5 of My Favorite True Crime Books

Friday, October 26, 2018


I think I'm a true crime fanatic because I'm scared of everything. You'd think that consuming so much true-crime media would make that fear worse, but somehow it's the opposite - like maybe if I know all about it, I will become immune to it. I know that's not true, of course, but brains are weird places.

I've already told you about my favorite true crime podcasts, but I thought I'd also round up a few of my favorite true crime books. I find, unfortunately, that many true crime books are, frankly, terribly written, so though I've read far more than the five listed here, these are the ones that have risen above, for various reasons.

Have true crime recs for me? I'd love to read your faves! 

Amy: My Search for Her Killer (Secrets & Suspects in the Unsolved Murder of Amy Mihaljevic) by James Renner

Renner, a Northeast Ohio-based crime writer, was the same age as 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic at the time of her disappearance from Bay Village, OH, in 1989, & he'd followed the case his whole life. She was taken from a shopping plaza by an unknown man who lured her in by posing as her mother's coworker & promising to take her shopping for a gift for her mom. Her body was discovered three months later, devastating the local community; her killer has yet to be identified.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The late Ann Rule, a psychologist, worked with Ted Bundy at a crisis hotline, & they became fast friends. Though Rule believed her charismatic, friendly colleague couldn't possibly be violent, she did send his name to the police as a potential suspect when she realized he matched much of their criteria in the search for a local serial killer. Rule, a journalist who was working with police on this case, was stunned when her friend was arrested & tried, & she continued to write letters to Bundy years into his incarceration. Eventually, she came to believe in his guilt.

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker

This book tells the converging stories of a five sex workers whose bodies were all found on Long Island in the early 2010s. The disappearance of one woman, Shannan Gilbert, lead to the initial police search, though Gilbert's death is now thought to be accidental & unrelated to the other women's deaths. All the murders are still unsolved. 

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

This now-famous book tells the true-life account of the 1893 World's Fair, held in Chicago, but it's written in a way that makes it feel more like a novel. It weaves two tales related only in their connection to the fair itself: that of architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's director of works, who faced countless challenges in bringing the fair into physical being, & that of H.H. Holmes, one of the first & most prolific serial killers in the U.S., who preyed upon the atmosphere & lifestyle the fair brought to Chicago.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Part true crime research & part personal memoir, this book was written by the late crime writer, blogger, & wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, who died before she finished writing it. Oswalt hired her fellow researchers & friends to help finish the book, but the end result is a story that is disjointed & often difficult to follow - though incredibly well-written & well-researched, not to mention creepy as hell - about the search for the prolific rapist & murder who terrorized California in the late '70s & '80s. He was caught very shortly after publication! 

Again: I'd love your recs! Leave them for me in the comments so I can add your favorite true crime reads to my TBR list - which you can find on my "True Crime" shelf on Goodreads.

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