40 Best True Crime Books Of All Time (2021 Guide)

True crime has captivated writers and readers for decades, with some horrifying stories of fiction and non-fiction. Here are some of the best true crime books we think will keep you at the edge of your seat.

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In recent times, the true crime genre is having a resurrection. True crime has captivated writers and readers for decades, with some horrifying stories of fiction and non-fiction. Here are some of the top True Crime Books we think will keep you at the edge of your seat.

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1. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

  In cold blood follows the story of four murders of members of the Herbert Clutter family. This non-fiction novel was written by American author Truman Capote. The book intervenes together the story of the investigators and the murderers, tracking them down by interviewing people who knew the killers and the victims.

In Cold Blood is a true crime classic and is known to be one of the best true crime books ever published. The detailed descriptive writing of the book revolutionized the true crime genre since its release.

2. My Dark Places by James Ellroy

James Ellroy’s mother was murdered when he was just ten years old. Ellroy then later teams with the police to find his mother’s murderer. With the struggle to grow up without a mother and have no one to hold accountable, Ellroy abuses drugs and alcohol to escape his reality.

My Dark Places weaved together dark personal confessions with the story of an unsolved case, as Ellroy fights with the consequences his mother’s death had on him.

3. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

During the 1970s, Ann rule worked in a suicide prevention hotline where she met Ted Bundy. A man she considered a friend and did not know the monster that lay within.  Due to this long friendship, Rule gained insight into the way Ted thought. The Stranger Beside Me describes the personal relationship of Rule with her co-worker, who she later found out to be a serial killer.

4. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

One of the best true crime books, Lost Girls, is a real-life story following the lives of five women, all of whom were prostitutes who a serial killer murdered.  Robert Kolker writes about how these women use sex work on the internet to escape bad situations.

Last Girl is a novel critiquing society and how it has let these young women down.

5. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Byran Stevenson

A true-crime bestseller, Byran Stevenson, writes about the injustice he had found on a distinct case in the American justice system when he worked as a young lawyer. One particular case was that of Walter Mcmillan, an innocent black man who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a Caucasian woman. The book highlights the importance of resistance to injustice.

6. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Erik Larson recounts the murders that occurred at the 1893 Chicago world fair. Larson mixes true crime with gripping suspense to make the events at the hotel look like a work of fiction. Known to be one of the best true crime books ever written, Larson creates a thrilling and suspenseful read.

7. The Dead Girl by Melanie Thernstrom

The dead girl is a terrifying true story that involves the disappearance and murder of the author’s best friend, Bibi Lee. Melanie Thernstrom writes about her emotions and thoughts after her best friend goes missing. After Bibi goes missing, Melanie starts gathering her friends’ poems and letters. Later, when the body is discovered, Melania starts writing about their life together, resulting in a book revolving around murder.

8. Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

Ron Stallworth writes his memoir about the time in the Colorado Springs Police Department, where he was the first black detective. Stallworth uses his name, disguising himself as a white man trying to join the Ku Klux Klan. He narrates the undercover investigation of the KKK and studies their motives. His story has also been recently made into a major motion picture.

9. People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

The book follows the murder of Joji Obara, a twenty-year-old who lived in Japan. Richard dives deep into the investigation and captures the complexity of the murder case. The book dives into the darkness of murder, talking about individual evil, cultures, morality, and grief. People Who Ate Darkness talks about the lasting effects of a violent murder on a family and society.

10.               Missoula: Rape and Justice in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer is an investigative journalist who finds himself in the University of Missoula. The school is well known for its paramedics, scenery, and a huge football fanbase. But behind this typical university community lies a dark truth. The college encourages and promotes a system that hides rapes, which has made it harder for victims to come forward. Krakauer includes multiple interviews of several women recalling the chronicles that occurred on the night of their rapes.

11.               HELTER SKELTER: The Shocking Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

After the infamous murders of the Mason Family in 1969, Vincent Bugliosi writes about the different possible motives someone could have in committing these gruesome murders. It is one of the biggest true crime books bestsellers.

12.                 The Other Side: A Memoir by Lacy Johnson

Lacy Johnson was kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend and kept hostage while being raped repeatedly. In this true-crime memoir, Johnson narrates the dark details of what she went through in the experience while trailing the relationship’s origins. A thrilling, harrowing, and terrifying story where the other side has a lot more than just true crime to offer the readers.

13.               Killing for company by Brian Masters

After murdering 15 innocent people, serial killer Dennis Nilsen confesses to the police. This detailed story was written with Nilsen’s complete cooperation. It, therefore, provided unique intuition into the messy psychology of the bloodbath. This heartbreaking story enlightens us on one of the UK’s ill-famed killers.

14.               The Run Of His Life: The People v O J Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

The trial of former football player O J Simpson lasted for almost a year in 1995. Then, finally, he was tried and acquitted on murder charges. Being a very controversial case that shook the world, Jeffrey Toobin accounts the whole story from the murders to the court trials. This fascinating case has been made into a short TV series by Netflix as well.

15.               The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale

Inspector Jonathan Whicher quickly believed in the unbelievable when a three-year-old child was ruthlessly murdered in a petrifying crime. He believed that the crime was committed by someone in the family. This book avidly tours how this killing has impacted detective work in the modern-day and holds influence over generations of writers.

16.                The Good Girls: An Ordinary killing by Sonia Faleiro

Padma and Lalli are two village girls who live in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, India. The two close best friends were murdered together, and their bodies were hung next to each other on a tree. Sonia Faleiro tells this story whole covering several social issues in India’s broken system. Issues include the caste system, honor killings, police ineptitude, and the price women pay if ‘shame’ is brought to the family.

17.                The Reykjavik Confessions by Simon Cox

People in Iceland have disappeared throughout decades. The same happens with an 18-year-old Gudmundur who disappears near the fishing town of Reykjavik. After 11 months, Geirfinnur goes missing from the southwest of Iceland. Both their families assume they are dead. However, their dead body is never found. Six people come forward to admit to committing the murder of 2 people without remembering anything regarding the crime. This depicts a true story related to false memories.


18.               The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson

Following the murders of the author’s aunt, Jane Mixer, and her killer’s trial, Maggie Nelson writes a deeply personal memoir of her family’s grief. It further poses the important question of the cultural fixation we have on dead women. A lot more than just a recollection of the murder, this book is a complex work that will appeal to all true crime fans.

19.                Mindhunters by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

 Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and the Atlanta child murderers are some of the most brutal and dangerous serial killers of all time. John Douglas, a retired FBI agent and an expert in criminal profiling, allows us to enter FBI serial crime units and gain an insight into the minds of these killers and absorb this untamed page-turner.

20.               A Very English Scandal by John Preston

Crime and politics collide in this story of the Thorpe affair, where Jeremy Thorpe, an MP at the time, stood trial for hiring a hitman to kill his ex-lover. As he was the first British politician to be charged with murder, this trial was an eye-opening account that shook the establishment to its core. This book is masterfully researched and filled with surprises and shocks.

21.               Lifers by Geoffrey Wansell

After observing lifers closely for 20 years, Geoffrey Wansell’s lifers clasps a chilling take inside the minds of the most dangerous serial killers. This book gathers interviews and first-hand experiences of these killers to jump inside the minds of these killers and find out the meaning of ‘life means life.’

22.               The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach

This book follows the story of a man who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for eighteen years. After he was acquitted, two years later, he was arrested for another brutal murder. Griesbach writes about how an ‘Innocent Man’ had turned into a brutal murderer. Or had he?

After Netflix made Making a Murderer, The Innocent killer is a true crime book’s bestseller.

23.               Vulgar Favours by Maureen Orth

In 1997, the world-famous designer Gianni Versace was shot and killed by Andrew Cunanan. Andrew Cunanan had already murdered four victims and was on top of the FBI’s most-wanted list. Combined with hundreds of interviews and police reports, Orth tells us about Cunanan’s unhealthy obsession with Gianni Versace.

24.               Down City: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Memory, and Murder by Leah Carroll

Leah Carrolls lived in a happy family where both her parents deeply loved her. But till the time she turned 18, her mom had been brutally murdered, and her dad had drunk himself to death. Carroll writes about the heartbreaking meditation on the true meaning of loss and love while including the story of her mother’s murder.

25.                The Real Lolita: A Lost Girl by Sarah Weinman

The Real Lolita by Weiman is one of the best true crime books and a cultural touchstone, to say the least. The story follows a little girl who is abducted and assaulted.  It depicts an adult’s disturbing obsession with a little girl. Weinman was inspired to write Lolita from a case based in real-life: the abduction of Sally Horner.

26.               The Fact Of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

The Fact Of A Body is a difficult and raw read investigating the long-lasting effects offenders leave on their victims. However, it also explores the meaning of acceptance in the eyes of victims. This is done by exploring two lives, child killer Langley and the writer Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich who is reminded of her own traumatic childhood experiences.

27.               I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara, a crime journalist, works on the facts, interviews, reports, and theories searching for The Masked Killer. Finally, the Masked Killer, who is also a serial rapist, and was terrorizing California for more than a decade, is unmasked after the unraveling efforts of the mastermind journalist.

28.               The Innocent Man by John Grisham

 John Grisham explores the notation of innocent until proven guilty in his book. The story talks about a miscarriage of justice after two men were convicted and charged with capital murder of cocktail waitress Debra Sue Carter without any physical evidence.

29.               The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

Gary Gilmore, who is convicted for the murder of two men, is expected to suffer life imprisonment. Instead, however, he is sentenced to death, making him a hero in the audience’s eyes. This book has all the details regarding Gilmore’s life, and ultimate death gathered through interviews with family and friends.

30.               Furious Hours by Casey Cep

This is a story of a serial killer from Alabama who hunts through shocking murders and deals with courtroom drama and racial politics rooted in the country’s deep south.

31.               McMafia by Misha Glenny

McMafia takes its readers on the road around the globe to inspect complex crime unions and their long-lasting impact. These crimes include illegal drug dealings, human trafficking, and phishing scams common in today’s world. This story gives an insight into the reality of police, victims of abuse, politicians, and the members of the underworld and underground markets. It portrays the criminal underworld that can harm us more than we think it can and displays the depth of crimes happening around us. 

32.               The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern-Day Outlaw’ by Ben Machell

This story follows Stephen Jackly, a young college student obsessed with the global financial crisis and its inequalities. Trying to be like Robin Hood, Stephen planned to rob the rich and help the poor. Surprisingly, it worked; he robbed multiple banks using elaborate escapes, fake guns, and disguises- until it stopped working. Ben Machel had an inside view of Stephen as he had access to his diaries. The book features a suspenseful story with the combination of a heist story and a psychological thriller.

33.                Two Truths and a Lie by Ellen McGarrahan

A New York Times editor’s choice, Two Truths And A Lie is one of the best-selling true crime books. In this memoir, Ellen McGarrahan, a P.I., revisits an old case that has been closed for decades. This case has haunted her for years, so she sets out on a personal quest to find out the truth.

The book is a captivating glimpse of the mind of a private investigation, ultimately coming down to one woman’s exploration to find answers.

34.                Catch And Kill by Ronan Farrow

The title ‘Catch and kill’ is on the system of reputable media organizations buying real stories to get rid of them and bury them. Ronan Farrow writes about the difficulties he faces when chasing the accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s years of sexual assault, rape, and abusing women. Published in October 2019, Catch and Kill had huge success and is a  true crime book’s bestseller.

35.               Know My Name: A Memoir Book by Chanel Miller

A New York Times bestseller, Know My Name, is one of the best-selling true crime books of recent times. It is a memoir of author Chanel Miller, writing about being sexually assaulted by Brock Turner. Before coming out with a fake identity, Miller reveals to the whole world her true identity in this memoir. She wrote the book in an attempt to appropriate her identity and explain the trauma she faced.  Miller’s story is an inspiration for people worldwide. It points out the societal bias that protects predators and shows how the American justice system is created to fail people who are most in need.

36.                Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How to Guide by Karen Kilgariff And Georgia Hardstark

The title ‘Stay sexy and don’t get murdered’ is a popular tagline from a true-crime podcast called My Favorite murderer. This book is a dual memoir of the authors. First, they compose the book talking about their struggles with eating disorders, addiction, and depression, highlighting the events they think that shaped them. In addition to this, there are plenty of stories on famous true crimes like the murder of Polly Class and the Jonestown massacre.

37.               Columbine by Dave Cullen

An acclaimed journalist, Dave Cullen, writes about the Columbine High School massacre that happened in 1999. The book writes about two storylines: the struggles the survivors faced over the next years and the killer’s development leading to the attack. Daves’s writing style takes the reader into the school, discussing how wrong we were in knowing what had actually happened.

38.               The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

Brian Regan was a talented codebreaker who worked for the US government- but he had a secret. He stole classified information from the government and sold it to the highest bidder. Yudhijit dives into Reagan’s intentions and actions in this book while writing about how Reagan was caught due to his dyslexia.

39.                Truevine By Beth Macy

Truevine is a true story based on two African American brothers. The brothers were kidnapped and displayed in a circus as it toured around Europe. Back home, their mother fights to free her boys and get them back. May writes about the kidnapping and also talks about the larger issue surrounding race relations in the US.

40.               Secrets of a Marine’s Wife By Shanna Hogan

This horrifying tale follows a nineteen-year-old military wife who disappeared. Erin Corwin was expecting her first child when she went missing and was later found dead. Shanna Hogan writes her story to pay tribute to the young victim.



Where to buy the best true crime books?

Some of the best sites where you can purchase books include Powell’s Books, Books-A-Million, Alibris, and Amazon. You can purchase the best true crime books online very easily. These sites are known to have the best prices, are reliable, and have amazing customer service.

What are the best true crime books to read?

  • In Cold Blood
  • My dark places
  • The stranger beside me
  • The Poisoner’s Handbook
  • Red Joan
  • The perfect Nanny
  • Never Anyone But You
  • Mind hunter
  • The Executioner’s Song

Who is the best true crime writer?

Truman Capote

Truman Capote was an American novelist, playwright, actor, and screenwriter. Many of his short stories and novels are praised for being classics. For example, writing books like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a true time classic In Cold Blood.

In Cold blood is hailed as one of the best true crime books ever written. The book revolutionized how true crime books are written.

What are books called that are based on true stories?

Books written based on true stories are called non-fiction books. Fictional books are stories that are based and fabricated in the author’s mind.

At the same time, non-fiction books are literature that is based on facts. These are real-life scenarios or situations that people went through.

 What is the best true crime audiobook?

Adnan’s story is one of the true-crime books bestsellers and one of the highest-rated true crime audiobooks. Receiving a rating of 4.8 stars and over 5000 reviews. The book is 14 hours and 31 minutes long. The story is based around a supposed murder, going deep into undisclosed details of the case.


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