The best books with a murderous serial killer that will keep you up at night

Melissa Caribou Annen Author Of The Midwest Madman: An Agent Raines Casefile
By Melissa Caribou Annen

Who am I?

I believe my love of horror and mystery started young. My first favorite book was The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree. I started writing my first mystery novel when I was in high school. It wasn’t very good, but I still have it. I have so many stories in my head that it’s hard to keep them straight. I also co-host a True Crime podcast, Nothing Happens in A Small Town


I wrote...

The Midwest Madman: An Agent Raines Casefile

By Melissa Caribou Annen,

Book cover of The Midwest Madman: An Agent Raines Casefile

What is my book about?

FBI Agent Megan Raines is investigating her first major case, a horrific serial killer in Omaha, Nebraska. The Madman of the Midwest has been killing for years, but he doesn’t just kill his victims, he tortures them slowly. Megan and her partner, James, work with the local authorities to track down this insane killer. As the case begins to unravel, a dear friend of Megan’s becomes the prime suspect. The Madman strikes again, taking a young woman with a bright future. Can they find the Madman before they run out of time? 

The books I picked & why

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It Ain't Me, Babe

By Tillie Cole,

Book cover of It Ain't Me, Babe

Why this book?

I thoroughly enjoyed It Ain’t Me Babe. I liked the clash of the main characters, he is a rebel, leader of a motorcycle club, and she is the complete opposite, a woman brought up in a religious cult. Two very different worlds collide. It’s a sexy, fun story to read, and I was engaged on every page.

It Ain't Me, Babe

By Tillie Cole,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked It Ain't Me, Babe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sinning never felt so good…

A fortuitous encounter.

A meeting that should never have happened.

Many years ago, two children from completely different worlds forged a connection, a fateful connection, an unbreakable bond that would change their lives forever…

Salome knows only one way to live—under Prophet David’s rule. In the commune she calls home, Salome knows nothing of life beyond her strict faith, nor of life beyond the Fence—the fence that cages her, keeps her trapped in an endless cycle of misery. A life she believes she is destined to always lead, until a horrific event sets her free.…


Heart-Shaped Box

By Joe Hill,

Book cover of Heart-Shaped Box

Why this book?

Heart Shaped Box is a fantastic horror novel. I thought I knew where the story was going, but I was totally wrong. The main characters are heavily flawed, but you cheer them on anyhow, hoping they can escape. This story kept my heart pumping til the last page. I loved that I didn’t guess what the ending would be.

Heart-Shaped Box

By Joe Hill,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Heart-Shaped Box as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Buy my stepfather's ghost' read the e-mail.

So Jude did.

He bought it, in the shape of the dead man's suit, delivered in a heart-shaped box, because he wanted it: because his fans ate up that kind of story. It was perfect for his collection: the genuine skulls and the bones, the real honest-to-God snuff movie, the occult books and all the rest of the paraphanalia that goes along with his kind of hard/goth rock.

But the rest of his collection doesn't make the house feel cold. The bones don't make the dogs bark; the movie doesn't make Jude feel…


The Butterfly Garden

By Dot Hutchison,

Book cover of The Butterfly Garden

Why this book?

The Butterfly Garden was creepy, and I questioned whether the main character was a victim or if perhaps she was involved in the garden. The author did a great job describing the Butterfly Garden's details. It came alive. This book may be too much for some people as it does involve torture from the captor. But I enjoyed the story. It was twisted and fascinating. 

The Butterfly Garden

By Dot Hutchison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Butterfly Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts bestseller.

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees...and a collection of precious "butterflies"-young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle…


If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

By Gregg Olsen,

Book cover of If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

Why this book?

If You Tell reads like a fiction mystery novel. I wasn’t paying attention when I started reading this, and I thought it was fiction. When I realized this book was based on a true story it bewildered me. You hear stories about people, how horrible they can be, but this mother had to be a fictional character – she’s not. She will give you nightmares.

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

By Gregg Olsen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked If You Tell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A #1 Wall Street Journal, Amazon Charts, USA Today, and Washington Post bestseller.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen's shocking and empowering true-crime story of three sisters determined to survive their mother's house of horrors.

After more than a decade, when sisters Nikki, Sami, and Tori Knotek hear the word mom, it claws like an eagle's talons, triggering memories that have been their secret since childhood. Until now.

For years, behind the closed doors of their farmhouse in Raymond, Washington, their sadistic mother, Shelly, subjected her girls to unimaginable abuse, degradation, torture, and psychic terrors. Through it all,…


The Last

By Hanna Jameson,

Book cover of The Last

Why this book?

This is a mystery within a mystery—an end-of-the-world survival story that slowly unfolds how the world's end happened. The mystery of a little girl found dead, but not from anything happening in the world. This book made me think about how I’d react in a similar situation. We all hope we’d be level-headed and survive. But as this book tells, you never know.

The Last

By Hanna Jameson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Last as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This propulsive post-apocalyptic thriller “in which Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None collides with Stephen King’s The Shining” (NPR) follows a group of survivors stranded at a hotel as the world descends into nuclear war and the body of a young girl is discovered in one of the hotel’s water tanks.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in serial killers, rock music, and butterflies?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about serial killers, rock music, and butterflies.

Serial Killers Explore 184 books about serial killers
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like In Cold Blood, The Perfect Father, and Wylding Hall if you like this list.