Terrifying Serial Killers from Crime Fiction
Crime stories have haunted and fascinated us for centuries, and serial killers seem to be the most haunting, fascinating criminals of all. Hundreds of books have been devoted to the exploration of both fictional and nonfictional killing sprees, in addition to a plethora of films, TV shows, blogs, and podcasts.
Why are we so intrigued by such horrible people? That’s a question for philosophers and psychologists to answer. Whatever the reason, the crime reads listed below are sure to thrill and repulse you in equal measure. Each of them features the two elements necessary for any successful serial killer narrative: a twisted yet driven murderer, and an investigator who, no matter how flawed or troubled, will stop at nothing to see justice done.
by James Patterson
by James O. Born
Detective Bennett has devoted his career to protecting others so that they can live safe, happy lives. Just as he is about to claim a little happiness of his own, he is called to investigate a serial killer who is terrorizing New York City. Bennett will have to use all of his skills and courage to bring the killer to justice, or else risk losing everything he cares about. The Russian is the most recent addition to James Patterson and James O. Born's "Michael Bennett" series.
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future. Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.
At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of these shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing without a trace into another time after each murder — until one of his victims survives.
Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on an impossible truth . . .
The Rabbit Hunter
Lars Kepler; Neil Smith (Translator)
Follow the trail of a serial killer bent on slow, brutal vengeance in The Rabbit Hunter, part of Lars Kepler's "Joona Linna" series. The main characters, Detectives Linna and Bauer, have solved upsetting crimes before. But how will they confront a killer who is as methodical as he is deprived? The Rabbit Hunter is a disturbing tale, even by the gruesome standards set by the other crime books on this list.
The twentieth entry in James Patterson's long-running "Alex Cross" series, Alex Cross, Run sees our eponymous hero scrambling to identify and arrest up to three new serial killers plaguing Washington, DC. As the bodies pile up, Cross is so busy chasing other people's killers that he fails to notice the killer who has Cross himself in his sights.
A childhood game becomes frighteningly real in S.R. Masters' The Killer You Know. Only Adeline seemed disturbed when Will, one of her friends, started talking—joking, or so everyone believed—about going on a killing spree. Years later, after Adeline has left her hometown, she decides to catch up with some of her old friends. The reunion turns sour when they realize that Will was serious after all... and that they themselves might be his next victims.
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All his years as an investigator don't prepare Alex Cross for the sight of a man he helped condemn to death being electrocuted while his mother accuses Cross of framing her son. That same day, Cross investigates a homicide, where he finds a chilling note informing him that the convicted man was innocent of the crime for which he was executed. Has Cross made a deadly mistake? And, with a serial killer bent on exposing his darkest secrets, will he live to regret it?
The Last Thing to Burn
The protagonist of The Last Thing to Burn has already been kidnapped once before, years ago. Now she is once again at her kidnapper's mercy, but this time things are different: she is pregnant, and her kidnapper is holding another woman hostage as well. Trapped alone in the middle of nowhere, she will have to make dangerous, gut-wrenching decisions to protect herself, her unborn child, and her fellow hostage. This book is available for preorder now and will be released in April 2021.
A Map of the Dark
Elsa Myers has been assigned to investigate the strange and violent disappearance of a young girl, who may have been taken by an established serial killer. But the deeper she gets into the case, the stronger her own childhood demons become. Elsa will have to finally confront her past if she is to save an innocent child's future. The first in a series, A Map of the Dark is a gripping story about what happens when painful secrets spill out into the open.
Isaac "IQ" Quintabe has no professional training, but that never stopped him from investigating the toughest, most overlooked cases in Los Angeles—until recently. On the run without his most trusted associate, IQ is suddenly dragged into another case, and this one involves the deadliest serial killer in California history.
Related: Eight Must-Read Crime Fiction Novels That Take Place in Gritty Los Angeles
Death is reporter Jack McEvoy’s beat: his calling, his obsession. But this time, death brings McEvoy the story he never wanted to write–and the mystery he desperately needs to solve. A serial killer of unprecedented savagery and cunning is at large. His targets: homicide cops, each haunted by a murder case he couldn’t crack. The killer’s calling card: a quotation from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. His latest victim is McEvoy’s own brother. And his last…may be McEvoy himself.
What to Read Next
Eileen Gonzalez is a freelance writer from Connecticut. She has a Master’s degree in communications and years of experience writing about pop culture. She contributes to Book Riot and Foreword Reviews, and she occasionally tweets at @eileen2thestars.