20 Top-Rated True Crime Books on Goodreads

Posted by Cybil on April 2, 2018
Goodreads Mystery & Thriller Week 2018

Mystery & Thriller Week is sponsored by Penguin Random House Audio. Enjoy the suspense on audio.

If anyone knows that truth is often stranger than fiction, it's the true crime reader. So for those murderinos out there, we've rounded up 20 of the top-rated true crime tales on Goodreads.

In order to make the lineup, every book on this list had to have at least a four-star rating from the Goodreads community as well as several thousand reviews. That means, you may notice that some of the usual suspects may be absent.

Just missing the cut are The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (one of the most-reviewed true crime books on Goodreads, with a 3.99 average rating) and Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (another popular book with a 3.99 rating).



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What true crime book got you hooked on the genre? Share it with your fellow readers in the comments!

Check out the complete coverage of Mystery & Thriller Week:
20 Big Mysteries & Thrillers of Spring
50 Hidden Gems for the Well-Read Mystery Fan
Top 100 Mysteries & Thrillers on Goodreads

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)


message 1: by Jonetta (new)

Jonetta In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Read it as a teen and it still haunts me to this day.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote


message 2: by Maureen (new)

Maureen The Only Living Witness: The True Story of Serial Sex Killer Ted Bundy

The book The Only Living Witness kept me awake for many nights because it was so hard to put down and when I did the reality of that this man who was intensely cruel, and remorseless actually existed.
He was charming, handsome, smart and one of the most infamous serial killers of our time. This story is told by Ted Bundy, but since he maintained his innocence until shortly before he was executed, it is told by him, in the third person. The writer interviews him, and he reveals every detail, every nuance of his crimes. And he does it enthusiastically .
I thought this book was much more chilling than Helter Skelter, or In Cold Blood, both of which were very well done, but The Only Living Witness haunted me. It has been almost thirty years since I read it, and I still think about it. Something about the way he describes the way he committed the crimes, his pride is almost palpable when he tells of the crimes, is nothing short of disturbing.


message 4: by Steve (new)

Steve Dustcircle Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi will always be a NF-TC classic to me.


message 5: by Hannatu (new)

Hannatu Helter Skelter is pretty spooky. You don't want to read it unless you can stand nightmares!!!


message 6: by Joanna (new)

Joanna In Cold Blood. The Onion Fields. Helter Skelter,,,I am old enough to have unfortunately been around during that mess. Read others, but first one got me. Love Capote.


message 7: by CatBookMom (last edited Apr 03, 2018 04:58PM) (new)

CatBookMom Joanna wrote: "In Cold Blood. The Onion Fields. Helter Skelter,,,I am old enough to have unfortunately been around during that mess. Read others, but first one got me. Love Capote."

Yes. Like you, I remember when these were newspaper headlines. In Cold Blood may have been the first true-crime book I ever read.

Good books not included in this list:
And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer (4.11)
Everything She Ever Wanted (3.98)
Doc: The Rape of the Town of Lovell (3.86)
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Impostor (only 3.83)


message 8: by Debra (new)

Debra Russell I really want to read the books I Picked . I hope I get to , thank you so much , Debra Russell


message 9: by Maureen (new)

Maureen The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob

Somebody mentioned Wiseguy, and I thought of The Westies, both of these books are great true crime reads.


message 10: by Steve (new)

Steve Dustcircle Maureen wrote: "The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob

Somebody mentioned Wiseguy, and I thought of The Westies, both of these books are great true crime reads."


Nice. Yea, and the film for To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia doesn't do the book justice.
There is a series in the works. Scorsese I think is attached to it.


message 11: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Brixey As I'm from Brisbane, Matthew Condon's trilogy of corruption in the Queensland Police Force; Three Crooked Kings, Jacks And Jokers, All Fall Down are a must.


message 12: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Steve wrote: "Maureen wrote: "The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob

Somebody mentioned Wiseguy, and I thought of The Westies, both of these books are great true crime reads."

Nice. Yea, and th..."

I never saw that movie, but I did see some movie that I think Sean Penn was in as Mickey Featherstone. Not sure though, it was many, many moons ago.


message 13: by Stacy (new)

Stacy CatBookMom wrote: "Joanna wrote: "In Cold Blood. The Onion Fields. Helter Skelter,,,I am old enough to have unfortunately been around during that mess. Read others, but first one got me. Love Capote."

Yes. Like you,..."


And Never Let Her Go. Yes, this should have made the list.


message 14: by Leesa (new)

Leesa Buckland These are all great true crime books, I've read most of them. Another to add to the list is "Who Killed by Daughter" by Lois Duncan. Fascinating, I thought.


message 15: by Johnmcq (new)

Johnmcq I'ave read "In cold Blood" at leas five times, and I enjoyed the recent analysis book (whose title I forgot).

May I also say ... back in 1983, I was on a PR tour with a client ... she was being interviewed on a Milwaukee TV talk show. I was alone in their green room with Vincent Bugliosi -- whom I bugged with questions for about the most interesting eight minutes of my life. I asked him if his discussion of how the police ruined the crime scene caused him any hard feelings. He replied that he told the police, in effect, "you're lucky I downplayed your incompetence."

"The Crime of the Century" by David Breo (about Richard Speck) would also be on this list. A good friend of mine is the daughter of one of the lead homicide detectives who caught him. His accounts were as fascinating as the book.

I enjoyed "The Executioners Story," but it went into way too great detail.


message 16: by Susan (new)

Susan Lionel Dahmer: A Father's Story.


message 17: by Barbara (new)

Barbara My 1st true crime book was The Shoemaker, about a local killer. All these yrs later (30+) the song "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks still makes me think about his poor son. Every time I hear it.


message 18: by Elyse (new)

Elyse I listened to Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders last year and that got me into true crime! I love all the suggestions! In Cold Blood is coming up soon on my list!


message 19: by Frances (new)

Frances DiBisceglia Leesa wrote: "These are all great true crime books, I've read most of them. Another to add to the list is "Who Killed by Daughter" by Lois Duncan. Fascinating, I thought."

Yes that was very interesting, the psychic was spot on if I remember correctly. In another vein is Crossed Over by Bev Lowry, a mother grieving her son lost to a car incident and her friendship with a murderer on death row in Texas.


message 20: by Jo (new)

Jo Cameron-Symes Out of Thin Air: The Peculiar Story of Iceland's Most Infamous Criminal Cases is on my to be read pile and looks very good. Was only recently published too.


message 21: by Joanna (new)

Joanna I think the thing with Nordic crimes as with Nordic Noir writers is, the country lends itself to a different way of thinking due to the weather, light, etc, there is a harshness to it. Crimes from the UK have a long history to build from, the US is more sensational, drug based..or influenced by celebrity. Nordic. Peculiar? Yes, brain draining? Yes. Heart stopping? Frightening?
Yes.


message 22: by Connie (new)

Connie Charron I remember In Cold Blood well. I read it in High School and I think it was required reading. I also remember Robert Blake saying that after that movie he was so effected by his role in it that it took ages to be able to get right again and go on to play other roles.


message 23: by Joanna (new)

Joanna I remember the Blake interview, also. Amazing how actors have to get into the skin of these creatures. It was a book of its time. I know there are interpretations of horrific acts, but really, the writer tells the story to its full extent. Look how we are still affected by it?


message 25: by Jo (new)

Jo Cameron-Symes Jo wrote: "Out of Thin Air: The Peculiar Story of Iceland's Most Infamous Criminal Cases is on my to be read pile and looks very good. Was only recently published too."

I totally agree with you Joanna! I think the setting of a book is very influential and atmospheric and shapes the overall narrative of the story. I read a lot of translated Japanese fiction and love how we get to see and feel modern Japan through these amazing writers' eyes!


message 26: by Susan (new)

Susan Rodriguez Not in this list, but Blood and Money by Tommy Thompson. Could not put it down! I need to read it again.


message 27: by Jan C (new)

Jan C Susan wrote: "Not in this list, but Blood and Money by Tommy Thompson. Could not put it down! I need to read it again."

I loved Tommy Thompson's books.


message 28: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Lambert No one seems to remember "Two of a Kind," by Darcy O'brien. It's the story of the Hillside Stranglers, and a gruesome one it is. It's a bit subjective--O'brien comes off as a law & order type and brings that to the story, but still a fine piece of work. There was a TV movie--with Richard Crenna, of all people--made from it.


message 29: by CatBookMom (new)

CatBookMom Daniel wrote: "As I'm from Brisbane, Matthew Condon's trilogy of corruption in the Queensland Police Force; Three Crooked Kings, Jacks And Jokers, All Fall Down are a must."

Thanks for the tip. There are some outstanding authors in Australia, and I'm always looking for ideas about which to try. Kerry Greenwood got me started, but I can only re-read the Phryne Fisher books so many times.


message 30: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Kevin wrote: "No one seems to remember "Two of a Kind," by Darcy O'brien. It's the story of the Hillside Stranglers, and a gruesome one it is. It's a bit subjective--O'brien comes off as a law & order type and b..."

Sounds like a good one.


message 31: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Mindhunter is the only non fiction crime book I've read recently and it shook me. Delving into the psyche of such deranged and deviant individuals changes your outlook on people and life. Thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it


message 32: by Biljana (new)

Biljana The Monster of Florence

A book about serial killer in Italian city of Florence.


message 33: by Sue (new)

Sue Helter Skelter - my mother tried to forbid me from reading it but I read it standing at my locker between classes in 8th grade!


message 34: by Caroline (new)

Caroline I was lucky enough to win a copy of "The run of his life" by Jeffrey Toobin here on Goodreads.
A fantastic book.


message 35: by Hannatu (new)

Hannatu Sue wrote: "Helter Skelter - my mother tried to forbid me from reading it but I read it standing at my locker between classes in 8th grade!"

She shouldn't have tried to stop you : ) A sure way to make you curious enough to insist on reading it!


message 36: by Max (new)

Max i've been listening to crime podcasts for years, but the stranger beside me got me into written true crime. i couldn't put it down. so chilling to think about knowing someone for so long and never truly Knowing them at all, or what monstrous things they're capable of.


message 37: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Fitzgerald What Lisa Knew:The Truth and Lies of the Lisa Steinburg Case by Joyce Johnson is a good true crime book. When I read it, I felt as if I was avenging Lisa a bit, because she will never be forgotten if people read about her short little life.


message 38: by Steve (new)

Steve Dustcircle I prefer organized crime to kidnap/rape stuff


message 39: by Richp (new)

Richp There is strong criticism of McGinnis' book Fatal Vision. On GR some of the criticisms are in answers in the question section of the page for FV.


message 40: by Hameeda (new)

Hameeda Nothing can beat In cold blood. The way Capote captured that story it still haunts me.


message 41: by a. (new)

a. Jonetta wrote: "In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Read it as a teen and it still haunts me to this day.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote"


It is an amazing book.


message 42: by Derek (new)

Derek Walker I notice that this collection is all about crime and murder in the USA. Is the rest of the world so law abiding? Or is crime everywhere else just not so interesting?


message 43: by Barbara (new)

Barbara I don't think this is classified as true crime, it might be in biographies, but it is about a criminal. Catch Me if You Can by Frank Abagnale was a really good, really interesting read. I read it twice & saw the movie.


message 44: by Johnmcq (new)

Johnmcq Hameeda wrote: "Nothing can beat In cold blood. The way Capote captured that story it still haunts me."

I've read it every couple years since the late 60's. I'm on my third copy.

Be aware that there was recently a book/ study debunking some of Capote's claims. One of the Clutter's other kids said he got some points wrong. But it's still riveting!


message 45: by Jaguane (new)

Jaguane Really can’t think of the name of the book right now but my first true crime book was about The night stalker


message 46: by Jaguane (new)

Jaguane Oh wait maybe that was the name of the book to bahaha


message 47: by Tracey Allen (new)

Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum Is there a good book that covers the ins and outs of the Madeline Mcann disappearance? I can’t seem to find one.


message 48: by Tim (new)

Tim I've read several of these, but I'm not really a fan. If you're interested in serial murder, Philip Jenkins 'Using Murder' is a useful corrective to the FBI/police accounts - https://www.amazon.com/Using-Murder-C...

A book I would recommend is Laurie Taylor's 'In the Underground' - https://www.amazon.com/Underworld-Cou... - Taylor, a British sociologist, met one of the UK's most notorious criminals while teaching in a prison. Through this connection he was able to meet a good cross section of professional criminals, and this book is the result of the interviews he had with them.


message 49: by Jo (new)

Jo Cameron-Symes Derek wrote: "I notice that this collection is all about crime and murder in the USA. Is the rest of the world so law abiding? Or is crime everywhere else just not so interesting?" Out of Thin Air: The Peculiar Story of Iceland's Most Infamous Criminal Cases
This book is about an interesting case in Iceland if you're after something different Derek. ☺


message 50: by Donna (new)

Donna Dinwiddie In Cold Blood is the start of my loving crime and mystery books, also The Onion Field was awesome, thank you for giving me ideas .


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