vincent Bugliosi
Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi, held a unique insider’s position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the 20th century: the murders carried out by Charles Manson and his followers. This book recounts the story of these famous and haunting crimes.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson
In this engrossing book, Larson intertwines the true tale of the Chicago World’s Fair with the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure victims to their death. A true must-read, especially if you’re from the Chicago area!
Columbine, Dave Cullen
What really happened on April 20, 1999, the day two troubled teens decided to bring a whole arson of weapons into their school? Cullen, who was a reporter on the Columbine shooting for years, puts together an amazing account by combining first-hand interviews, insights from psychologists and the killers’ own words and drawings into a book that you’ll want to finish in one nail-biting sitting.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, Michelle McNamara
Written at the time of her sudden death, this book offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history that sent chills down the spines of the entire west coast. A book that may have helped lead to the capture of “the Golden State Killer”, this page-turner is made all the more bittersweet in that McNamara couldn’t see the subject of her study captured.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt
Filled with sublime and seductive language, this book is an engaging portrait of a Southern city torn. On the morning of May 2, 1981, shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion. Was it murder or self-defense? Berendt journeys to find out…
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, Robert Kolker
Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island and presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of online escorts, where making a living is easier than ever, and the dangers remain all too real.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, Kate Summerscale
In June of 1860 three-year-old Saville Kent was found at the bottom of an outdoor privy with his throat slit. The crime horrified all England and led to a national obsession with detection, ironically destroying, in the process, the career of perhaps the greatest detective in the land. This is the dramatic story of the real-life murder that inspired the birth of modern detective fiction.
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo-and the Evil that Swallowed Her Up, Richard Lloyd Parry
Lucie Blackman – tall, blonde, and 21 years old – stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, then disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave. With a little something for everyone, this book is a non-fiction thriller, a courtroom drama and the biography of both a victim and a killer.
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, Monica Hesse
The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. The culprit, and the path that led to these crimes, is a story of twenty-first century America.
The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, Jeff Guinn
This is the story of preacher Jim Jones, the man responsible for the Jonestown Massacre – the largest murder-suicide in American history. Through FBI files, research and interviews, Guinn tries to piece together what led Jones to this tragedy at Jonestown.
My Dark Places, James Ellroy
In 1958 Jean Ellroy was murdered, her body dumped on a roadway in a seedy L.A. suburb. Her killer was never found, and the police dismissed her as a casualty of a cheap Saturday night. James Ellroy was ten when his mother died, and he spent the next thirty-six years running from her ghost and attempting to exorcize it through crime fiction. In 1994, Ellroy quit running. He went back to L.A., to find out the truth about his mother–and himself.
The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer, Skip Hollandsworth
In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class. With vivid historical detail, Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.
The Road Out of Hell: Sanford Clark and the True Story of the Wineville Murders, Anthony Flacco
From 1926 to 1928, Gordon Stewart Northcott committed at least 20 murders on a chicken ranch outside of Los Angeles. His nephew, Sanford Clark, was held captive there from the age of 13 to 15, and was the sole surviving victim of the killing spree. Here, acclaimed crime writer Anthony Flacco―using never-before-heard information from Sanford’s son, Jerry Clark―tells the real story behind the case that riveted the nation. This book was also the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s movie, The Changling.
The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder, Charles Graeber
When nurse Charlie Cullen was arrested in 2003, journalists were quick to dub him “The Angel of Death.” But Cullen was neither a mercy killer nor a simple monster. He was a son, a husband, a father, a best friend, and a valued caregiver. He was also implicated in the deaths of as many as 400 people, and may be the most prolific serial killer in American history.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.