Do you love reading about murder and mayhem? I’ve picked out the best new true crime books that you can read right now, because you should never pass up a criminally good read.
Real-life tales of intrigue and injury are everywhere you look — from the Netflix series Making a Murderer and Mindhunters, to the popular podcasts Serial and My Favorite Murder. Even more prevalent are the thriller novels and films that draw from the true crime genre to turn everyday life into a series of sinister plots.
Of course, true crime isn’t a recent innovation, and it isn’t limited to gruesome murder stories. Way back in 1965, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood popularized the true crime genre with its account of the Clutter family murders in Holcomb, Kansas. Many of today’s true crime books center on heists, fraud, and sex crimes, in addition to murder mysteries.
Whether you love the grisly details or just want to read a gripping adventure in thievery, there’s something for you on the list below. These new true crime books are all available to read right now, so you can pick up one of them as soon as you’re finished here.
The Forest City Killer: A Serial Murderer, a Cold-Case Sleuth, and a Search for Justice by Vanessa Brown (Oct. 4)
For years, a serial killer — or killers — kidnapped, raped, and murdered young women and boys in mid-century London, Ontario. Despite 40 years of investigation from homicide detective Dennis Alsop, the mystery of these horrific crimes was never solved. In The Forest City Killer, author Vanessa Brown digs into Alsop’s notes on the case, examining previously unreleased evidence and witness testimonies, in an effort to make sense of a case long since cold. Could whomever killed London’s citizens still be alive, all these years later, and, if so, is there sufficient DNA evidence left to convict them?
The Program: Inside the Mind of Keith Raniere and the Rise and Fall of NXIVM by Toni Natalie and Chet Hardin (Sep. 24)
Over the course of its first 20 years, NXIVM, the brainchild of Keith Raniere, drew in thousands of people with promises of independent success. Then, in 2017, a New York Times article exposed the organization — purported to be a multi-level marketing, self-help group — as a sex cult that burned brands into the women it styled as "slaves" to higher-ranking members. In June 2019, just over two decades after he founded NXIVM, Raniere was found guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering. Toni Natalie, Raniere’s ex and the first member of NXIVM, gives an account of the organization’s inner-workings in The Program.
Hitler’s Last Hostages: Looted Art and the Soul of the Third Reich by Mary M. Lane (Sep. 10)
Although the newly unified Weimar Republic in Germany was politically unstable, it gave birth to a period of widespread creativity in the arts. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he began to suppress and confiscate works of art that did not meet the "Aryan ideal." In 2013, the German government confiscated a large cache of these "degenerate" artworks from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt — the son of one of Hitler’s art dealers. In Hitler’s Last Hostages, Mary M. Lane tells the story of the Nazi art heist, and reveals what happened to the paintings the German government reclaimed.
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Sep. 10)
The two, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story tell how their research came together in this must-read new book. When Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into allegations against Weinstein, the Hollywood producer — against whom new allegations of sexual assault continue to be made — lawyered up in an attempt to end the journalists’ prying. Following the publication of their piece on Oct. 5, 2017, Kantor and Twohey witnessed an outpouring of sexual assault and harassment allegations against powerful men in all fields. The #MeToo movement, began in 2006 by Tarana Burke, had gone mainstream.
The Nature of Life and Death: Every Body Leaves a Trace by Patricia Wiltshire (Sep. 3)
As a forensic ecologist, Patricia Wiltshire works with investigators to find the myriad environmental clues that detectives often miss. Her career as a police consultant began in 1994, when she used microscopic plant material from the dirt in a suspect’s car to match him to the location where a murder victim’s body had been found. Weaving science writing with true crime stories, The Nature of Life and Death is a must-read for true crime fans who feel burned out on the genre.
The Darkest Web: Drugs, Death and Destroyed Lives… the Inside Story of the Internet’s Evil Twin by Eileen Ormsby (Sep. 1)
For five years, Eileen Ormsby has spent her time digging into the darkest recesses of the Internet. Known colloquially as the Dark Web, the subject of Ormsby’s fascination — and of her new book, Darkest Web — is comprised of largely unconnected websites that are not aggregated by Google and other search engines. From the Internet’s hidden drug dens to torture-porn websites, Ormsby has seen it all. If you’ve ever wondered what the Dark Web is really like, Darkest Web should be on your TBR.
Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly (Aug. 27)
In August 2014, the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was found, wrapped in a blanket and weighed down with rocks, in Winnipeg’s Red River. Fontaine was part of the Sagkeeng First Nation, and her death sparked an outcry for justice for First Nations women in Canada, as many as 4,000 of whom may be missing today. Joanna Jolly’s Red River Girl traces the impact of Fontaine’s murder and the resulting trial — which ended in acquittal — on the Winnipeg area.
Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe (Aug. 20)
The four women profiled in Rachel Monroe’s Savage Appetites will make you question your own true crime obsession. Starting with the woman who helped originate the field of forensic analysis in the 1940s, Monroe moves forward in time to examine the life of the woman who moved into the Tate home after the Manson Family killings, the woman who fell in love with an incarcerated member of the West Memphis Three, and the teen who, following an obsession with the Columbine High School shooting, planned a massacre of her own.
The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott (Aug. 9)
Lauded by Devil in the White City author Erik Larson, Karen Abbott’s The Ghosts of Eden Park takes readers inside a sensational, Prohibition Era tale of organized crime, in which a lawyer gives up his practice for bootlegging. Imprisoned under the Volstead Act, he doesn’t know that his wife has begun an affair with the FBI agent responsible for hauling him in, or that the two of them are ready to ruin him and run away together. The Ghosts of Eden Park is a Jazz Age tale full of intrigue and mayhem, and you’re going to love it.
The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down by Abigail Pesta (Aug. 6)
In 2015 and 2017, members of the American Olympic gymnastics team came forward to accuse Larry Nassar, the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics, of sexual molestation. Nassar pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and the possession of child sexual abuse imagery in 2017. But, as Abigail Pesta’s The Girls shows, Nassar molested many, many more girls than the stars of USA Gymnastics who came forward. He also preyed upon a small-town gymnastics studio in Michigan, who came together, as adults, to help Pesta tell their story.
Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult by Susan Ashline (Aug. 6)
Nineteen-year-old Lucas Leonard wanted out of his parents’ church, the secluded Word of Life Christian Church, located in Chadwicks, NY. The day after a "counseling" session organized by the church, Leonard died of blunt-force trauma at a local hospital. As Lucas Leonard’s brother and fellow victim, 17-year-old Christopher Leonard, would later reveal in court, the teenager died from injuries sustained during an hours-long beating, which was carried out by nine people, including the brothers’ parents, other relatives, and church members. In Without a Prayer, Susan Ashline revists Leonard’s life, examining the years that led up to his tragic death.
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams (July 23)
In the early 2010s, Russian-born fraudster Anna Sorokin scammed New York City hotels and socialites out of more than a quarter of a million dollars by pretending to be a German heiress named Anna Delvey. Sorokin was later convicted on larceny charges and sentenced to spend up to 12 years in prison. In My Friend Anna, Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams examines her friendship with "Delvey," who charged $62,000 to Williams’ credit cards — a sum she never paid back.
American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan (June 26)
For 14 years, Israel Keyes got away with murder. After he was apprehended in 2012, the Alaskan construction worker admitted to committing multiple crimes — including rape, murder, and bank robbery — across the U.S. Keyes died by suicide before he could be brought to trial, however, and questions remain as to how many people he may have killed. In American Predator, Maureen Callahan examines Keyes’ "career" as a serial killer, exposing the ways in which law enforcement officials were unequipped to properly investigate his crimes.
Kingdom of Lies: Unnerving Adventures in the World of Cybercrime by Kate Fazzini (June 13)
How do people become black-hat and white-hat hackers? That’s the question that drives Kate Fazzini’s Kingdom of Lies. In this fascinating work of true crime, Fazzini explores the life stories of various cybercriminals and the people who devote themselves to mitigating the damage of their work. A former cybersecurity professional herself, Fazzini offers up the world of hacking for your entertainment in Kingdom of Lies.
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