All books discussed below contain stories and descriptions of murder, violence, sexual assault, among other disturbing material. Please be kind to yourself and your experiences before deciding to dive into anything listed below.
All Hallow’s Eve is upon us, and while I’m not a reader of horror, I do have another … obsession … that may suffice. True Crime, in my opinion, is more effective than it’s fiction counterparts because no matter how surreal it seems, it’s all true. The monsters in these stories aren’t the creation of an author’s imagination.
In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve decided to share two of the scariest novels I have ever delved into. These are just a fraction of all the great true crime books out there. Every true crime novel will break your heart and sear itself into your memory. The moment you begin to forget about the stories you’ve read, they will reappear, reminding you how vulnerable you really are.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
This book will forever remain at the top of my list for true crime recommendations. The late Michelle McNamara didn’t just dedicate her life to learning more about the Golden State Killer or his victims. She gave a platform to his victims and shared their stories, whether they are still with us or not. In this novel she takes a truly horrific story and focuses on those hurt by Joseph DeAngelo.
A lot of true crime novels, podcasts, and more focus on the perpetrator. I’ve read novels centered on the lives and acts of serial killers, focusing only on the victims in the lens of victim and rarely taking a deep look at their humanity. In this novel you absorb the impact, the heartbreak, and the lasting pain DeAngelo left in his wake.
And not only did she do hero’s work in sharing these stories, her inquisitiveness and inability to leave this story untold ultimately led to the identification and arrest of the Golden State Killer. His last act was committed in 1986, and police had no leads. Following Michelle McNamara and Paul Holes, among others, non-stop focus, he was ultimately identified using familial DNA. Now the victims of his 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and more than 150 burglaries can rest well knowing the monster that haunts their nightmares is no longer walking the streets. This brings a different element, or emotion, to the mix as you read this novel. My heart was constantly aching and crying out for justice, it helps reading this story and knowing it has been served.
This book will change your life and you will be amazed at the dedication Michelle McNamara and her team had when it came to tracking down a killer.
Buy I’ll Be Gone in the Dark here on Amazon (or at your local bookstore)!
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
At the heart of this story, the true horror is subtle. It’s one man’s ability to completely manipulate and control all of those around him. Written by the prosecutor who tried and ultimately convicted Charles Manson, this novel is a detailed account of every aspect of the trial and everything leading up to it. Often these true crime novels are filled with pain and suffering followed by no real closure, no resolution. Thanks to Vincent Bugliosi, we have solace in knowing that the man responsible for so much death is now behind bars.
This book will put the Manson Murders in a new light and really bring a different perspective to the entire Manson Clan and the acts they committed. There is little speculation or “he said, she said.” The author was there, he lived it, he looked Charles Manson in the eye and had conversations with him. Take advantage of this opportunity to really see who was behind these murders.
Other than the first-hand account, the thing that stands out to me is Charles Manson’s ability to control anyone and everyone around him. His hands were not bloody, but it was not because he wasn’t responsible. Throughout this novel you see how Manson slowly worked up to full and complete control of those in his cult, up to the point where they would commit brutal and horrific murder without a second thought. This element of the story is still something I have never been able to comprehend.
But be warned – It took me weeks to read again after this one. It completely and fully rocked my existence to the point where I was able to think about little else for quite some time.
Buy Helter Skelter here on Amazon (or at your local bookstore)!
Have any other true crime recommendations? Let me know in the comments or by sending a message via the Contact Page. I’m always looking for new book recommendations!