Great true crime is more than just a sensational story. Yes, a good true crime book will have your turning pages, but it can also teach us a lot about the legal system, history, and even humanity. Here are our most anticipated True Crime books of the upcoming year.
In November 1987, a young couple from the idyllic suburbs of Vancouver Island on an overnight trip to Seattle vanished without a trace. A week later, the bodies of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Jay Cook were found in rural Washington. It was a brutal crime, and it was the perfect crime: With few clues and no witnesses in the vast and foreboding Olympic Peninsula, an international manhunt turned up empty, and the sensational case that shocked the Pacific Northwest gradually slipped from the headlines.
In deep-freeze, long-term storage, biological evidence from the crime sat waiting, as Detective Jim Scharf poured over old case files looking for clues his predecessors missed. Meanwhile, 1,200 miles away in California, CeCe Moore began her lifelong fascination with genetic genealogy, a powerful forensic tool that emerged not from the crime lab, but through the wildly popular home DNA ancestry tests purchased by more than 40 million Americans. When Scharf decided to send the cold case’s decades-old DNA to Parabon NanoLabs, he hoped he would finally bring closure to the Van Cuylenborg and Cook families. He didn’t know that he and Moore would make history.
In Spyfail, James Bamford, the bestselling author of The Puzzle Palace and Body of Secrets, uncovers the truth behind the foreign powers that have spied on the United States. These foreign countries have the power to conduct large-scale espionage within the United States, and the FBI and other agencies do not always have the power to stop it. Spyfail gives readers access to previously secret documents that demonstrate the shocking truth about how politics, special interests, and corruption allow these foreign intrusions to continue.
Gregg Olsen’s Starvation Heights is the chilling true story of Doctor Linda Burfield Hazzard, a doctor who starved her patients to death. The doctor’s “fasting treatment” included brutal and evasive procedures that lead locals to calling Hazzard’s sanatorium “Starvation Heights.” How did Hazzard persuade patients to undergo these treatments? And why, even on their deathbeds, did her patients defend her methods?
Tremors in the Blood is the fascinating true story of the birth of the lie detector test. In 1922, the San Francisco police turned to a new technology to find out the truth behind widower Henry Wilkens. Was he really just grieving the death of his wife, or was he a murderer? Inventors John Larson, Gus Vollmer, and Leonarde Keeler thought their lie detector machine could get to the truth. Through a story that explores psychology, technology, and science, author Amit Katwala gets to the truth behind the polygraph test and the high-stakes cases that employed the machine.
In Ghosts of the Orphanage, Christine Kenneally reveals the shocking secret history of twentieth-century orphanages. For much of the twentieth century, many horrible events, including psychological abuse, physical abuse, and even death, took place inside orphanages. Kenneally focuses the story on one such orphanage, St. Joseph’s, a Catholic orphanage in Vermont. But what she uncovers there shines a light on a much larger systemic issue.
Andrea Lankford is an investigator for the National Park Service's law enforcement team and has led criminal investigations across some of the most beautiful places in America, including Yosemite, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. In Trail of the Lost, Lankford takes readers on a true crime adventure through these landscapes, focusing on one crime she just can’t forget. On the Pacific Crest Trail, three young men vanished without a trace.
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Emily Martin has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. She’s a contributing editor at Book Riot and blogs/podcasts at Book Squad Goals.