Before the NPR podcast Serial, podcasts were already a thing. And true crime was certainly popular before Sarah Koenig first introduced listeners to her long-form true crime podcast. But no one can deny that after the hit podcast Serial, public interest in podcasts, true crime, and unsolved mysteries in general really took off.
The first season of Serial — co-produced by Koenig and Julie Snyder and developed by This American Life — investigated the 1999 death of Hae Min Lee and the 18-year-old Adnan Masud Syed who was convicted of her murder. This first season of the podcast, which was released in 2014, remained at the top of the iTunes charts for months. The New York Times called Serial “podcasting’s first breakout hit.”
In 2015, the highly anticipated second season of Serial followed the story of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban. In 2018, Serial returned for a third season that analyzes the criminal justice system and law enforcement. While a release date for the fourth season of Serial has not been announced yet, it appears as if one is in the works, and when it comes out, Koenig and crew will likely be interrogating another difficult and multi-faceted case.
With no release date currently in sight, where can you find books like Serial that are equally compelling and thought-provoking when it comes to addressing crime topics? Here are four nonfiction books and four fiction books like Serial for fans of the show.
Nonfiction for Fans of Serial
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Serial reignited interest in true crime, but it was Truman Capote’s classic In Cold Blood that truly introduced the true crime novel as we know it today. In this book, Capote investigates the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, a small farming town. This classic true crime novel has inspired multiple films and books, and was a major influence on the way true crime stories were researched and told from then on.
Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry
If you loved the first season of Serial and are looking for more, then you don’t want to miss Rabia Chaudry’s Adnan’s Story. Author Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and a family friend of Adnan Syed. In this book, Chaudry presents new key evidence that the Serial podcast missed. Throughout the years, Adnan has maintained his innocence, and Rabia Chaudry is committed to exonerating him.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson is a great book for fans of Serial season 3’s examination of the justice system. This is Bryan Stevenson’s memoir in which he documents his career as a lawyer for disadvantaged clients. Stevenson focuses on the failures and injustices of the United States legal system and his efforts to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillan.
Magnetized: Conversations with a Serial Killer by Carlos Busqued
In this true crime story from Argentina, Carlos Busqued investigates the serial killer who murdered four taxi drivers in Buenos Aires over the course of a week in 1982. Busqued visits serial killer Ricardo Melogno in prison to discuss the crimes and Melogno’s experiences in the prison system.
Fiction for Fans of Serial
Sadie by Courtney Summers
There are plenty of mysteries and thrillers inspired by true crime stories, but what makes this book especially perfect for fans of Serial is that it features a true crime podcast as a part of the story. Courtney Summers’s Sadie is about a girl named Sadie who runs away from home to avenge the murder of her younger sister. As Sadie is on the run, a Serial-like podcast is a few steps behind her, trying to figure out where she’s going and interviewing people who have interacted with her on her journey.
Conviction by Denise Mina
If you appreciate true crime podcasts, then you’ll probably enjoy a mystery that features a main character who also listens to them. When Anna’s husband leaves her for her best friend and takes their kids with him, she escapes from her own life by listening to a true crime podcast. But then she recognizes one of the victims’ names. Convinced she knows what really happened, Anna becomes obsessed with investigating the case herself.
Pretty As A Picture by Elizabeth Little
Pretty As A Picture offers another interesting take on the mystery narrative style. Throughout this story, there are flashes forward to a true crime podcast that was recorded after the fact. Marissa Dahl is a film editor who travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with director Tony Rees on a feature film that explores a true crime story. She’s not allowed to read the script, and she has to give up her phone before filming starts. But that’s only where the mysteries begin. Nothing on this set is what it seems.
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
This book is a young adult thriller about a high school girl named Andie Bell who was murdered. And everyone knows Sal Singh is the one who did it. Except Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. Five years after the case is closed, Pippa decides to investigate the case for her final project and get to the bottom of who really killed Andie. The mystery at the center of this novel has some clear parallels to the murder of Hae Min Lee, the conviction of Adnan Syed, and Serial‘s investigation into the crime.