If truth is really stranger than fiction, what could be more bone-chilling than a real-life serial killer? The most infamous cases of our time reveal a dark side of human nature—and a reason to keep your doors locked at night.
Here are ten true stories of serial killers to read with the lights on.
He was a father, a best friend, a husband . . . and possibly the most prolific serial killer in American history. In December 2003, registered nurse Charlie Cullen was arrested for the deaths of more than 300 patients. And if it weren’t for the dedication of two hardboiled detectives and a nurse risking everything to stop him, he might still be at large today. Breathlessly written, this portrait of madness is “a thriller in every sense of the word”—and you’ll never look at medicine and hospitals the same way again (New York Times).
Just after World War II, a struggling London was beginning to breathe again when another disaster struck. While a killer smog gripped the city, unseen criminals roamed the streets and snatched victims in the shadows. Forgotten women were going missing, and they all had one thing in common: they’d met a quiet, unassuming man—a man who escaped trial for a murder while a possibly innocent man was sent to the gallows. Crackling with catastrophe, this historical true crime story is a “fascinating” account of London’s despair and resilience (Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author).
For eight years, Sheriff David Reichert devoted his days and nights to capturing the Green River Killer. He was the first detective on the case in 1982, doggedly pursuing clues as the body count climbed to 49 and it became the most infamous unsolved case in the nation. By reaching out to victims’ families and risking his own safety, Sheriff Reichert found the killer—but it would be another 11 years before he could prove his case. Fascinating and vividly detailed, this is a real-life suspense story of unparalleled heroism.
Astrid Holleeder is in hiding because she had the courage to write this book. Known for his involvement in the kidnapping of Heineken’s CEO and chairman, her brother Willem is one of the most notorious criminals in modern history. For decades he controlled the family, threatening to murder anyone who betrayed him. So when she was forced to be his confidante, Astrid used her legal training to turn the tables on him. Thanks to her sharp skills, she gained enough information to put him away for life. Astonishing and deeply personal, this is a true and terrifying account of the criminal underground.
Experience two true-crime thrillers in one with this gripping James Patterson collection. In Home Sweet Murder, a lawyer and his wife are enjoying a quiet Sunday dinner until they’re interrupted by a man claiming to be an SEC agent—but by the end of the night, two people will be shot, stabbed, and tortured. And in Murder on the Run, a determined detective promises two grieving parents that he’ll catch the man who murdered their little boy. As seen on Discovery ID’s Murder is Forever, these true stories are cinematic, nail-biting, and frighteningly real.
With Mario Spezi
In this chilling true crime tale, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of the Monkey God and celebrated co-author of Preston and Child’s Pendergast series tells a shocking story. When he moved to Florence, Italy, Douglas Preston discovered that one of Italy’s most notorious serial killers had murdered someone in the olive grove behind his home. But soon, Preston’s search for the truth placed a target on his back—and he became the focus of a police investigation. Fast-paced and shocking, The Monster of Florence is a chilling true story of murder, mutilation, and a bizarre vendetta.
This irresistible, authentic look at 175 years of true crime cases from the NYPD archives is packed with photos, artifacts, and expert revelations. “Characters galore, both good guys and gangsters, leap from the pages” (The New York Times). One of those characters was the Son of Sam, a serial killer who eluded police for months and terrorized the city. His ultimate downfall? A simple parking ticket. Perfect for true crime buffs and fans of American Crime Story, this riveting collection is a behind-the-scenes look at New York’s most startling cases and brilliant investigations.
by Jason Moss
by Jeffrey Kottler, PhD
It started with a college course assignment, but quickly escalated into a dangerous obsession. Eighteen-year-old honor student Jason Moss wrote to four men whose body counts had made criminal history: Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, and John Wayne Gacy. Posing as the perfect victim, Moss wrote the serial killers, but the situation quickly spun out of control when John Wayne Gacy invited him to a visit in prison–an offer he couldn’t turn down. Riveting, shocking, and terrifying, The Last Victim is a raw and revealing look at the dark side of human nature from an author who dared to look closely at what we all fear.
by Ed Sanders
In this “terrifying” true crime classic (New York Times Book Review), two bloody evenings wrecked the dreams of the Love Generation. Charles Manson and his followers murdered nine people in the summer of 1969, including Sharon Tate, the young actress and wife of Roman Polanski. From the origins and legacy of the Manson Murders to the mysteries that still haunt our culture, The Family covers every angle of one of the most horrifying serial killer stories in American history.
Randy Kraft was an intelligent, politically active, and loyal man—a man who also committed the murder spree of the century. Known as the Scorecard Killer, Kraft was known for referencing his victims in lists and leaving their bodies near freeways. In total, he murdered more than 67 people. A harrowing “peephole into hell,” this book is an insightful and well-written glimpse inside the dark mind of a living monster (Associated Press).