15 True Crime Books to Read Once Your Podcast Queue Is Empty
You blew through Serial faster than you’d like to admit, and you absolutely, 100 percent have a favorite murder. True-crime podcasts are having a real moment right now. But how do you get your fix once you’re all caught up on available episodes? You read any one of these 15 fascinating, often chilling books.
Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell
In L.A. in 1947, aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered. Her killer was never found, but Short’s death became like a real-life film noir. The cold case has intrigued armchair detectives ever since. And now, Eatwell’s fascinating exploration of the murder gets us closer than ever to finding out who was behind it.
Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson
In the winter of 1952, London was struck by two killers: One, the Great Smog that killed thousands, and the other, John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women. Drawing on extensive interviews and archival research, Dawson recounts the intersection of these two brutal forces and their lasting impact on modern history.
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
In Oakland, California, in 2013, Sasha, a private school boy who identifies as agender, is on the bus going home when Richard, a junior at the public high school, puts a lighter to the skirt Sasha’s wearing. Sasha receives second- and third-degree burns, and Richard is accused of two hate-crime felonies and faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. In poring over the details of the case, Slater asks us to question the ingrained prejudice of a legal system that eventually locked Richard up for five years.
Party Monster by James St. James
St. James, a former club kid himself, takes a fascinating look inside the NYC clubs of the late ’80s and early ’90s like The Tunnel and The Limelight, along with the drugs, sex, music and murder (yep) that happened inside of them.
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Two Mormon brothers insist they received a commandment from God to kill an innocent woman and her baby. Using that as his jumping-off point, Krakauer takes a deeply investigative look inside America’s fundamentalist (and isolated) Mormon communities, complete with delusion, polygamy and unyielding faith.
The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum
A Jazz Age story of chemistry, poison and murder, The Poisoner’s Handbook is about the early 20th century in New York, when poison was an easy path to the perfect crime. That is, until the appointment of a chief medical examiner and toxicologist who became pioneers in forensic chemistry, turning the system on its head with their trailblazing scientific detective work.
Justice: Crimes, Trials and Punishments by Dominick Dunne
Dunne’s novels and columns in Vanity Fair examined the relationship between extreme wealth and the justice system. In Justice, he searches for truth across a wide swath of cases, from socialite and maybe-murderer Claus von Bülow’s multiple trials to the media frenzy surrounding the O.J. Simpson case.
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
You know The Wire; you love The Wire. Which is why you owe it to yourself to read the book that became the basis for Simon’s incredible series. Set in Baltimore (duh), Homicide follows a veteran investigator, a black detective in a mostly white unit and an earnest rookie as they attempt to solve the brutal rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
A mysterious stranger, a secret love affair and a dead body—all set amid Savannah, Georgia’s high-society in the early 1980s—make for a Southern Gothic epic that Berendt unravels with rich, obsessively researched detail.
The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy by Masha Gessen
Acclaimed journalist Gessen’s 2016 book is an in-depth look at the Chechen brothers behind the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Gessen, a Russian immigrant herself, investigates how the American dream went so wrong for the Chechen terrorists.
The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson
Part memoir and part trial account, Nelson’s 2016 book explores the American obsession with violence and missing white women and the nature of grief, justice and empathy through the long-unsolved case of her aunt’s murder.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
Books about the Manson murders are a dime a dozen, but this is the O.G. Bugliosi, the prosecuting attorney in the trial, recounts his (and his team’s) tireless detective work and reconstructs Manson’s philosophy while examining how he was able to cultivate such fervent followers.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Widely considered the first nonfiction novel, Capote’s 1966 account of the brutal murder of a family in a small farming community in Kansas paved the way for pretty much every other book on this list. In it, he reconstructs the murder, capture, trial and eventual execution of the killers in a book that took him six years to complete.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
H.H. Holmes, who turned a hotel into a murder weapon and targeted young women at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, has been called America's first serial killer. In The Devil in the White City, Larson takes a literary look at Holmes, intertwining his life with that the architect who built the titular White City. The result is supremely suspenseful and chilling.
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm
A game-changing examination of the psychopathology of journalism, Malcolm uses the lawsuit of a convicted murderer against the author of a book about the crime to explore the uneasy, sometimes tragic relationship that exists between journalist and subject.