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Kim Cooper

Brian Masters' "Killing For Company" (on the Dennis Nilsen case) is exceptional, compassionate without ever excusing the killer for his crimes. Nilsen's motives and actions are oddly similar to Jeffrey Dahmer's. A very interesting book and case.

Gregg Olsen

With the exception of Midnight in the Garden, I concur with your list. I'd dump Midnight in favor of Darcy O'Brien's classic Two of a Kind (horrific, yes, but not a wasted word. Fantastic writing. Check it out.)

Kester Aspden

A very good British true crime - one of the best in my view - is John Williams, Bloody Valentine: a killing in Cardiff.

It is about the murder of a prostitute in the Welsh capital and is an expose of an injustice. A very passionate, polemical book.

My favourite (by another Welsh writer) is Emlyn Williams, Beyond Belief. This is a book about the Moors Murders and was influenced by Truman Capote's non-fiction novel approach.


Thanks for the suggestions, Kester. I'll add Bloody Valentine to my To Get List.
But Emlyn Williams?? I have this book....tried to read it... we'll have to agree to disagree on that one!

Susan Rand

I appreciate all the references to books I have not read.

I have favorite books, and favorite authors.

Favorite books:

The Executioner's Song
The Michigan Murders
In Cold Blood
Beyond Belief (awful, but compelling)
A Cry in the Dark (heart-rending)
In Broad Daylight (This is a particular favorite because I faced a similar situation when I lived in Virginia in 1992)
Baby Be Mine

I'll read anything by:

Ann Rule
Aphrodite Jones
Jack Olsen
Carleton Stowers
Darcy O'Brien

I just noticed that on this forum I said I'd have to disagree about BEYOND BELIEF. I loved the book but have never returned to it.

Faye Musselman

Laura - Your Top Ten Best Crime Books of All Time are remarkably the same listing I would have come up with except for two. I would substitute Thomas De Quincey's Murder As a Fine Art and William Roughead's Murderous Companions for John Berendt and Jack Olsen. For female writers of the Roughead/Pearson ilk, you just can't beat F. Tennyson Jesse. And I tip my hat to Ann Jones, whose Women Who Kill would be in my Desert Island carry all for female contemporary true crime writers. And Ann Rule, formulated as she is, still can keep us up nights. However, if my house were on fire and I could only grab one (gasp, choke, gasp) ONE book - I would not bat an eye nor miss a step in bolting for my Lizzie Borden Past & Present by Leonard Rebello.

-Faye Musselman

P.S. Some say American hasn't been the same since JFK's assassination. I say almost all murder cases after Elizabeth Short (1947) have palled in comparison to the 18th and 19th Century classics. A dark alley, a shriek, the flash of a knife - to paraphrase De Quicney.


I have had an interest in true crime reading , with heavy emphasis on British locales for many (many) years...
Two recent "best reads" for me are:

1: Masterpieces of Murder, edited by J. Goodman (contributions by those masters of the genre, W. Roughead (whom You also admire, I see), and (Mr.) others.

2: Bodies of Evidence; C. Anderson and S. McGehee, (story of the most evil monstrous woman I know of) , not British tho'

3:Either book by Ronnie Kray's widow "Kate", for it's insider views of British criminals.

4:Blood Will Tell, Joseph Bosco..(U.S. story)


My personal favorites are:

Murder in Greenwich by Mark Furman
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Also a very good book that is BASED on factual events in The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketcham...

Andrew Brown

I am suprised that no one has mentioned Joseph Wambaugh yet, who is for me the most consistently excellent true-crime writer. Do NOT be confused by his fiction, which is poor. Start with The Blooding (first use of DNA evidence to solve a murder), which has story twists that would be unbelievable in fiction, and then try Lines And Shadows (a brief attempt by the San Diego P.D. to prevents bandits from preying upon illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S.). Other classics include the Onion Field, Echoes in the Darkness, and, most recently, Fire Lover.

Also, the VERY BEST true crime book has to be Homicide, by David Simon (which spawned the fictional TV series).

Finally, if you can still find Chief, by Albert Seedman (Chief NYC detective in 1970's) and Peter Hellman (writer), grab it. NYT called it "fascinating" and "excellent," while Kirkus called it "riveting," all of which are accurate.


Haven't seen it mentioned but I particularly liked a book that came out in Nov. '97 on the 1955 Stephanie Bryan murder case called
'Shallow Grave in Trinity County'

John G Wallace

Have you read "And The Sea Will Tell"? Its an older book by Vincent Bugliosi. I just finished it and thought it was very good.


I liked your list but was shocked to see many talented and great authors omitted...except for Ann Rule-of course. Here is my list:

House of Secrets by Lowell Cauffiel [this book astonishes the mind in how easy it was and probably still is, to get away with this type of crime right under everyones nose]

Murder In Paradise by Chris Loo & Rick Castberg

I AM CAIN by Gera-Lind Kolarik & Wayne Klatt

September Sacrifice by Mark Horner

Innocence Lost by Carlton Stowers

Unsolved Mysteries by True Detective Magazine

A Rip In Heaven by Jeanine Cummins

The Gift Of Fear by Gavin De Becker [not a true crime book but a asset for fighting crime aginst you]

LENA-Murder In Southern Indiana by Christine Righthouse

A Beautiful Child by ?

The Sylvia Likens Story by ? [A horrific account]

and many more but I don't have their titles in front of me and my memory is not being nice to me


Does noone like John Grisham's first true crime book, "The Innocent Man" I thought it was fabulous...


Evidence of Love has to make any top 10 list.

I am new to this blog and have so enjoyed reading about so many who are true crime fans like myself. Of course Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" is a classic in every sense of the word. I also enjoyed "Two of a Kind" an expose of the Hillside Stranglers Kenneth Bianci and Angela Buono during the early seventies. I tend to prefer classic true crime rather then the more contemporary ones. One new book I just finished is called "Bestial" by Harold Schechter. In "Bestial", Schechter takes on the lesser known Earle Leonard Nelson. On a cross-continental spree that is documented to have taken the lives of 22 landladies in America in 1926. This countries first in a long line of serial killers. A fascinating read, that had me checking and rechecking my doors before heading to bed!


William Roughead was my great-great uncle (or 3 greats? not completely sure, but where that name occurs, we're related... It's also my father's name). I am so pleased that people recognize him for his early, even initial, contribution to the true-crime genre!!! I love his attention to detail - but he also makes me laugh at his occasional sarcastic and almost Victorian comments.


This is for Mark above who says he hopes to write a book on the Wallace Case, which I have always found fascinating. The most I have ever found written about it is an essay by Dorothy L. Sayers in a book entitled "Unsolved! Classic True Murder Cases" (one of my all-time favorite collections) published in 1987 by Peter Bedrick Books, New York. The best line in the story has to do with William Herbert Wallace's motive for bashing his wife's brains out with a fireplace poker: "Since nobody else could be shown to have any motive for murdering Mrs. Wallace, the murderer must be the husband, since after all he was her husband, and so had his motive ready made." I'll be looking for your book, Mark!!


Me too, Mark! Let us know when it comes out! I love the Wallace Case and Jonathan Goodman (RIP) wrote one of the best crime books I've ever read about the case (I mean the book is is one of the best TC books I've ever read)

catherine Steinman

The Case of Mary Bell and The Lost Boy are two of the best British true crime The former book is about the 11 yr. old girl Mary Bell who was convicted in 1969 of the murder of two small boys in Newcastle England and the latter is about Keith Bennett a victim of the infamous Moors Murderers 1960s Manchester.His body is buried somewhere on Saddleworth moor but to this date has never been found.Both are compelling reading

carole gill

Who hasn't heard of William Roughead?!
I have some wonderful books of his. They are as fascinating as he was!
I treasure them and re-read them all of the time!


Re: Top 10 List. I have read, reread, and listened to "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester. Also, "The Devil In the White City" is a second favorite.

There is a new true crime book available on the Keddie Murders, which is a really awful story if you haven't heard of it. Preorder is available at their website

Mark Daniels

Great site, Laura. Glad I found it. I had read true crime books before, but only recently have I become obsessed with what I call “Victorian/Edwardian” or perhaps “turn-of-the-century” true crime. It seems to be the same thing that you call “historic true crime," and in my opinion these books are more "literary" than the populist stuff you usually find in the true crime section of your average bookstore.

It was Erik Larson’s wonderful “Devil in the White City” (about serial killer H.H. Holmes) which started my obsession. (I consider it true crime, but others might label it otherwise.) From there, I dug through my city’s library system, through bookstores, through Amazon, and through the Internet, searching for other books I might enjoy about crimes from a bygone era. I’ve now read eleven books in a row which fit this interesting “sub-genre” of the greater true crime genre. Some of my favorites:

THE SUSPICIONS OF MR. WHICHER, by Kate Summerscale. Whicher was one of Scotland Yard’s first eight detectives and one of its best. Here he points the finger of guilt in the notorious Road House Murder at teenager Constance Kent, and then is forced into retirement when she walks for lack of evidence. 1860s England.

THUNDERSTRUCK, by Erik Larson. Larson does it again, telling the simultaneous stories of a creator and a destroyer in alternating chapters. This time the destroyer is a more sympathetic killer (with a much smaller body count) than in “Devil in the White City” - the mild-mannered wife killer, Dr. Crippen. The “creator” is more interesting this time around, too: Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the “wireless.” The two stories intersect in the end, just as they did in “White City.” Edwardian Era (early 1900s), England and elsewhere.

CLASSIC CRIMES; A COLLECTION OF WORKS BY WILLIAM ROUGHEAD. The true crime genre is largely overlooked by “serious” writers. But here is William Roughead, one of its first and best writers - its Godfather; its Henry James. Roughead attended every Edinburgh murder trial from 1889 to 1949, writing about many. Most of his stuff is now out-of-print, but here's a wonderful collection of 12 of his works. A must for any crime library.

THE DEVIL’S GENTLEMAN, by Harold Schechter. Set in turn-of-the-century New York City, prolific serial killer writer Schechter's latest book is a bit more literary than his populist priors. A love triangle, an effeminate athlete, two poisonings, and a notorious trial. Good stuff.

THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL; MARY ROGERS, EDGAR ALLAN POE AND THE INVENTION OF MURDER, by Daniel Stashower. The real life murder of Mary Rogers, the "beautiful cigar girl" of 1840s Manhattan, and the creation of Poe's fictionalized French version of the crime, "The Mystery of Marie Roget." Fans of true crime and fans of Poe will like this.

MANHUNT; THE 12-DAY CHASE FOR LINCOLN’S KILLER, by James L. Swanson. Fast-paced tale of Lincoln's assassination and the pursuit, capture, and death of John Wilkes Booth. All the accuracy of the Lincoln assassination book "Blood on the Moon," but told here with the excitement of a fictional thriller. I devoured this in two days.

BLOODY BUSINESS; AN ANECDOTAL HISTORY OF SCOTLAND YARD, by H.P. Jeffers. Jeffers is an aficionado of "murder most English," and here gives us not only the history of Scotland Yard - its changes of administration, uniforms, and policies - but also exciting summaries of the most sensational crimes the Yard has faced. Not every crime is "Victorian" (the modern era is included as well), but from Jack the Ripper to Jack the Stripper, they're all here.

DEATH IN A PRAIRIE HOUSE; FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT AND THE TALIESIN MURDERS, by William Drennan. Influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright built Taliesin, one of his famous "prairie houses," as an intended retreat for himself and his mistress. In 1914, while Wright was away, his mistress and six others were brutally murdered there, and the house set aflame. I'd never heard of this case before!

DEATH AT THE PRIORY, by James Ruddick. An "unsolved" poisoning in 1870s Britain, ostensibly solved by the author. Also interesting because of Florence Bravo, a Victorian woman who dared to ENJOY sex. Short; it keeps your interest.

STARVATION HEIGHTS, by Gregg Olsen. The Pacific Northwest circa 1911. Cold-hearted Dr. Linda Hazzard offers health faddists a cure to all that ails them, via extensive fasting at her sanitarium outside Seattle. One by one her wealthy clients starve to death, and Hazzard profits. Fascinating case. The author lives in the town where it happened.

Hope I've helped steer you or one of your readers onto an interesting title or two.


Just want to add two outstanding true crime books: Serpentine by Thomas Thompson (a serial killer hunting for his victims in Asia) and Blood and Money a fascinating story about a murder in Texas by the same author. Oh, forgot to mention. In particular, don't crack open Serpentine if you're not prepared to lose an entire weekend)

Cindy G

A great book that has stayed with me after I read it is "And I don't want to live this life" by Deborah Spungen, the mother of Nancy Spungen (Sid Vicious girlfriend). Excellent book

Trish Anderson-Boerger

In 1998, I was handed one of the most challenging assignments of my career as a journalist/writer: the difficult task of writing the entry for the True Crime literary genre for The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing (Oxford University Press, 1999). The background was no problem as I'd read everything true crime I could find since my youth, beginning with the Lizzie Borden case; to explain what defines the genre, its historical development and list the best examples of it in only 750-800 wds. was. I've always regretted that in my haste to meet the editors' deadline I neglected to include The Maul and the Pear Tree for its outstanding atmospheric descriptions. My apologies to true crime lovers everywhere.


I'm thrilled to see executioner's song on these lists. My favorite book of all time.
(Also, apologies for grammar errors, I'm writing this from my phone and it's a pain to capitalize, etc).

A lot of good ones so far, I'd add:
-Fatal vision by joe mcguiness
-a stranger beside me by ann rule
-deadly game by catherine crier. Ok, this isn't any literary achievement or particularly "good" writing (tho it's sufficiently articulate and factual). However, it's the best book about the scott and laci peterson case, and I found scott's personality and the crime itself to be fascinating. Good one about a stone cold sociopath.
-son, by jack olsen. Serial rapist whose mom hires contract killer for prosecutor and judge
-under the banner of heaven, by jon krakauer. Tho it begins with and semi-centers around flds (fundamentalist latter day saints/mormon church) member and murderer dan lafferty, the book explores the sexual abuse of the teenage girls in polygamous sects. Highly recommended.
-the monster of florence, douglas preston and mario spezi. GREAT book-just look it up.


Some of my favorites are: Careless Whispers, A Father's Rage, and Innocent Victims. At the risk of incurring everyone's wrath, I find that Ann Rule's books are rather overwrought. I prefer a more straightforward approach, such as Alva Busch (Deadly Deception, another favorite.) Death Cruise is another favorite.

Steve Weeks

I'm surprised no one mentioned "Fatal Vision," the chilling expose of Army Captain Jeffrey MacDonald. MacDonald murdered his wife and two young children and became a Long Beach surgeon and playboy before the justice system finally caught up with him. Joe McGinniss wrote a lot of true crime books, none as good as this.


Julie Salamon's "Facing the Wind" is remarkable. I happened to grab it at the library and it really knocked my socks off. Salamon's access to key participants in the victims and perpetrators lives is tremendous.

Paul Drexler

I would certainly add any of Herbert Asbury's winformal histories of the underworld, written in the 1930's, including San Francisco's The Barbary Coast, Chicago's Gem of the Prarie, New Orleans Latin Quarter,, and "Gangs of New York", the basis for Scorcese's movie of the same name

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