The best first-person serial killer novels

Who am I?

As a writer of Psychological Horror who specializes in stories about serial killers, the first-person serial killer narrative stands out as a fascinating vehicle to explore the psyche of real human ‘monsters.’ Which is precisely what I did, using books from this list as subject material for my Master’s thesis. The research also informed Blood Related, my debut novel, a first-person serial killer narrative and the most controversial book I’ve written so far. Perhaps, gaining insight from fictional serial killers would be a failed enterprise if life didn’t imitate art, but the fact is that these types of narratives are mostly informed by their real-life counterparts. Be warned – read at your own discretion.

I wrote...

Blood Related

By William Cook,

Book cover of Blood Related

What is my book about?

Tough-as-nails Detective Ray Truman battles his demons, as he tracks a family of prolific serial killers in this nail-biting psychological thriller. For over two decades, Truman has been searching for the killer or killers who have terrorized Portvale. The remains of young female prostitutes have been the killer’s victims of choice, but now other districts are reporting similar gruesome discoveries. 

This disturbing tale of a family tree of evil will embed itself in the mind of the reader, long after the last page has been turned. If you’re looking for a truly haunting ride into the primal depths of the psychopathic mind, Blood Related is for you. Be sure to leave the lights on.

The books I picked & why

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Killer on the Road

By James Ellroy,

Book cover of Killer on the Road

Why this book?

This book blew my mind when I first read it. In my opinion, it is one of the most visceral, scary, and under-rated serial killer novels of all time. Published in 1986 in the midst of America’s much-hyped real and fictional serial killer ‘epidemic,’ Killer on the Road stands out as a first-person serial-killer narrative, as well as putting forward a new kind of character (for the 1980s) – the homosexual serial murderer. In this novel, Ellroy delves into the phenomenon of motiveless serial murder from the perspective of the killer on a subversive journey through a hellish suburban America. From the prologue to the epilogue the reader is presented an interior world-view saturated with violence and nightmarish insights into the psychopathology of a disturbed killer. 

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of The Killer Inside Me

Why this book?

In Jim Thompson’s 1952 Novel, The Killer Inside Me, the central protagonist and narrator, Lou Ford, is revealed to be a psychopathic serial killer. The character development is brilliantly written as is the rest of this novel and it is nearly impossible not to get drawn into the narrative.

Ford is the enigmatic but understated Deputy Sheriff of Central City, a small American country town. Prone to platitudes and rhetoric, at first he seems nothing more than a stereotypical American lawman, but his true character is soon revealed by the masterful depiction of his psychological interior. I recommend this book because it is a complex and subversive exploration of (distinctly) American violence and genre style and one of Thompson’s best novels.

American Psycho

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Book cover of American Psycho

Why this book?

American Psycho is one of the most controversial and talked-about novels of all time. This first-person serial killer narrative is unique in its portrayal of the violence and greed inherent in capitalist American society. Patrick Bateman is a post-modern version of Norman Bates (Psycho), a Wall Street executive by day and serial killer in his spare time, he seeks sensation and stimulation at every bloody turn. This is a fascinating look at the senseless violence in our modern society and, ultimately, reflects our own values back at us as we deal with Bateman's litany of horrors as he hacks and slashes his way through every form of humanity imaginable. If you haven't read this one, I recommend you do as it is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.


By Joyce Carol Oates,

Book cover of Zombie

Why this book?

Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates is a disturbing look into the mind of a serial killer. Loosely based on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's notorious life and murders, Quentin P. is a young man struggling to come to terms with his disintegrating mental state as he succumbs to his urges and a psychopathic blood-lust. I recommend this book not because it is one of Oates's best books, but because it is one of her most interesting in the way it manages to capture such a realistic portrayal of the workings of a psychopathic mind. Unique, disturbing and thought-provoking, and well worth a read if you like SK novels.

The Wasp Factory

By Iain M. Banks,

Book cover of The Wasp Factory

Why this book?

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks is a wonderfully macabre first-person account of a budding psychopathic serial killer. The language and matter-of-fact narration subtly twists the reader's mind along the same bloody trails of the protagonist, Frank, an odd teenager with a predilection for animal torture, fire-starting, and sadistic games with anyone he encounters. This novel is very dark, in both humour and psychological horror, and one I consider a classic of modern literary horror.

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