The best books about true crime and the dark side of human nature

J.T. Hunter Author Of Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes
By J.T. Hunter

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the dark side of human nature and the socio-psychological aspects of criminal behavior, especially those of serial killers, and my legal training and experience afforded me apt tools for exploring and writing about true crime. I have been interviewed and appeared on a wide range of podcasts, radio, and TV shows about true crime for nearly a decade.


I wrote...

Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

By J.T. Hunter,

Book cover of Devil in the Darkness: The True Story of Serial Killer Israel Keyes

What is my book about?

JT Hunter began researching serial killer Israel Keyes in 2014. He spent the next two years interviewing witnesses, reviewing police files, studying videotaped interrogations of Keyes, and visiting the sites where Keyes committed his crimes. He also obtained the transcript of an interrogation of Keyes that federal authorities tried to keep secret.

Although not as well known to the public as past killers such as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer chronicled in these pages was just as calculating, cruel, and cunning. This is the first detailed account of Israel Keyes and his terrible crimes, a monster who was arguably the most methodical killer in the modern age.

The books I picked & why

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In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of In Cold Blood

Why this book?

The seminal true crime book, Capote’s self-proclaimed “nonfiction novel” was my first true crime read, and one I return to again and again. Capote used the elements of fiction to craft a compelling story about a horrific true crime. Every true crime fan should read this book. (Bonus: for new theories of the case, see Gary McAvoy’s recent book, And Every Word is True).


The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

By Erik Larson,

Book cover of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Why this book?

This is a fascinating account of H.H. Holmes, a fiendish serial killer from the late nineteenth century. Larson weaves the tale of Holmes within the broader background of 1890’s era Chicago and the real-life characters of that time are interesting by themselves. Larson’s stuff is always good and this is one of his best.


I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

By Michelle McNamara,

Book cover of I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Why this book?

McNamara’s account of the long-unsolved case of the Golden State Killer is gripping by itself, but her decision to include the story of her obsession with solving the case is what really sets this book apart. You feel like you’re right there with her as she pursues theories of the killer’s identity. The timing of the book was also noteworthy as the GSK’s identity was at last determined through familial DNA testing almost contemporaneously with the book’s publication.


Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI

By Robert K. Ressler, Tom Shachtman,

Book cover of Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for the FBI

Why this book?

Written by one of the founding fathers of the FBI’s vaunted Behavioral Sciences Unit, this book covers an amazing array of cases that he worked, including those of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Edmund Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Richard Trenton Chase (and even the lesser-known John Crutchley). Full of great details from the perspective of a veteran serial killer expert, this book belongs on any serious true crime aficionado’s bookshelf. 


True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

By Michael Finkel,

Book cover of True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

Why this book?

This book explores the relationship between writer and subject and provides a lesson on the lengths one should go in exercising one’s craft. An ironic twist comes in the form of Finkel himself being a victim of a crime, which gives rise to the thrust of this story. As a fan of memoirs and true crime, this book kept my interest all of the way through.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in serial killers, journalism, and Illinois?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about serial killers, journalism, and Illinois.

Serial Killers Explore 105 books about serial killers
Journalism Explore 23 books about journalism
Illinois Explore 50 books about Illinois

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like First in Violence, Deepest in Dirt: Homicide in Chicago, 1875-1920, Murder Notes (Lilah Love), and The Holmes-Pitezel: Case a History of the Greatest Crime of the Century and of the Search for the Missing Pitezel Children if you like this list.