October is officially the season of scary stories. Since there is nothing more terrifying that real life, these new true crime books should be at the top of your Halloween reading list.
It's no secret Americans are fascinated with true crime. Between 95 and 105 million people stopped what they were doing to watch the O.J. Simpson verdict unfold on live TV. Sarah Koenig's popular true crime podcast "Serial" reached over 39 million American listeners during its first season. In the television world, entertainment providers like Netflix are finding both commercial success and critical acclaim with documentary series like Making a Murderer and The Keepers. Even the long-running fictional procedural Law & Order, which has been known to dabble in "ripped from the headlines" plots, is jumping head-first into true crime with their miniseries about the Menendez murders.
It seems everywhere you look, another crime podcast, death-ridden documentary, or terrifying TV adaptation is right around the corner, and the book world is no different. From murderous memoirs to unsolved mysteries, the nonfiction section of the library is filled with stories so scary, they make Pennywise seem tame.
Are you ready to let real life give you a real fright? Then put batteries in your flashlight, keep 911 on speed dial, and kiss a peaceful sleep goodbye, because these 11 new true crime books will keep you up all night.
'The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder' by Carolyn Murnick
In this stunning coming-of-age crime memoir, Carolyn Murnick reveals the true price of slut-shaming and victim-blaming in our culture. Best friends when they were kids in rural New Jersey, Carolyn and Ashley had always been inseparable — that is, until they started to drift apart and become different people, as most young women do. As Carolyn built a life for herself in New York, Ashley found herself caught up in the glitz, the glamour, and the temptation of Los Angeles, where she dated famous men, experimented with drugs, and dabbled in stripping and the escort service. A year after the girls saw each other last, Ashley was discovered stabbed to death in her Hollywood apartment, and Carolyn found herself on a quest to uncover the truth about her friend's life and death. A riveting and emotional mystery, The Hot One can't be missed.
'The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central' by Christine Pelisek
For decades, a serial killer freely roamed the streets of Los Angeles hunting women of color, murdering them, and dumping their bodies in alleys across the city. It wasn't until reporter Christine Pelisek broke the story that people started paying attention to the mass murderer who had been preying on their residents since the 1980s. A dark and disturbing story that reveals the failure of the police and the justice system in impoverished communities of color, The Grim Sleeper is a must-read for true crime fans who want to see how crime reporting can make a difference.
'Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI' by David Grann
After discovering oil underneath their land, the Osage Indian Nation of Oklahoma joined the ranks of the richest Americans — that is, until they began being killed off one by one. Determined to solve the bureau's first major homicide case, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover gave the investigation everything they had — the latest investigative techniques, an undercover squad that included one of the only American Indian agents, and the leadership of a former Texas Ranger — and uncovered one of the darkest conspiracies in American history. Thoroughly researched and expertly paced, Killers of the Flower Moon is a page-turning true crime novel that will leave readers changed.
'The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple' by Jeff Guin
From the bestselling author of Manson comes another authoritative account of one of the most terrifying men in American history: Jim Jones. Since he was a young boy first introduced to the church, Jones fantasized about leading a congregation of his own, a dream that became a reality in the 1950s when he founded his own church based on the radical principles of Marxism and racial equality. He amassed a huge devote following in Indianapolis that followed him when he moved, first to California and later to the remote jungles of Guyana, South America, where Jones lead over 900 members of his congregation to death by cyanide-laced drinks. A shocking account of one of the most tragic mass murders in American history, The Road to Jonestown will change the way you see the infamous tragedy.
'At the End of the World: A True Story of Murder in the Arctic' by Lawrence Millman
In a remote corner of the Arctic in 1941, the peaceful lives of the Inuit are shattered when a series of religiously-motivated murders send violent shockwaves through their community. A terrifying tale of mankind's tendency for violence, At the End of the World is a thought-provoking read for true-crime junkies who like to explore the darkest corners of humanity.
'The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir' by Alex Marzano-Lesnevich
The scariest crimes hit closest to home, and in the case of Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, a young person working a summer job at a law office dedicated to helping men convicted of murder, that crime is Ricky Langley's sexual abuse and murder of a young boy. In examining every little detail of a case that so closely mirrors her own traumatic childhood experiences, Marzano-Lesnevich is forced to come face-to-face with a dark personal history they've spent their whole life trying to forget. A dark and deeply emotional true crime memoir, The Fact of a Body is the kind of affecting story that stays with you long after you've closed the book.
'Targeted: A Deputy, Her Love Affairs, A Brutal Murder' by M. William Phelps
In this immersive work of true crime, investigative journalist M. William Phelps takes readers inside the mind of Tracy Forston: the first and only female deputy sheriff in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, and a convicted killer. After her boyfriend Doug Benton's body was discovered stabbed, shot, encased in cement, and dumped, it only took local law enforcement two days to charge Forston with the crime, a fact the deputy sheriff found more than just a little suspicion. Years later, after being convicted of the crime, she opens up to Phelps in a series of intimate interviews that reveal the convicted murderer believes a sexual assault suit she filed lead to her false murder charges. An enthralling mystery that lets the reader be judge and jury, Targeted will leave you wondering what really happened in Oglethorpe County.
'The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery' by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James
What do baseball and serial killers have to do with one another? Usually, nothing, but celebrated statistician and sports writer Bill James changed then when he used his mathematical genius to solve a century-old mystery. For over a decade, between 1898 and 1912, America was terrorized by a sadistic murderer who was killing families in their beds while they slept. It wasn't until 100 years later that James and his daughter's interest in the puzzling case lead to the unmasking of one of America's most vicious serial killers. A fascinating account of one of the darkest pieces of U.S. criminal history, The Man from the Train is a must-read for true crime buffs.
'The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History' by Stephen Talty
Move over, Sherlock, because there is a new crime solving genius in town: Joseph Petrosino, a skilled detective and master of disguise whose fame in the first decade of twentieth century New York rivaled that of the fictional Holmes. Tasked with bringing down The Black Hand, a ruthless criminal organization whose extreme violence was only equaled by their extreme secrecy, Petrosino formed an all-Italian police squad to infiltrate and dismantle one of the deadliest secret societies in history. Rife with heart-pumping action and rich in detail, The Black Hand is a thrilling read.