The best serial killer novels that made my skin crawl

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a passion for crime/thriller/suspense/horror novels since high school, when I truly fell in love with reading. Specifically, during my junior year, when my English teacher, after having us read Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, then announced to the class that we were reading Stephen King the rest of the year. Up until that point I hated to read, but then after reading King—we read just about all of his novellas—I fell in love with the darker side of storytelling, and the macabre in general. Now when I consider buying a book, the darker the better! I hope you enjoy these reads as much as I did!

I wrote...

The Nightmare Man

By James Markert,

Book cover of The Nightmare Man

What is my book about?

Blackwood mansion looms atop the hill over the small town of Crooked Tree. Ben Bookman, bestselling novelist and heir to the Blackwood estate, spent a weekend there to finish his latest horror novel, The Scarecrow. On the eve of the book’s release, the terrible story within begins to unfold in real life. Detective Mills arrives at the scene of a gruesome murder, eerily mirroring the opening of Bookman’s latest novel. When another family is killed in a similar manner, Mills, and his daughter, rookie detective Samantha Blue, is determined to find the killer before the story reaches its climax. 

As Ben digs deep into Blackwood’s history, he learns he may have triggered a release of something trapped long ago—and it won’t stop with the horrors within his book.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Silence of the Lambs

James Markert Why did I love this book?

Hannibal Lector? Need I say more? But, okay, I guess I will. This was the first serial killer book I ever read, and I read it having already watched the movie way back in the day, so it visually popped with every word. The investigative FBI and police procedural material were top-notch. This version of using one serial killer to find another will never be topped. I’m also a big fan of never being in the killer’s head and finding out who it is right along with Clarice Starling.

By Thomas Harris,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked The Silence of the Lambs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As part of the search for a serial murderer nicknames "Buffalo Bill," FBI trainee Clarice Starling is given an assignment. She must visit a man confined to a high-security facility for the criminally insane and interview him.

That man, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is a former psychiatrist with unusual tastes and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind. His intimate understanding of the killer and of Clarice herself form the core of Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs--an unforgettable classic of suspense fiction.

Book cover of The Alienist

James Markert Why did I love this book?

Because it takes me immediately back to college, which was when I’d first read it. Out of the books on my list, I’ve read The Alienist the most—three times, I believe, and I’m planning on listening to it on audio soonish. But 1890’s New York serial killer, with a young Teddy Roosevelt as police commissioner? Okay, sign me up. The storyline was soooo dark, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Immediately after reading it I wanted to write something like it—I’m proud of you Isaac Crawley! But, in my mind, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better team than Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, Sara Howard, and John Schuyler Moore!

By Caleb Carr,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Alienist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally bestselling historical thriller, now a major Netflix series starring Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning and Daniel Bruhl.

Some things never change.

New York City, 1896. Hypocrisy in high places is rife, police corruption commonplace, and a brutal killer is terrorising young male prostitutes.

Unfortunately for Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, the psychological profiling of murderers is a practice still in its infancy, struggling to make headway against the prejudices of those who prefer the mentally ill - and the 'alienists' who treat them - to be out of sight as well as out of mind.

But as the body count…

Book cover of Irène

James Markert Why did I love this book?

Why did I first pick it up? Because of the cover. Why did I buy it? Because of the story promised on the cover flap. And it was a French, international, multi-translated mega-hit. What happened after I read it? I hunted down the author’s next 2 books and bought them, because holy smokes, this one blew me away. The crime scenes in this novel left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and once the pages started turning there was no stopping this deadly suspense train. Plus, Commandant Camille Verhoeven is about as uniquely cool as a protagonist can get.

By Pierre Lemaitre, Frank Wynne (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


For Commandant Camille Verhoeven life is beautiful. He is happily married and soon to become a father.


But his blissful existence is punctured by a murder of unprecedented savagery. When his team discovers that the killer has form - and each murder is a homage to a classic crime novel - the Parisian press are quick to coin a nickname . . . The Novelist.


With the public eye fixed on both hunter and hunted, the case develops into a personal duel, each hell-bent on…

Book cover of Child 44

James Markert Why did I love this book?

Because I bought it on a whim, having not heard much about it, and honestly, I was in the mood for something set during the cold, and this cool book cover sold me. And sometimes the best serial killer novels burrow into the reader’s soul—mine, in this case—when you go into it not knowing it’s a serial killer novel! But this one was dark and perfectly cold and chilling and made me feel like I was right in the middle of Cold War Soviet Union. It’s a brutal world Rob Tom Smith creates here, but the MGB officer Leo Demidov was a character so well written he made me want to stick around and lose myself in it.

By Tom Rob Smith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Child 44 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


MOSCOW, 1953.
Under Stalin's terrifying regime, families live in fear. When the all-powerful State claims there is no such thing as crime, who dares disagree?


An ambitious secret police officer, Leo Demidov believes he's helping to build the perfect society. But when he uncovers evidence of a killer at large - a threat the state won't admit exists - Demidov must risk everything, including the lives of those he loves, in order to expose the truth.


But what if the…

Book cover of Mortal Fear

James Markert Why did I love this book?

Because Greg Iles is one of my all-time favorite writers and this book is terrifying. I’ve read it twice, and it cooked even faster the second time around. The family dynamics between Harper Cole and his wife really gripped me, but when this came out in 1997, it really hammered home how evil the internet could be, and how killers could lurk in complete disguise and hide themselves behind facades and masks and computer screens. Greg Iles has so much range in his storytelling it's scary. If you haven’t read him, start with his first and work your way through! You won’t be disappointed!

By Greg Iles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A man with a secret life risks everything to clear his name in this "ingenious suspense thriller"(The New York Times Book Review) from the bestselling author of the Penn Cage series.

By day, Harper Cole trades commodities from his isolated home in the Mississippi Delta. By night he leads quite a different life, serving as a systems operator for an exclusive, annonymous erotic online service that caters to the rich and famous. But now a stranger has penetrated the network's state-of-the-art security, brutally murdering six celebrated female clients.

Falsely accused of these horrible crimes, Harper realizes there's only one way…

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The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

By Norrin M. Ripsman,

Book cover of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

Norrin M. Ripsman Author Of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Too often, I find that novelists force the endings of their books in ways that aren’t true to their characters, the stories, or their settings. Often, they do so to provide the Hollywood ending that many readers crave. That always leaves me cold. I love novels whose characters are complex, human, and believable and interact with their setting and the story in ways that do not stretch credulity. This is how I try to approach my own writing and was foremost in my mind as I set out to write my own book.

Norrin's book list on novels that nail the endings

What is my book about?

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road explores the life and singular worldview of “Crazy Eddie,” a brilliant, highly-educated homeless man who panhandles in front of a downtown bank in a coastal town.

Eddie is a local enigma. Who is he? Where did he come from? What brought him to a life on the streets? A dizzying ride between past and present, the novel unravels these mysteries, just as Eddie has decided to return to society after two decades on the streets, with the help of Jane, a woman whose intelligence and integrity rival his own. Will he succeed, or is…

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

By Norrin M. Ripsman,

What is this book about?

“Crazy Eddie” is a homeless man who inhabits two squares of pavement in front of a bank in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. In this makeshift office, he panhandles and dispenses his peerless wisdom. Well-educated, fiercely intelligent with a passionate interest in philosophy and a profound love of nature, Eddie is an enigma for the locals. Who is he? Where did he come from? What brought him to a life on the streets? Though rumors abound, none capture the unique worldview and singular character that led him to withdraw from the perfidy and corruption of human beings. Just as Eddie has…

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Interested in serial killers, the Soviet Union, and investigations?

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