The best true crime books

Our edit of the very best true crime books, from Truman Capote's pioneering In Cold Blood to Carol Ann Lee's The Murders at White House Farm.

18/02/2020
2 minutes to read

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 inspired by books. If you’re up to date with your favourite true crime podcast and are still reeling from the news that David Fincher’s Mindhunter may not be back for a third series, here’s our edit of the very best true crime books to get stuck into. Be warned: this is not bedtime reading material.

Babes in the Wood

by Graham Bartlett

Book cover for 9781529025569
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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 and not returned home. 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, former senior detective Graham Bartlett and bestselling author Peter James tell the fascinating inside story of what became a thirty-two year fight for justice.

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The Murders at White House Farm

by Carol Ann Lee

Book cover for 9781529013313

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.

Bad Blood

by John Carreyrou

Book cover for 9781509868087

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 . . .

Gomorrah

by Roberto Saviano

Book cover for 9781509882182

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.

Death Comes Knocking

by Graham Bartlett

Book cover for 9781509810482

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.

Under the Banner of Heaven

by Jon Krakauer

Book cover for 9780330419123

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, Jon Krakauer raises provocative questions about faith-based violence.

In Cold Blood

by Truman Capote

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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.

A Good Month for Murder

by Del Quentin Wilber

Book cover for 9781509830534

Follows twelve homicides, three police-involved shootings and the furious hunt for an especially brutal killer in Washington D.C. After gaining unparalleled access to the homicide unit in Prince George's County, which borders the nation's capital, bestselling author Del Quentin Wilber begins shadowing the talented, often quirky detectives who get the call when a body falls. After a quiet couple of months, all hell breaks loose: suddenly every detective in the squad is scrambling to solve one shooting and stabbing after another. This is the inside story of how a team of detectives carry out their almost impossible job.

Our Story

by Reginald Kray

Book cover for 9781509811427

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.

The Innocent Killer

by Michael Griesbach

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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 . . .

Mad Frank and Sons

by David Fraser

Book cover for 9781509807956

With sawn-off shotguns as toys, the Kray twins as family friends and a mother who urged them as teenagers to 'get out of bed and rob a bleedin' bank', it is little wonder that the Fraser boys were heavily involved in organized crime by the time they were in their twenties. Featuring some of the most famous names in the London underworld, this is a fascinating slice of gangland history seen through the eyes of Frank Fraser and his two renegade sons.

Naming Jack the Ripper

by Russell Edwards

Book cover for 9781447264224

In 2007, Jack Edwards bought a shawl believed to have been left beside the body of Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes. Using ground-breaking forensic testing by one of the country’s top scientists, the shawl was not only proven to be genuine and stained with Catherine Eddowes’ blood, the killer’s DNA was also discovered. Evidence that would allow Russell to finally identify Jack the Ripper.