My Top Twenty True Crime Books

True crime have always been a fascination of mine.

As an avid reader I’ve read a fair amount of books, especially on this subject. So I thought it about time I did a list of my favourites.

So here it is, my list of my top twenty true crime books (the list is not in a favouritism order):

Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters – Peter Vronsky

Mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers-fiendish killers all. Society is conditioned to think of murderers and predators as men, but in this book, Peter Vronsky exposes and investigates the phenomenon of women who kill-and the political, economic, social, and sexual implications.

Columbine – Dave Cullen

Cullen lays bare the callous brutality of mastermind Eric Harris, and the timid, suicidal Dylan Klebold, who had been to the prom just three days earlier and wrote obsessively about love in his journal. A close-up study of violence, grief and an all-consuming media frenzy, Columbine is above all a compelling, tragic and utterly human portrait of two young killers.

Helter Skelter – Curt Gentry and Vincent Bugliosi
On August 9th 1969, seven people were found shot, stabbed and bludgeoned to death in Los Angeles. America watched in fascinated horror as the killers were tried and convicted. But the real questions went unanswered. How did Manson make his ‘family’ kill for him? What made these young men and women kill again and again with no trace of remorse? Did the murders continue even after Manson’s imprisonment?
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy.

A Checklist for Murder: The True Story of Robert John Peernock – Anthony Flacco

Robert Peernock appeared to have the ideal life; working as a pyrotechnics engineer and computer expert and coming home to his wife and daughter, Peernock projected the American dream. Even when he and his wife separated, it seemed amicable, just a small bump for the well-to-do family. But there was madness in his house: in private, Peernock was violent, subtly manipulative, and bordering on psychotic. But the horrifying details of his home life would only come to light after Peernock finally lost all control.

The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule

Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that the young man who was her close friend was the savage slayer she was hunting.

Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People – John Jacobs and Tim Reiterman

This PEN Award-winning work provides the definitive history of the Rev. Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple, and the murderous ordeal at Jonestown. It explores the ideals-gone-wrong. the intrigue. and the grim realities behind the Peoples Temple and its implosion in the jungle of South America.

Fatal Vision – Joe McGinniss

All-American Jeffrey MacDonald, a golden boy who seemed destined to have it all. The handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children, murders he vehemently denies committing.

Zodiac: The Shocking True Story of America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer – Robert Graysmith

A sexual sadist, the Zodiac’s pleasure was torture and murder. He taunted the authorities with mocking notes telling where he would strike next. The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed 37 dead. He was never caught.

People Who Eat Darkness – Richard Lloyd Parry

In the summer of 2000, Jane Steare received the phone call every mother dreads. Her daughter Lucie Blackman – tall, blonde, and twenty-one years old – had stepped into the vastness of a Tokyo summer and disappeared forever. That winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a desolate seaside cave.

Lost Girls – Robert Kolker

Right now there is a serial killer operating on Long Island, New York. He’s committed at least a dozen murders, and his killings may go all the way back to 1996. As of now, there are no leads. All they know is that the victims are escorts, and he’s meeting his victims through Craigslist.

Devil’s Knot – Mara Leveritt

In one of the most famous cases of wrongful imprisonment of the last 25 years, three misfit teenagers in West Memphis are arrested and charged with the murder and mutilation of three young boys, a crime it’s clear to any rational mind they did not commit.

Inside Alcatraz: My Time on the Rock  – Jim Quillen
Jim Quillen, AZ586 – a runaway, problem child and petty thief – was jailed several times before his twentieth birthday. In August 1942, after escaping from San Quentin, he was arrested on the run and sentenced to forty-five years in prison, and later transferred to Alcatraz. This is the true story of life inside America’s most notorious prison – from terrifying times in solitary confinement to daily encounters with ‘the Birdman’, and what really happened during the desperate and deadly 1946 escape attempt.
Albert Fish In His Own Words: The Shocking Confessions of the Child Killing Cannibal – John Borowski 

On December 13, 1934, Albert Fish was apprehended by Detective William King for the kidnapping and murder of ten-year-old Grace Budd. Fish’s defense attorney obtained the services of Dr. Fredric Wertham for Fish’s psychiatric examination. Dr. Wertham’s files were ordered closed until 2010. Documents from Wertham’s files, including confessions and writings by Albert Fish, are published here for the first time in history.

Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell – Gitta Sereny

What brings a child to kill another child? In 1968, at age eleven, Mary Bell was tried and convicted of murdering two small boys in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Gitta Sereny, who covered the sensational trial, never believed the characterization of Bell as the incarnation of evil, the bad seed personified. If we are ever to understand the pressures that lead children to commit serious crimes, Sereny felt, only those children, as adults, can enlighten us.

The Night Stalker – Philip Carlo

Twenty-five years after Richard Ramirez left thirteen dead, paralysing the city of Los Angeles, his name is still synonymous with fear, torture and sadistic murder. Based on three years of meticulous research and extensive interviews with Ramirez, revealed the killer and his horrifying crimes to be even more chilling than anyone could have imagined. From watching his cousin commit murder at age eleven to his nineteen death sentences to the juror who fell in love with him, the story of Ramirez is a bizarre and spellbinding descent into the very heart of human evil.

Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door –  Roy Wenzl , Tim Potter, Hurst Laviana & L. Kelly

For thirty-one years, a monster terrorized the residents of Wichita, Kansas. A bloodthirsty serial killer, self-named “BTK”—for “bind them, torture them, kill them”—he slaughtered men, women, and children alike, eluding the police for decades while bragging of his grisly exploits to the media. The nation was shocked when the fiend who was finally apprehended turned out to be Dennis Rader—a friendly neighbour . . . a devoted husband . . . a helpful Boy Scout dad . . . the respected president of his church.

A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders – Gary M. Lavergne

On a sweltering afternoon in 1966, Charles Whitman ascended the University of Texas Tower with enough firepower to hold off an army. For the next ninety-six minutes he methodically gunned down forty-five strangers, killing fourteen. But as shocking as the rampage that made world headlines—and the smiling photograph on the front page: a handsome, all-American Eagle Scott and U.S.Marine. A bewildered nation asked: How could this golden boy be a mass murderer?

When Kids Kill: Unthinkable Crimes of Lost Innocence – Jonathan Paul 

Jonathan Paul goes behind the sensationalist headlines of ‘child killers’ to investigate why these crimes happen. He examines child homicide in today’s violent, confusing world and contextualises it against the cruel unforgiving retribution of yesterday.

Talking with Serial Killers – Christopher Berry-Dee

An investigative criminologist, Christopher Berry-Dee is a man who talks to serial killers. Their pursuit of horror and violence is described in their own words, transcribed from audio and videotape interviews conducted deep inside some of the toughest prisons in the world. Berry-Dee describes the circumstances of his meetings with some of the world’s most evil men and reproduces, verbatim, their very words as they describe their crimes and discuss their remorse – or lack of it. This work offers a penetrating insight into the workings of the criminal mind.

Honourable mentions:

  • Why We Love Serial Killers – Scott Bonn
  • The Devil In The White City – Erik Larson
  • Mind Hunter – John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
  • Happy Like Murderers – Gordon Burn
  • Stolen Away – Michael Newton
  • House of Horrors: The Horrific True Story of Josef Fritzl, The Father From Hell – Nigel Cawthorne
I’m a serious bookworm so if you have any recommendations then please don’t hesitate to comment!

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