Best True Crime Books for Thriller Enthusiasts
Everyone loves a mystery crime novel, but it is so much better when the mysteries are real, that is why true crime books are so popular. People are fascinated by crime, it gives us a glimpse into the minds of criminals, which sometimes we can relate to, and at times not at all. There are thousands of true crime books out on the market, and as these are true stories, it can be difficult to determine which books have the best plot, is written nicely, and has the right amount of mystery. Here are the best true crime books that are a must-read.
Disco Bloodbath is a 1999 memoir written by James St. James about his life as a Manhattan club kid. It was developed into a movie called Party Monster in 2003 and is the story of a murder that sent shockwaves throughout the New York City club scene in the early 1990s. St. James was a best friend of one of the culprits of the murder. The book’s gossipy writing style makes a memoir about drugs, partying and murder very entertaining.
The Devil in the White City
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson tells the infamous story of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. H.H Holmes, a hotelier, and serial killer built Holmes Castle what is now known as “the murder castle”, the hotel, featured trap doors, gas chambers, and a basement crematorium. Estimates say that Holmes may have been responsible for around 200 murders. The book The Devil in the White City tells the story in a mixture of factual history with suspense to make the book seem a work of fiction and an enthralling and suspenseful read.
The Boston Strangler
The Boston Strangler is the name given to the man who murdered 13 women in the Boston area during the early 1960s. This non-fiction true crime book was written by Gerald Frank, the pioneer of the "as told to" form of (auto)biography who wrote several celebrity memoirs. The book is meticulously thorough yet is never boring with details and covers the serial killer’s rampage as well as the manhunt that stopped him.
American Fire written by Monica Hesse tells the story of serial arsonists who were active in a rural area of Virginia. Despite the fact that nobody was killed, the book is gripping and is written from the perspective of the firefighters, who mainly dealt with the waves of arson. American Fire is a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year and is an amazing feat of reporting and intrigue.
The Falcon and the Snowman
The Falcon and the Snowman by Robert Lindsey is a real story that seems like it was created by a spy thriller author. The book tells the story of two young men, Christopher Boyce and Daulton Lee, who grew up in California, only to later involve themselves in espionage by passing Top Secret material to the Soviet Union. The book, like other spy thrillers of high caliber, is a page-turner that you won’t be able to put down.
The Feather Thief
The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson is a book that ensued from Johnson’s love of fly fishing and fly-tying (using bird feathers to catch fish). In 2011, Johnson heard the incredible story of a heist that occurred two years prior to the Museum of Natural History in London and wrote The Feather Thief.
The book tells the story of Edwin Rist a then 20-year-old man who stole hundreds of rare bird skins and feather some collected over 150 years ago and disappeared. The Feather Thief covers the motivations of the crime, what became of the stolen bird skins, and is an exploration of obsession in a gripping tale of a bizarre crime.
In Cold Blood
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is a reconstruction of a horrific murder in Kansas that saw the deaths of four members of the Clutter family in 1959. The family was savagely murdered by a shotgun at close range and there was no clue as to the motive for the crime. Capote retells the story of murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers in a mesmerizing and suspenseful tone.
The Executioner's Song
This true-crime book written by Norman Mailer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning story that follows the life of Gary Gilmore who became famous when he robbed and killed two men in 1976. After his conviction, Gilmore insisted on being executed for his crime. The Executioner's Song follows Gilmore’s fight for the right to be killed despite the system’s insistence on keeping him alive. The book delves into the source of American loneliness and violence in a capturing and intriguing way.
My Dark Places
Written by one of the world’s most notable crime writers, James Ellroy, My Dark Places covers the tragic murder of Ellroy’s own mother, Geneva who was murdered when he was just 10 years old. The murderer was never caught, and Ellroy as an adult attempted to solve the murder with the help of a Los Angeles Police Officer. My Dark Places tells the story of Ellroy’s investigation and memoir into the crime as well as how the crime affected his life.
The Grim Sleeper
The Grim Sleeper is one of the best serial killer true crime books. Written by Christine Pelisek, this story covers the case of a Los Angeles based serial killer known by the name The Grim Sleeper. The killer got his name from the long period of time he waited between murdering his victims who were all women of color in poor areas.
The Grim Sleeper details the lives of each of the sleeper’s victims and more broadly tells the story of homicide and gang violence in general. The book shows how when there is an area of high crime, oftentimes there is neglect by the police which allows for serial killers like The Grim Sleeper to remain active for as long as he did, 20 years.