I’ve always been drawn to crime stories. Despite (or perhaps because of) my struggles with anxiety, I’m interested in the dark side of humanity. Which is why I’m attempting the impossible task of listing the very best true crime authors in the history of the genre. These are the best true crime authors you need to check out if you love crime journalism, in no particular order.
Michelle McNamara passed away before completing her first book on the search for (and her personal obsession with) the Golden Gate Killer. Even so, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a masterful blend of memoir and investigative journalism. While the book was posthumously completed by McNamara’s husband and research partners, you can see more of her writing at True Crime Diary.
Cullen has carved out a depressingly necessary niche as a school shootings reporter, starting with his iconic tome about the Columbine High School massacre, simply called Columbine. I cried at least three times while reading his first book, a gripping narrative that explores the killers’ motives and the aftermath of their crime. His latest is Parkland: Birth of a Movement.
Corchado is a Mexican American journalist. He currently works for the Dallas Morning News, where he reports on Mexico and its relationship with the United States as the Mexico City bureau chief. His autobiographical book Midnight in Mexico describes Corchado’s attempts to investigate corruption after receiving threats on his life.
The Stranger Beside Me, Rule’s best-known book by far, is a classic of the true crime genre. It’s follows the Ted Bundy case while delving into her personal relationship with the notorious killer. The two met working at a crisis clinic in Seattle. But don’t discount her other work; she’s one of the most prolific true crime authors around, with dozens of books to her name.
Larson’s most famous work is Devil in the White City, which profiles Dr. H.H. Holmes and the making of the World’s Fair. In general, he specializes in nonfiction exploring personal stories at the heart of major historical events.
Orlean doesn’t write about violent crime, but her writing is no less gripping than that of the other authors on this list. If you have a weak stomach, check out The Orchid Thief or The Library Book. Both works have their fair share of intrigue, without the gory details found in most other books on this list
Krakauer might be best known for Into the Wild, but several of his works fall under the category of true crime. Missoula is an exploration of sexual assault on a college campus. Under the Banner of Heaven investigates crime in the Mormon Fundamentalist community.
Book Riot’s own Mary Kay McBrayer is a newcomer on the true crime scene, but her forthcoming first book, America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster, is a must-read. The best part? It’s currently available for preorder and comes out on May 19, 2020.
Stevenson is a lawyer and an author. His most famous work is Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, an autobiographical account of Stevenson’s work on the Walter McMillian case. This story about race and inequality in our justice system and should be required reading for all Americans.
If you already know everything about Edward Snowden, check out The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell. It follows the FBI investigation into Brian Regan, a dyslectic codebreaker who sold government secrets to various foreign sources.
Leveritt’s two books on the West Memphis Three paint a complete picture of the crime and false convictions. Start with The Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. Then, pick up Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence. Leveritt wrote this in conjunction with Jason Baldwin, the youngest of men known as the West Memphis Three.
In Cold Blood is hailed as the ultimate true crime classic, and for good reason. Years after reading I remain haunted by Capote’s description of the crime scene—the family home where an entire family was slaughtered by two men. The book explores the before, during, and after of the murders that shook Holcomb, Kansas.
Interested in the scientific of crime? Blum has quite a few books on the subject, including her most famous, The Poisoner’s Handbook. It’s about two Jazz Age scientists who helped create the beginnings of forensics as we know it today.
Rabia Chaudry expands on the story from Serial with Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial. The book presents new evidence and further seeks to prove Adnan Syed’s innocence in the murder of Hae Min Lee.