The best and bloodiest true crimes that inspired fiction

Who am I?

An experienced genealogist, I became fascinated by true historical crime reports when I found murderers in my family tree. Since then, I have written ten historical mystery books featuring true unsolved crimes. My novels re-imagine what might have happened had the killers been brought to justice. My background in genealogy and vast experience trawling through historical newspaper reports has given me a passion for the past and a desire to resolve the unknown.

I wrote...

Vote For Murder: A Suffragette Murder Mystery

By Jacqueline Beard,

Book cover of Vote For Murder: A Suffragette Murder Mystery

What is my book about?

While hiding in a museum to evade the census, suffragette Louisa Russell discovers a diary belonging to a poisoner. And not just any poisoner, but the infamous Mary Cage executed for killing her husband decades earlier. When Louisa’s next-door neighbour dies under suspicious circumstances, the parallels between the two deaths become impossible to ignore. But can there be a link between deaths sixty years apart? And will Louisa find the poisoner before they convict an innocent woman? Vote for Murder is a historical mystery based on a true crime.

The books I picked & why

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The Death of Lucy Kyte: A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey

By Nicola Upson,

Book cover of The Death of Lucy Kyte: A New Mystery Featuring Josephine Tey

Why this book?

This book is close to my heart as it started my writing career. The Death of Lucy Kyte is the fifth book in the Josephine Tey mystery novels based on a true Suffolk crime dubbed The Red Barn murders. I loved the way the book weaved between past and present, and the skill employed by the author in creating a fictional work from an actual historical crime. Not only did it offer me a series of mystery books, which I loved, but it set me on the path to penning my own novels in a similar genre.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

By Kate Summerscale,

Book cover of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

Why this book?

This riveting book covers the gruesome discovery of a murder in a Georgian house in the sleepy village of Road in Wiltshire. That someone has died is awful enough but realising that the murderer is a member of the household brings fresh horrors. The author meticulously follows the crime and subsequent investigation, sticking strictly to the facts while using her imagination to recreate the tense atmosphere while bringing the characters to life. Unputdownable.

Murder on the Orient Express

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of Murder on the Orient Express

Why this book?

My favourite childhood author, Christie, frequently used true crime as inspiration for her novels and the starting point of Murder on the Orient Express is the real-life kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s heir. The author has cleverly set the crime on a train in a snowstorm, effectively trapping the murderer and suspects under the nose of her most famous creation, Hercule Poirot. The twists and turns culminate in an ending you won’t see coming if not familiar with the story, making this book a joy to read.

Lestrade and the Ripper

By M.J. Trow,

Book cover of Lestrade and the Ripper

Why this book?

No true crime list would be complete without reference to the infamous Jack the Ripper, and of the many books I have read, this one stands out. True, the subject is gory, and for that reason, some might think that humour is out of place, but I like the bumbling detective Lestrade, and the author clearly knows his stuff. The detailed historical research accurately portrays the setting and times of the novel. Trow brings a different approach to a Sherlock Holmes-type story with an easy-to-read and witty style in a book well worth trying.

A Good Marriage

By Stephen King,

Book cover of A Good Marriage

Why this book?

While technically a novella, this profoundly disturbing story takes inspiration from the notorious BTK killer of the 1970s. BTK, alias Dennis Rader, killed at least ten people, yet his wife of 34 years denied ever knowing anything about his murderous exploits. Stephen King develops the story to show what it would be like for a happily married wife to discover suddenly that her husband has a hitherto unknown, sinister hobby. A chilling and thought-provoking read.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murders, private investigators, and secrets?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murders, private investigators, and secrets.

Murders Explore 302 books about murders
Private Investigators Explore 98 books about private investigators
Secrets Explore 99 books about secrets

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Grave Witch, Thirteen Hours, and Death at the Seaside if you like this list.