Off the Shelf: True Crime

If you love binge-watching true crime documentaries and you constantly listen to true crime podcasts, then these titles will be right up your alley. We’ve created a list of books that will make you leave a light on and double-check the locks on your doors. Download these titles and find your newest obsession of true crime we’ve pulled “off the shelf.”

If you’d like to discuss what you’re reading with other library patrons, feel free to share your thoughts on our Goodreads page.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

by: Michelle McNamara

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer, the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade, from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic, capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim, he favored suburban couples, he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death, offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague.

Killers of the Flower Moon

by: David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West — women like J.P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the “Phantom Terror,” roamed — many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case.

In desperation, the young director J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

In Killers of the Flower Moon David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward  American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

Say Nothing

by: Patrick Radden Keefe

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it.

In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress — with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.

Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.

From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to they spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past — Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

The Girl in the Leaves

by: Robert Scott

In the fall of 2010, in the all-American town of Apple Valley, Ohio, four people disappeared without a trace: Stephanie Sprang; her friend, Tina Maynard; and Tina’s two children, thirteen-year-old Sarah and eleven-year-old Kody. Investigators began scouring the area, yet despite an extensive search, no signs of the missing people were discovered.

On the fourth day of the search, evidence trickled in about neighborhood “weirdo” Matthew Hoffman. A police SWAT team raided his home and found an extremely disturbing sight: every square inch of the place was filled with leaves and a terrified Sarah Maynard was bound up in the middle of it like some sort of perverted autumn tableau.

But there was no trace of the others. Then came Hoffman’s confession to an unspeakable crime that went beyond murder and defied all reason. His tale of evil would make Sarah’s survival and rescue all the more astonishing-a compelling tribute to a young girl’s resilience and courage and to her fierce determination to reclaim her life I the wake of unimaginable wickedness.

Mindhunter

by: John E. Douglas

Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

He has hunted some of the most notorious and sadistic criminals of our time: The Trailside Killer in San Francisco, the Atlanta Child murderer. He has confronted, interviewed and researched dozens of serial killers and assassins — including Charles Manson, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, and James Earl Ray — for a landmark study to understand their motives. To get inside their minds.

He is Special Agent John Douglas, the model for law enforcement legend Jack Crawford in Thomas Harris’ thrillers: Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, and the man who ushered in a new age in behavioral science and criminal profiling.

Recently retired after twenty-five years of service, John Douglas can finally tell his unique and compelling story. With journalist Mark Olshaker, he gives us a behind the scenes look at his fascinating career, revisiting his journeys into the dark recesses and calculated madness present only in our worst nightmares. This is the true-crime work everyone has been waiting for — by the Mindhunter himself.

They All Love Jack

by: Bruce Robinson

For over a hundred years, the mystery of Jack the Ripper has been a source of unparalleled fascination and horror, spawning an army of obsessive theorists and endless volumes purporting to finally reveal the identity of the brutal murderer who terrorized Victorian England.

But what if there was never really any mystery at all? What if the Ripper was always hiding in plain sight, deliberately leaving a trail of clues to his identity for anyone who cared to look, while cynically mocking those who were supposedly attempting to bring him to justice?

In They All Love Jack, the award-winning film director and screenwriter Bruce Robinson exposes the cover-up that enabled one of history’s most notorious serial killers to remain at large. More than twelve years in the writing, this is no mere radical reinterpretation of the Jack the Ripper legend and an enthralling hunt for the killer. A literary high-wire act reminiscent of Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson, it is an expressionistic  journey through the cesspools of late-Victorian society, a phantasmagoria of highly placed villains, hypocrites, and institutionalized corruption.

Polemic forensic investigation and panoramic portrait of an age, underpinned by deep scholarship and delivered in Robinson’s inimitably vivid and scabrous prose, They All Love Jack is an absolutely riveting and unique book, demolishing the theories of generations of self-appointed experts-the so-called Ripperologists-to make clear, at last, who really did it; and, more important, how he managed to get away with it for so long.

A Dark and Bloody Ground

by: Darcy O’Brien

Kentucky never more deserved its Indian appellation “A Dark and Bloody Ground” than when a small-town physician, seventy-seven-year-old Roscoe Acker, called in an emergency on a sweltering evening in August 1985. Acker’s own life hung in the balance, but it was already too late for his college-age daughter, Tammy, savagely stabbed eleven times and pinned by a kitchen knife to her bedroom floor in Fleming-Neon.

Three men had somehow managed to breach Dr. Acker’s alarm and security systems and made off with a substantial amount of the cash he had stashed away in a safe over his lifetime. The killers – part of a three-man, two-woman gang of the sort not seen since the Bakers – stopped counting the moldy bills when they reached $1.9 million. They found that all the cash came in handy shortly afterwards, when they were caught and needed to lure Kentucky’s most flamboyant lawyer, the celebrated Lester Burns, into representing them.

The Boston Strangler

by: Gerold Frank

The definitive true crime account of Boston’s most notorious serial killer-and the exhaustive manhunt that ensued in the wake of his rampage. On June 14, 1962, twenty-five-year-old Juris Slesers arrived at his mother’s apartment to drive her to church. But there was no answer at the door. After waiting a half hour, Juris shoved his way inside. He found fifty-five-year-old Anna Slesers lying on the kitchen floor, dead, the cord of her housecoat knotted tightly around her neck and turned up in a bow.

Between 1962 and 1964, twelve more bodies were discovered in and around Boston: all women, all sexually assaulted, and all strangled-often with their own pantyhose. None of the victims exhibited any signs of struggle, nothing was stolen from their homes, and there were no signs of forcible entry. The police could find no discernable motive or clues.

Who was this insane killer? How was he entering women’s homes? And why were they letting him in? More than a gripping chronicle of an American serial killer on par with Jack the Ripper, The Boston Strangler is a shocking story about what happens to a city under a siege of terror. Drawn from hundreds of hours of personal interviews, as well as police, medical, and court documentation, author Gerold Frank’s account is grisly, horrifying, and meticulously researched.

Hunting Charles Manson

by: Lis Wiehl

In the late summer of 1969, the nation was transfixed by a series of gruesome murders in he hills of Los Angeles. Newspapers and television programs detialed the brutal slayings of a beautiful actress–twenty-six years old and eight months pregnant with her first child–as well as a hair stylist, an heiress, a businessman, and other victims. The City of Angels was plunged into a nightmare of fear and dread.

In the weeks and months that followed, law enforcement faced intense pressure to solve crimes that seemed to have no connection. Finally, after months of dead-ends, false leads, and near-misses, Charles Manson and members of his “family” were arrested. The bewildering trials that followed once again captured the nation and forever secured Manson as a byword for the evil that men do.

Drawing upon deep archival research and exclusive personal interviews–including unique access to Manson Family parole hearings–former federal prosecutor and Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl has written a propulsive, page-turning historical thriller of the crimes and manhunt that mesmerized the nation. And in the process, she reveals how the social and political context that gave rise to Manson is eerily similar to our own.

After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

by: Marilyn J. Bardsley

As a premier antiques dealer in Savannah, Jim Williams had it all: style, culture, charisma, and sophistication. But three decades of hard work came crashing down the night he shot Danny Hansford, his wild young lover. Jim Williams stood trial four times over the next decade for premeditated murder.

While Clint Eastwood’s movie-starring Kevin Spacey and Jude Law-and the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt portrayed the natives of Savannah as remarkably decadent, exotic characters, they missed the surprising dark side of Jim Williams himself. He was a smooth predator whose crimes could have put him behind bars long before the death of Danny Hansford.

After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is Marilyn Bardsley’s continuation of the story, which includes crucial testimony recreating the courtroom drama between a gifted prosecutor and a brilliant defense attorney as they battle over the future of a self-made aristocrat. More than forty photos and revealing insider interviews bring new life to the vivid cast of characters in this unique southern crime story.

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