True Crime Novels to Read Right Now!

Reading crime fiction, suspense, and murder mysteries is undeniably thrilling. But you have to admit it doesn’t match the experience true crime offers! This non-fiction genre – where authors explore real crimes and their aftermath – is sought out even by fiction readers. Why? Not only does it cover sensational crimes, but also explores the criminal’s motives and their ultimate incarceration. These novels let you look at thrilling cases closely without even getting involved.

In a way, reading true crime is cathartic. And if you want to experience that catharsis, here are some must-read true crime novels you should read right away!


  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

Published on: January 17, 1966.

So many vengeful crimes go unnoticed by the world, but not the case against the Clutter family, thanks to Truman Capote. The author paints a gruesome picture of the quadruple murders in his novel, In Cold Blood.

Herbert Clutter was a well-to-do farmer in western Kansas, with around 15 farmhands to help him. One of his farmhands informed his former cellmate, Richard Hickock, about the cash Herbert kept in his safe. Hickock and his friend Perry Smith hatched a plan to rob the cash and start afresh. However, their plan went awry when they discovered no safe full of money in the house. And so, the ex-convicts bound the family before killing them all in cold blood.

Capote’s interest in the case led him to travel to Kansas, where he interviewed the locals and produced 8000 pages of notes. He presents this factual research through an engaging narration, making it one of the quintessential true crime masterpieces!


  • The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule

Published on: August 17, 1980.

Everyone knows who Ted Bundy is – the notorious serial killer with more than 30 victims. But author Ann Rule initially knew him as her sensitive co-worker until his true face was revealed. She remembers her close friendship with Bundy in her novel, The Stranger Beside Me, and it’s as shocking as it gets!


Rule worked with Bundy at a crisis center where they bonded over taking phone calls, meals, and easy conversations. They lost touch soon after, so Rule didn’t think her good friend would be on a path to kill women. It took her almost 5 years – when he was captured in 1978 – to accept Bundy’s crimes.

The book zeroes in on their friendship before going over his criminal history – where he contacts her multiple times – through her eyes. It’s incredibly factual yet personal; you can’t help but feel a chill all over as you turn the pages!


  • Columbine – Dave Cullen

Published on: April 6, 2009.

The Columbine High School massacre of 1999 was one of the most terrifying school shootings in American history. The perpetrators were twelfth graders who murdered twelve students and one teacher before eventually committing suicide. Dave Cullen documents this scary event in his true crime novel Columbine.

The book focuses on uncovering the four days before the attack and how the people dealt with the aftermath. Interspersed between them are short snippets of the shooting, described graphically. In the before part, Cullen analyzes the killers and their tendencies – Dylan was prone to anger issues, while Eric seemed psychopathic. Whereas the after part of the book puts the spotlight on the school staff, families of victims, and the FBI agent in charge of the case.

The book is revolting and heart-breaking, but you won’t be able to get up until you finish this riveting piece!


  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara

Published on: February 27, 2018.

Michelle McNamara came across the case of East Area Rapist, who was responsible for more than 50 rapes, 100 burglaries, and 10 murders. Her interest led to her publishing an article in the Los Angeles magazine in 2013. It gained the attention of HarperCollins, who approached her with a book deal. What followed was the journalist’s obsessive research on all the police reports, interviews, and case-centric online communities.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a culmination of that research, shedding light on Joseph DeAngelo and his harrowing history. Unfortunately, McNamara died before she could complete the book, which was then finished by her husband and two other writers. However, even with multiple writers, the narrative picks up beautifully, rich with personal opinions and empathy for the victims.

As would be any true crime writer’s dream, the Golden State Killer – a moniker she popularized – was caught after the book was released.


  • American Black Widow – Gregg Olsen

Re-published on: July 10, 2023.

Gregg Olsen’s American Black Widow is based on a seemingly ordinary woman, Sharon Nelson, who started as Reverend Fuller’s wife. Dissatisfied with being a preacher’s wife, she resorted to screwing around before marrying optometrist Perry Nelson. When he disappears, she marries fireman Glen Harrelson, who also mysteriously ends up dead. Is it just a coincidence, or is Sharon playing a deadly game for their life insurance?

Olsen recounts the heinous murders Sharon committed with the help of her lover to live a lavish life. But the dream she set to achieve was built on thieving, adultery, and murders. The narrative is gripping, painting a terrifying picture of Sharon’s vain, sexually charged ways.

However, the book is a lot sexist, condemning Sharon for having affairs but victimizing the equally responsible men. But the thrilling retelling of the crime makes up for it!


  • The Berman Murders – Doug Kari

To be published: March 5, 2024.

One of the most bone-chilling types of crimes is the unsolved one! All it offers is myriad assumptions and dead ends that awaken the detective in you. California-based journalist Doug Kari calls out to your detective side with his novel, The Berman Murders.

The Berman murders were a baffling homicide from the late 80s, where Barry and Louise Berman went missing in the Mojave Desert. Authorities searched far and wide for the son of wealthy Mr. Jules Kahlua Berman, but the case came to a standstill. Lead came in years later when a hiker found a human skull, which eventually led to the couple’s remains. Even then, no one was arrested, let alone convicted – until Kari’s research led him to a specific someone.

This fascinating debut narrates this unsolved case in an immersive manner, even offering a likely suspect for this double homicide. One of the most anticipated true crime books of 2024, you can’t afford to miss this one!


  • Dark Wire – Joseph Cox

To be published: June 4, 2024.

In Dark Wire, you won’t read about murders or shootings – instead, Joseph Cox pulls the curtains on a fascinating FBI sting operation! Back in 2018, international criminals and drug dealers began using a special app for anonymous communication. This app, Anom, had tons of privacy features, immediately becoming a hit with the underworld. The only catch? It was developed and run by the joint efforts of the FBI, Europol, and the Australian Federal Police.

The law enforcement arrested over 800 criminals in 16 countries, along with tons of drugs, guns, cars, and cryptocurrencies. It was an operation carried out by over 9000 police officers in 18 countries, turning out to be the biggest-ever law enforcement operation.

This novel reiterates how no individual has access to total freedom and privacy, making it a haunting read. Cox crafts the novel ingeniously, promising to give you the thrill of following along a real surveillance operation!


Final Words

You can spot true crime in many forms – from movies and docuseries to magazines and podcasts. But books are one of the unique ways to explore this genre, functioning as a literary museum for disturbing criminals and cases.

From gripping homicides and chilling personal rendezvous with criminals, there’s a certain thrill in reading true crime. So, whether you are a true crime junkie or not, add these titles to your to-read list immediately!

By Pranjali Wakde