20 best true crime books of all time

Love a true crime podcast? Or fan of a Netflix exposé? Discover our edit of the very best true crime books, from Truman Capote's pioneering In Cold Blood to Patrick Radden Keefe's modern masterpieces.

It’s now a widespread cultural phenomenon, but the true crime genre started on the page. Truman Capote’s acclaimed In Cold Blood, published in 1966, is thought by many to be the original true crime book, while TV series Making a Murderer and White House Farm were both books before making their way to our screens. If you’re up to date with your favourite true crime podcast and wondering where to turn to next here’s our edit of the best true crime books, covering mass murders to business scandals. Be warned: this is not bedtime reading material.

The best true crime books of 2023

Bad Blood

by John Carreyrou

Book cover for Bad Blood

John Carreyrou documents the rise and shocking collapse of the multibillion biotech startup Theranos in this riveting story of corporate fraud and ambition. In 2014, Theranos promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing both faster and easier. With the charismatic Elizabeth Holmes at the helm, and backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, the business was valued at more than $9 billion. The problem was, the technology didn’t work. 

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Pyramid of Lies

by Duncan Mavin

Book cover for Pyramid of Lies

An epic true story of ambition, greed and hubris – the collapse of Greensill Capital is a billion pound scandal that shredded the reputation of a British Prime Minister. Lex Greensill disrupted a trillion dollar industry and drew in Swiss bankers, global CEOs, and world leaders, including former British Prime Minister, David Cameron. But a staid business model concealed dubious practices; Greensill made increasingly risky loans to fraudulent companies using other people’s money. With a globe-circling narrative full of scandal and intrigue, Pyramid of Lies reveals how the grubby world of shadow banking really operates.

What Lies Beneath

by Peter Faulding

Book cover for What Lies Beneath

For decades, private forensic search expert Peter Faulding has helped investigators to discover the secrets of the country’s most harrowing and perplexing crime scenes. Now, for the first time, Peter is telling his life story. From a childhood exploring caves and tunnels to becoming a pioneer of search and rescue techniques and working on some of Britain’s most high-profile murder cases, Peter’s extraordinary story of a life and career spent helping others will have you on the edge of your seat. 

The Snakehead

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Book cover for The Snakehead

Cheng Chui Ping, an elderly noodle shop owner and grandmother, was once a mainstay of New York’s Chinatown. But, unbeknownst to almost all who knew her, the noodle shop was a front for one of America’s biggest people smuggling operations, operated by the unlikeliest of kingpins, Ping herself. Examining the broader human and economic impact of undocumented immigration in the United States through the story of Ping’s underground empire, The Snakehead is a stunning true-crime tale from expert storyteller, Patrick Radden Keefe. 

The Hard Sell

by Evan Hughes

Book cover for The Hard Sell

In the early 2000s during the boom of painkillers, John Kapoor founded Insys Therapeutics. He had developed a novel formulation of fentanyl and he was determined to make the most of this innovation. While the drug was only approved for a small group of cancer patients, Kapoor employed a variety of deceptive techniques to ensure his drug flew. That is, until insiders reached their breaking point and blew the whistle. With colourful characters and true suspense, The Hard Sell lays bare the pharma playbook and looks at how opioids are sold at the point they first enter the national bloodstream – in the doctor’s office. 

The Girl for the Job

by Danni Brooke

Book cover for The Girl for the Job

Gripping and eye opening, The Girl for the Job is an exciting account of life as a female undercover cop by Danni Brooke. For over a decade Danni was one of the most effective female undercover cops in the UK. Whether she was infiltrating organized crime gangs or disrupting drug supply lines, Danni played the innocent Essex girl, fooling even the most suspicious villains, using her quick wits to keep her out of trouble. In her honest, warm and gripping memoir, Danni also reveals why she left the police, how she found a new career and why the thrill of covert work still pulls her into private investigations.

Strangeways Unlocked

by Neil Samworth

Book cover for Strangeways Unlocked

This grimly funny and devastating account of prison life tells the story of those on the wrong side of the cell doors. It is written by Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth, who for eleven years was a prison officer at HMP Manchester, guarding gangsters, serial criminals and those who had just made bad decisions. This page-turning tale, which takes in riots, feuds, fights and injustices, is a gripping exposé of dysfunctional life behind the bars in modern Britain.

The best true crime books of all time

In Cold Blood

by Truman Capote

Book cover for In Cold Blood

In the early morning of 15 November 1959, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith broke into the home of Herbert Clutter. On discovering there was no money in the house, the two men brutally killed Herb, his wife and his two younger children. Skilfully researched and powerfully evocative, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood offers insight into the nature of American violence.

Empire of Pain

by Patrick Radden Keefe

Book cover for Empire of Pain

From the rural communities ravaged by the impact of opioid addiction to the hallowed halls of some of the world’s most respected cultural and education institutions, the Sackler’s unsavoury legacy in America is undeniable. As compelling as a thriller, in the award-winning Empire of Pain Patrick Radden Keefe masterfully weaves a story of ambition, greed and secrecy and uncovers how the Sackler family made a fortune from other people’s pain and how they were allowed to get away with it. 


by Patrick Radden Keefe

Book cover for Rogues

From forgers to money launderers to arms merchants and those on death row, this is a book about behaving badly. Award-winning and hypnotically brilliant New Yorker writer and author of Empire of Pain Patrick Radden Keefe takes readers on a gripping but also humane trip into the psyches of those who society would rather forget. With global reach and meticulous research, this is a bravura piece of journalism. 

Under the Banner of Heaven

by Jon Krakauer

Book cover for Under the Banner of Heaven

Now a major TV miniseries starring Andrew Garfield, Jon Krakauer raises provocative questions about faith-based violence in Under The Banner of Heaven. In July 1984, Dan and Ron Lafferty entered the home of their brother Allen and killed Allen’s wife and daughter. They insisted they were commanded to kill by God. Examining the origins of the Mormon faith, along with the events that led the brothers to kill, this gripping work of non-fiction illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behaviour.

I Am A Killer

by Danny Tipping

Book cover for I Am A Killer

Based on the Netflix documentary of the same name, in I Am A Killer Ned Parker and Danny Tipping get underneath the skin of some of America’s killers and find out what motivated them to commit their crimes. By gaining exclusive access to inmates in the high-security prisons they now call home, speaking to the perpetrator’s families, and examining police and court documents, the authors have created a fascinating, intimate portrait of some of America’s most destructive and dangerous criminals.


by Roberto Saviano

Book cover for Gomorrah

Gomorrah is the story of Italy’s other Mafia, the Camorra. Known by insiders as ‘the System’, the Camorra exerts a malign grip on cities and villages along the Neapolitan coast is the deciding factor in why Campania has the highest murder rate in all of Europe. To get inside this deadly organisation, Roberto Saviano disappeared into the Camorra and witnessed at close range its audacious, sophisticated, and far-reaching corruption that has paralyzed his city.

Babes in the Wood

by Graham Bartlett

Book cover for Babes in the Wood

On 10 October 1986, the bodies of two young girls were found in a Brighton park. The girls were nine-year-olds Nicola Fellows and Karen Hadaway who had gone out to play the day before. Evidence mounted against a local man Russell Bishop, but a shock trial result saw him walk free. Three years later, Graham Bartlett was working for Brighton CID when a seven-year-old was abducted and left to die. She survived, and connections were made to Russell Bishop. Will the police put him away this time? With unique access to the officers involved in the investigation this is the fascinating inside story of what became a thirty-two year fight for justice.

The Innocent Killer

by Michael Griesbach

Book cover for The Innocent Killer

The book that inspired the hit Netflix documentary Making A Murderer. Steven Avery spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. In 2003, he was exonerated after new DNA testing revealed that another man had committed the crime. Only two years later, Steven Avery was arrested again for the brutal murder of Teresa Halbach – a photographer who went missing several days earlier. Had the so called "Inncocent Man" turned into acold blooded killer? Or was he wrongly accused, again . . .

The Murders at White House Farm

by Carol Ann Lee

Book cover for The Murders at White House Farm

Carol Ann Lee's account of the White House Farm murders was the inspiration for ITV's series White House Farm. Nevill and June Bamber, their daughter Sheila and her two young sons were discovered shot to death in their home. All the windows and doors of the farmhouse were secure. The Bambers' son, 24-year-old Jeremy, alerted the police after apparently receiving a phone call from his father who told him Sheila had 'gone berserk' with the gun. At first it appeared to be a straightforward case of murder-suicide, but a dramatic turn of events was to disprove the police's theory and Jeremy was convicted of killing his entire family.

Death Comes Knocking

by Graham Bartlett

Book cover for Death Comes Knocking

Bestselling author Peter James has done plenty of in-depth research into the lives of the Brighton and Hove police when researching his novels, and they are just as gritty as the real thing. Here, Peter and his friend Graham Bartlett, once a long-serving detective in the city once described as Britain’s ‘crime capital’, have written a gripping account of the city’s most challenging cases. From Sussex’s worst non-terrorist murder to the brutal execution of a surfer, this is the dangerous inside story of policing and the toll it takes on the force.

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Our Story

by Reginald Kray

Book cover for Our Story

The Kray twins ruled Sixties London underworld for more than a decade. As gang lords they were among the most powerful and feared men in the city. Their reign of terror ended on 8 March 1969 when they were sentenced to life for the East End gangland murders with which their names have become synonymous. Compiled from a series of interviews with Fred Dinenage from inside their prison walls, Our Story explodes the myths surrounding the Kray twins as they set the record straight in their own words.

Naming Jack the Ripper

by Russell Edwards

Book cover for Naming Jack the Ripper

Bringing together ground-breaking forensic dicoveries, including vital DNA evidence and gripping historical detective work, Naming Jack the Ripper constructs the first truly convincing case for identifying the world's most notorious serial killer. In 2007, Jack Edwards bought a shawl believed to have been left beside the body of Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes. The shawl was not only proven to be genuine and stained with Catherine Eddowes’ blood, the killer’s DNA was also discovered. This evidence would allow Edwards to finally identify Jack the Ripper.

I Survived

by Victoria Cilliers

Book cover for I Survived

Victoria Cilliers and her husband, British army sergeant Emilie Cilliers shared a life, a family, and a passion for skydiving. On Easter Sunday in 2015, while undertaking a parachute jump gifted to her by her husband, Victoria experienced every diver’s worst nightmare: her parachute failed to open. Despite sustaining serious injuries against the odds she survived, and her husband was arrested for her attempted murder. I Survived is Victoria’s extraordinary tale of courage and resilience, the story of a woman who experienced a living hell but made it through against the odds.