The best books that get you up close and personal with a killer

R.J. King Author Of A Shepherd of Wolves
By R.J. King

Who am I?

I have a passion for killers in fiction because...well, they're just tons of fun if done right. At one point in my life, real \-life serial killers were very intriguing to me, and though that interest has wane a bit, I still have a strong appreciation for an interesting murderers in fiction. When writing my book, A Shepherd of Wolves, I was heavily influenced by a few works that featured serial killers in lead roles and showed them as complete people. The books I am recommending all had some sort of impact on the story I wanted to tell in my own work. 

I wrote...

A Shepherd of Wolves

By R.J. King,

Book cover of A Shepherd of Wolves

What is my book about?

Edmund Glass has never fit in. His neighbors find him odd and few have ever gotten to truly know him. After years of tempering his appetite, he finally gives in to the beast, taking a life and consuming the victim. Soon, he can’t control himself, taking victim after victim and leaving what’s left of the remains scattered around the small town of St. Anna, South Carolina. Detective Raymond Wright didn’t think a serial killer would ever show up in his hometown, but as Edmund’s body count grows, the detective must question everyone and everything if he’s going to catch a killer who is committing unthinkable acts.

The books I picked & why

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The Talented Mr. Ripley

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Why this book?

I think this book perfectly executes the task of having the main protagonist be somewhat a dubious and mildly despicable character yet intriguing and charming enough to make the reader want to stick with him. There’s a good reason the book spawned several sequels and a few film adaptations. Tom Ripley is quite the con artist and murderer, able to elude being captured numerous times. In this first book of the series, we get a fair understanding of what drives him and what may have made him the way he is. 

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

By Patrick Suskind,

Book cover of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Why this book?

I must admit that I, and probably many other Nirvana fans, only read this book initially because Kurt Cobain supposedly cited it as his favorite book and the Nirvana song “Scentless Apprentice” was inspired by it. The main draw of the book is in the title; this is the story of a murderer, one who was born without a scent but possesses a strong sense of smell. It is this strong sensitivity to smell and an obsession with scent that drive the main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, to commit murders. I think most readers will sympathize and possibly cheer for the redemption of the killer because the book introduces us to him at the beginning of his life and delicately lets us into his world and mindset. 

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson,

Book cover of The Killer Inside Me

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite books by Thompson. The thing that really hooked me in with this book is that the protagonist and killer in the book is a sheriff. On the surface he appears to be a dull, by-the-book law enforcer, but Lou Ford is harboring a dark side that has been with him since childhood. The idea of one who is supposed to protect probably being the most dangerous and violent person in town is quite intriguing to me. There is an extra element of danger added because of the killer’s profession. I also appreciate that Thompson connected the past with what is driving the killer to act out against his victims. 

Red Dragon

By Thomas Harris,

Book cover of Red Dragon

Why this book?

This one seems to be less successful than its follow-up, Silence of the Lambs, at least as far as film adaptations go and being known as well by the general public. Like Silence of the Lambs, this book features Hannibal Lector assisting the protagonist and serial killer who is on the loose. While the main character, an FBI agent, is trying to figure out the identity of the killer, the book reveals this character to us, the readers, and we are taken into their world for a good portion of the book. The book excels at bringing us two creepy killers who keep the reader compelled to find out how it will all play out. 


By Robert Bloch,

Book cover of Psycho

Why this book?

A classic movie and a classic book. Norman Bates is one of the most compelling fictional characters (yes, I know he was based on an actual person) to me. He’s a bit more pathetic in the novel, and we get a better insight into his deranged mind. Norman and his mother are quite the duo in this book, and this is a fairly short, quick, and captivating read. Like the original movie, there are sequels to the novel that don’t really do it justice in my opinion. 

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