What is it about true crime and unsolved mysteries that entice us so? Maybe it’s the fact that we can devour the grisly details of unsolved murders and other crimes while safe at home, curled in an armchair or under a blanket. Maybe it’s because we want to unravel the mysteries of the criminal mind from the inside out. Or maybe it’s just plain old curiosity. Whatever the reason, there is no end to the demand for movies, TV shows, podcasts, and books that delve deep into the lives of criminals and their victims. If you are true crime obsessed, here are some of the best true crime books to keep you up at night.
by Becky Cooper
While attending Harvard, author Becky Cooper learns about the 40-year-old unsolved murder of graduate student Jane Britton. Though the case has been obscured by rumors and falsehoods, Cooper is determined to learn the truth. She uncovers a tale that is sadly still common today: a tangled web of sexism and secrets that took the life of a promising, ambitious young woman. *Please note since the time of this post the mystery in Becky Cooper's We Keep the Dead Close has been solved by law enforcement.
Former crime reporter Michael Connelly spent years covering homicide squads across the United States. He makes excellent use of those experiences in Crime Beat, a series of gripping crime articles spotlighting the most memorable cases and personalities Connelly encountered. Humanizing details and hair-raising murders make for exciting, edge-of-your-seat reading.
Israel Keyes is an unnerving figure, even for a serial killer. The level of meticulous preparation he exhibited is disturbing, especially as it allowed him to commit gruesome murders from New Jersey to Alaska with impunity. Author Maureen Callahan relates the story of Keyes' crimes and belated capture with spine-tingling intensity.
The possibilities presented by unsolved mysteries make them especially fascinating to read about. This book collects over 80 unsolved cases from the NYPD's 175-year history, including high-profile crimes like the murder of Kitty Genovese and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. New York City has long been a popular choice for crime and detective stories, and Case Files of the NYPD leaves no doubt as to why.
In the late 1990s, Colombia's rural and indigenous communities were ravaged by violence. Paramilitary groups kidnapped, tortured, and murdered thousands while the government and the military looked the other way. This book tells the harrowing story of how a brave few risked—and, in some cases, lost—their lives to expose the depth of the corruption and bring change to their country.
The 1980s and '90s were a volatile time in Boston. Mobsters engaged in drug trafficking and deadly gang wars—and, more than likely, pulled off one of the most intriguing art thefts of the century. In this true crime account of the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, author Stephen Kurkjian examines the case's many twists and turns, and theorizes about what really happened that fateful day in 1990.
The Green River Killer terrorized Washington state in the '80s and '90s, strangling young women and girls. It took the dogged persistence and fearless dedication of Sheriff David Reichert, who spent years running the killer to ground and proving his identity once and for all. Written by Reichert himself, Chasing the Devil is a captivating first-person account of the hunt for one of America's most prolific serial killers.
Despite the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed in the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, doubt has long plagued the case. Author—and friend of the Syed family—Rabia Chaudry takes readers through the details of the case, refuting some evidence, introducing new information, and sharing thoughts written by Syed himself.
Mary Kay McBrayer
What makes a serial killer? Are they born that way, or do they become that way? Author Mary Kay McBrayer encourages readers to explore these questions through the life of Jane Toppan, an "angel of death" who murdered over thirty people in 19th-century Massachusetts. There is no question that Toppan was a merciless killer, but how she got that way is a fascinating, horrifying tale of neglect, abuse, and ultimately death.
Most true crime stories focus on the crime itself and the search for the perpetrator. Journalist Nancy Mullane goes beyond that. She spent years interviewing five confessed and convicted murderers, all serving their time in San Quentin, to find out what happens to a killer after the public eye turns away. The interviews challenged Mullane's preconceived notions of who is a murderer—and about America's system for punishing them.
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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.