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45 of the Best True Crime Books to Add to Your Reading List

45 of the Best True Crime Books to Add to Your Reading List

By Reedsy

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About the list

True crime novels have a way of keeping us hooked from start to finish. If you're looking for something new that will keep you turning the page, then you've come to the right place.

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Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

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1994 | Vincent Bugliosi,Curt Gentry

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The #1 True Crime Bestseller of All Time—7 Million Copies Sold In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the proportions of myth. The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era. Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his enthralling account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only "two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi." The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor's view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers…these elements make for a true crime classic. Helter Skelter is not merely a spellbinding murder case and courtroom drama but also, in the words of The New Republic, a "social document of rare importance."

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

1999 | John Berendt

Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case. It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.

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Shot in the Heart

1995 | Mikal Gilmore

Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in "The Executioner's Song," campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In "Shot In The Heart," he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family: their mother, a blacksheep daughter of unforgiving Mormon farmers; their father, a drunk, thief, and con man. It was a family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father's favorite and the shame of being Gary's brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale "from inside the house where murder is born... a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave." "Shot In The Heart" is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin. Haunting, harrowing, and profoundly affecting, "Shot In The Heart" exposes and explores a dark vein of American life that most of us would rather ignore. It is a book that will leave no reader unchanged. "One of the most beautifully written, moving nonfiction ooks published in the past five years." -- Deidre Donahue, "USA Today." "Remarkable, astonishing... "Shot In The Heart" reads like a combination of "Brothers Karamazov" and a series of Johnny Cash ballads... chilling, heartbreaking, and alarming." -- Michiko Kakutani, "The New York Times." "Mesmerizing... riveting and immensely moving... "Shot In The Heart" is a gesture of sustained couragethat just happens to be a page-turner." -- Daphne Merkin, "The New Yorker."

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