10 of the Best Books About Serial Killers
With Halloween only 10 days away, I figure it’s time to suggest some scary books.
Horror is definitely not my jam. So, I turned to GoodReads and Google to learn about books on the subject of serial killers and their popularity, in order to come up with a short list for those of you who want to dig into the subject!
I often feel like a fraud when I write about or recommend books I haven’t read. I’m a book blogger, I should know what I’m talking about right?! But I take my role as your source for recommendations seriously, and I know that not everyone is going to read what I read. Plus, I was recently reminded of my mission with this blog is to get people out of their reading comfort zones, and that includes me!
Surprisingly, I’ve read two out of ten of these titles. Most of the rest, I hadn’t heard of or know little about. Most of them sound interesting, and the non-fiction are some incredible stories told from people in the lives of killers. I’ve even added a couple to my TBR List!
10 of the Best Books About Serial Killers
1. The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule
From Amazon: Utterly unique in its astonishing intimacy, as jarringly frightening as when it first appeared, Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me defies our expectation that we would surely know if a monster lived among us, worked alongside of us, appeared as one of us. With a slow chill that intensifies with each heart-pounding page, Rule describes her dawning awareness that Ted Bundy, her sensitive coworker on a crisis hotline, was one of the most prolific serial killers in America. He would confess to killing at least thirty-six young women from coast to coast, and was eventually executed for three of those cases. Drawing from their correspondence that endured until shortly before Bundy’s death, and striking a seamless balance between her deeply personal perspective and her role as a crime reporter on the hunt for a savage serial killer — the brilliant and charismatic Bundy, the man she thought she knew — Rule changed the course of true-crime literature with this unforgettable chronicle.
2. The Monster of Florence – Douglas Preston
From Goodreads: Douglas Preston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he moved with his family to a villa in Florence. Upon meeting celebrated journalist Mario Spezi, Preston was stunned to learn that the olive grove next to his home had been the scene of a horrific double murder committed by one of the most infamous figures in Italian history. A serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers, he has never been caught. He is known as the Monster of Florence. Fascinated by the tale, Preston began to work with Spezi on the case. Here is the true story of their search to uncover and confront the man they believe is the Monster. In an ironic twist of fate that echoes the dark traditions of the city’s bloody history, Preston and Spezi themselves became targets of a bizarre police investigation.
3. Green River Killer: A True Detective Story – Jeff Jensen
From Goodreads: Throughout the 1980s, the highest priority of Seattle-area police was the apprehension of the Green River Killer, the man responsible for the murders of dozens of women, but in 1990, with the body count numbering at least forty-eight, the case was put in the hands of a single detective, Tom Jensen. After twenty years, when the killer was finally captured with the help of DNA technology, Jensen and fellow detectives spent 188 days interviewing Gary Ridgway in an effort to learn his most closely held secrets–an epic confrontation with evil that proved as disturbing and surreal as can be imagined. Written by Jensen’s own son, acclaimed entertainment journalist Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story is bound to become a well-recognized member of the crime-genre graphic novel family, including titles like Darwyn Cooke’s The Hunter and Alan Moore’s From Hell.
4. Zodiac – Robert Graysmith
From Amazon: A sexual sadist, he took pleasure in torture and murder. His first victims were a teenage couple, stalked and shot dead in a lovers’ lane. After another slaying, he sent his first mocking note to authorities, promising he would kill more. The official tally of his victims was six. He claimed thirty-seven dead. The real toll may have reached fifty. Robert Graysmith was on staff at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when Zodiac first struck, triggering in the resolute reporter an unrelenting obsession with seeing the hooded killer brought to justice. In this gripping account of Zodiac’s eleven-month reign of terror, Graysmith reveals hundreds of facts previously unreleased, including the complete text of the killer’s letters.
5. The Devil in the White City – Eric Larson
*I’ve read this one, and talk about it here.
From Goodreads: Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake. The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.
6. My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf
*This is the one I discovered that interested me most. I’m going to look for it at the library this week!
From Goodreads: You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer — the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper — seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides. In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche — a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.
7. The Black Dahlia – James Ellroy
From Goodreads: On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia—and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia—driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl’s twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches—into a region of total madness.
8. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
*I vividly recall reading this novel the summer I was 15, lying in the prickly grass in our front yard. I loved every minute of it. While I don’t enjoy horror, there’s something to be said for a story so engaging that the gory details don’t distract from it. Plus Clarice was a huge badass to teenaged me.
From Amazon: As part of the search for a serial murderer nicknames “Buffalo Bill,” FBI trainee Clarice Starling is given an assignment. She must visit a man confined to a high-security facility for the criminally insane and interview him. That man, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is a former psychiatrist with unusual tastes and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind. His intimate understanding of the killer and of Clarice herself form the core of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs–an unforgettable classic of suspense fiction.
9. The Alienist – Caleb Carr
From Goodreads: The year is 1896. The city is New York. Newspaper reporter John Schuyler Moore is summoned by his friend Dr. Laszlo Kreizler—a psychologist, or “alienist”—to view the horribly mutilated body of an adolescent boy abandoned on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge. From there the two embark on a revolutionary effort in criminology: creating a psychological profile of the perpetrator based on the details of his crimes. Their dangerous quest takes them into the tortured past and twisted mind of a murderer who will kill again before their hunt is over.
10. The Perfect Husband – Lisa Gardner
From Goodreads: What would you do if the man you loved wanted to kill you? When Tess Beckett married Jim, a well-respected and decorated cop, she thought all her dreams had come true. But within two years the vows she made were shattered as her husband was charged with murdering ten women. With Jim behind bars, Tess feels certain that she can move on with her life. Until she learns that Jim has escaped from prison. As a frantic and rigorous manhunt gets underway in four states, Tess knows that it’s only a matter of time until her perfect husband tracks her down for the revenge he is sure to demand. And when he finds her, she must be ready. Because this time she’s determined that their separation will be ’till death do us part’.
If this genre is one you enjoy, what would you add to my list?!