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19 True Crime Books Out in 2021

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Cassie Gutman

Staff Writer

Cassie Gutman is happiest when surrounded by books and dogs. Originally from a small, funny-named town near Louisville, Kentucky, she now edits words for a living near Chicago and would like to be paid in ice cream. You can find her on Instagram @happybooklovers or on Twitter @cassiepgutman.

There’s no shortage of true crime content right now. From podcasts to documentaries, it’s everywhere, including books. These new true crime books published in 2021 will keep you learning about real-life cases, cults, and con artists. Below you’ll find 20 new true crime books in order of release date to grab or add to your list for later in 2021.

And while the true crime genre is slowly beginning to fill with authors of color and women authors, this category is still largely authored by white and male authors.

And if this still isn’t enough and you’re looking for even more true crime books, we’ve got you covered.

2021 True Crime Books to Read Right Now

Book cover for Two Truths and a Lie

Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, a Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice by Ellen McGarrahan (February 2, 2021)

Ellen McGarrahan, a then-journalist, reported on the case of Jesse Tafero, a man convicted of murdering two police officers and placed on death row. Decades later, when evidence emerges that Tafero may have been innocent, McGarrahan is haunted by her total belief in the court systems and decides to dig into the truth of what really happened.

Book cover for The Good Girls

The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro (February 9, 2021)

Padma and Lalli were two young teenagers in Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, when they vanished. Hours later, they were found dead in an orchard. The investigation into their deaths sparked national conversations about sex and violence, especially against young girls.

Book cover for Guilty Admissions

Guilty Admissions: The Bribes, Favors, and Phonies behind the College Cheating Scandal by Nicole LaPorte (February 23, 2021)

You’ve definitely heard of the Varsity Blues scandal, but are you ready for a deep dive into the corrupt and connected world of college admissions? Rick Singer was a “college counselor” who took advantage of desperate elite parents trying to make sure their kids got into the “right” colleges. He led them to donation demands and private parties and more, and the parents were just as culpable, doing everything in their power to manipulate school officials just to give their children an edge.

Book cover for The Psychopath

The Psychopath: A True Story by Mary Turner Thomson (March 1, 2021)

What happened to Mary Turner Thomson is the stuff of nightmares: without warning one day, she discovered her husband was a bigamist, a con man, and a convicted sex offender. This became the start of her new life, fighting to keep others from experiencing the same thing she did and stopping him once and for all.

Book cover for Bring Back Our Girls

Bring Back Our Girls by Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson (March 2, 2021)

In 2014, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls swept through social media, highlighted by prominent celebrities and politicians, but do you know the full story about why that was highlighted and what came of the investigation? 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, a terrorist group, and this book recounts the global hunt to rescue the girls and the benefits and pitfalls of social media advocacy.

Book cover The Babysitter

The Babysitter: My Summers With a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan (March 2, 2021)

In the 1960s, Liza was a young girl whose mother worked several jobs to keep them afloat, so she had a babysitter. The handyman at the motel where her mother worked looked after her when she was alone, taking her and her sister on fun adventures in his truck. At the end of the decade, Tony Costa would be caught, and his name would be printed across headlines, but it took Liza decades before she finally made the connection between this serial killer and her friendly babysitter — they were the same person.

Book cover for Last Call

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in New York City by Elon Green (March 9, 2021)

The Last Call Killer murdered gay men in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, and he was able to get away with it for so long because of the marginalization of his victims, the AIDS epidemic happening concurrently, and New York City’s already extremely high murder rate. Green sheds a light on forgotten victims of this killer and the decades-long chase to catch the killer.

Book cover for At Any Cost

At Any Cost: A Father’s Betrayal, a Wife’s Murder, and a Ten-Year War for Justice by Rebecca Rosenberg and Selim Algar (April 6, 2021)

Shele Danishefsky and Rod Covlin seemed to have it all: an Upper West Side apartment, Danishefsky’s high-profile job conquering Wall Street, and Covlin’s Ivy League degree. But as tensions grew between the two over Danishefsky’s money, she made a meeting with her lawyer to remove her husband from her will. She never made it and was found dead in her bathtub. Soon the two families were battling over the inheritance, their children, and the results of her death, and Covlin grew more desperate to ensure that the money remained his.

Book cover for Don't Call It a Cult

Don’t Call It a Cult: The Shocking Story of Keith Raniere and the Women of NXIVM by Sarah Berman (April 20, 2021)

If you watched The Vow and couldn’t believe what you learned about the NXIVM cult, this true crime book is for you. Digging even deeper into the cult and its leader, Berman explores the extent to which Keith Raniere and his highest followers manipulated vulnerable people searching for answers using blackmailing, branding, abuse, and starvation to keep followers in line.

Book cover for From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: The Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement by Paula Yoo (April 20, 2021)

Now more than ever it’s important to be aware of and stop Asian American hate and hate crimes. But this is, unfortunately, not a new challenge for Asian Americans. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man, was beaten to death in a bar fight, killed by two white men. Yoo details the horrible event and the trial that followed, that did not get better. When the two men pled guilty to manslaughter and received only a small fine and three years’ probation, it sparked outrage and a federal civil rights trial to seek proper justice for this violent act of hatred.

Book cover for Death on Ocean Boulevard

Death on Ocean Boulevard: Inside the Coronado Mansion Case by Caitlin Rother (April 27, 2021)

Rebecca Zahau was found dead under incredibly suspicious circumstances, but despite all the strange evidence found, her death was deemed a suicide. With her ankles tied and hands bound behind her, a cryptic message on the wall, and the fact that she was found hanged from a second-story balcony, it all seemed very unlikely that suicide was even possible. Investigative journalist Caitlin Rother was baffled by this decision and the later civil suit that followed, which came to an entirely different conclusion, so she digs into everything about this case, from the initial evidence to the reconfirmation from the sheriff’s department that they made no mistakes.

Book cover for Murder at the Mission

Murder at the Mission: A Frontier Killing, Its Legacy of Lies, and the Taking of the American West by Blaine Harden (April 27, 2021)

Marcus Whitman was hailed as an American hero for centuries — he told a legendary tale of his heroism and personal tragedy in 1836. However, his tale was a lie that cost generations of Indigenous people their lives, land, and identity. Henry Spalding, a companion of Whitman’s, was largely responsible for perpetuating this lie, and Harden explores the dangers of letting only the “victors” have a part in history, which leads to dangerous consequences and erasure of an entire race of people.

Book cover for Covered with Night

Covered With Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America by Nicole Eustace (April 27, 2021)

This historical true crime covers the brutal act of violence against an Indigenous hunter by two white fur traders in 1722. This crime immediately set everyone on edge, and white colonists believed the Indigenous tribes would attack in revenge, so the colonists scrambled to try to make reparations, ultimately calling for the killers’ execution. Eustace digs into the complications of colonization and how it affected (and continues to affect) generations of Indigenous people and their efforts to push for restorative justice.

Book cover for When She Comes Back

When She Comes Back: A Memoir by Ronit Plank (May 9, 2021)

Ronit was only six when her mother left their family to follow a guru to India. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, had become more internationally known for his commune of “free love and sex.” Fortunately, Ronit’s father, who had separated from the family the previous year, took his two daughters under his care. When Ronit’s mother left for the commune, it broke the family’s sense of trust, and Ronit struggled for years to understand why her mother left. 

2021 True Crime Books Out Later This Year to Add to Your TBR

Book cover for Couple Found Slain

Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder by Mikita Brottman (July 6, 2021)

Brottman’s book begins with the murder: 22-year-old Brian Bechtold walking into a police station and confessing that he killed his parents in their home. But the book goes further, detailing what exactly happened to Bechtold after this event. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and ruled “not criminally responsible,” ultimately landing in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. This is not only a true crime account but an inside look at criminal psych wards and those who live there.

Book cover for The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb (July 13, 2021)

Dr. Thomas Neill Cream arrived in London in 1891 and used pills laced with strychnine to kill sex workers. Shockingly, this was not his first time, and he had done so in both Canada and the United States but had escaped to London before being caught. Still, thanks to corrupt police, failed trials, and missteps throughout investigations, Cream was able to kill again and again, harming some of the most vulnerable people wherever he went.

Book cover for The Icepick Surgeon

The Icepick Surgeon: Murder, Fraud, Sabotage, Piracy, and Other Dastardly Deeds Perpetrated in the Name of Science by Sam Kean (July 13, 2021)

Covering true crime from a more medical and scientific perspective, Sam Kean explores the stories of people who have crossed the line from typical scientific discovery into malpractice and moral compromise, according to these people, “in the name of science.” Kean’s interesting discussion of the meaning of true progress and its cost is a thoughtful look through history and into the future. 

Book cover for Golden Boy

Golden Boy: A Murder Among the Manhattan Elite by John Glatt (July 20, 2021)

Thomas Gilbert Jr. appeared to live a life many only dream of: luxury home, elite schooling, summers in the Hamptons. But Thomas struggled with his mental health, exhibiting signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoia, and refusing to seek psychiatric help. When Thomas arrived home one day, he calmly asked his mother to leave, then shot his father in the head. Glatt reconstructs the Gilberts’ lives and those of their friends and relatives, examining the elite world and how Thomas ultimately arrived to murder his father.  

Book cover for She Kills Me

She Kills Me: The True Stories of History’s Deadliest Women by Jennifer Wright (September 28, 2021)

Historically, men are the more likely to commit murders. But women murderers are out there, and this collection of stories features women who killed — whether it was in defense, revenge, or for fun. From famous murderers to leaders in combat to women who fought for their lives and won, this collection will both creep you out and leave you a little bit inspired, depending on the story you read. 

Looking for even more true crime? Check out these international true crime reads, nonviolent true crime books, or historical true crime books.