The best true crime books about cover-ups

Who am I?

As a longtime reporter in a small state with big politics, I’ve become fascinated by how sly intrusions of power can distort what should be routine police investigations. One of my sources observed, “Sometimes the cover-up is more interesting than the crime.” With that in mind, I began writing books to examine cases whose outcomes didn’t seem to make sense. It’s become a genre I call “crime after crime.”


I wrote...

The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice

By Mara Leveritt,

Book cover of The Boys on the Tracks: Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice

What is my book about?

This close-up examination of one of the biggest unsolved crimes in U.S. history pulls back layers of questionable official behavior. It starts as the horrified crew of a train realizes that they are about to run over two teenagers lying motionless ahead on the tracks. The crewmen tell responding officers that the boys were partially covered by a tarp, but police reject their account. After the Arkansas medical examiner rules the deaths suicides, an independent autopsy uncovers evidence of murder, propelling the mother of one of the boys from her pain into a fight for answers. By midway through this tragedy, a half-dozen other young men in the same small county have died mysteriously or disappeared. But though a large-scale drug conspiracy implicates the prosecuting attorney, eventually sending him to prison, state and federal investigators never linked the corruption in his office to the murders.

The books I picked & why

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We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption

By Justin Fenton,

Book cover of We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption

Why this book?

Fenton climbed a mountain here and reached the top. Freddie Gray has died in the back of a police van in Baltimore. Something’s wrong with that picture, but who’s going to question the city’s elite Gun Trace Task Force—a vanguard unit in the war on crime—when most civic leaders hold it in awe? Fenton, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, digs in, doing the meticulous research and insightful writing that expose powerfully guarded secrets and plant a flag for accountability.

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption

By Justin Fenton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Own This City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • The astonishing true story of “one of the most startling police corruption scandals in a generation” (The New York Times), from the Pulitzer Prize–nominated reporter who exposed a gang of criminal cops and their yearslong plunder of an American city

NOW AN HBO SERIES FROM THE WIRE CREATOR DAVID SIMON AND GEORGE PELECANOS

“A work of journalism that not only chronicles the rise and fall of a corrupt police unit but can stand as the inevitable coda to the half-century of disaster that is the American drug war.”—David Simon

Baltimore, 2015. Riots are erupting…

All the President's Men

By Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward,

Book cover of All the President's Men

Why this book?

It started with that most ordinary crime—a burglary. But the cover-up traced to the White House—and brought down a presidency. This is the classic, the granddaddy of investigative reporting, along with a hair-on-fire story of getting the story. Riveting, precise, and hugely consequential, it set the standard that a generation of journalists like me has sought to follow. Now, almost 50 years after publication, it still feels current—a standout among books of true crime in America’s political history.

All the President's Men

By Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked All the President's Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

50th Anniversary Edition—With a new foreword on what Watergate means today.

“The work that brought down a presidency...perhaps the most influential piece of journalism in history” (Time)—from the #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Final Days.

The most devastating political detective story of the century: two Washington Post reporters, whose brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation smashed the Watergate scandal wide open, tell the behind-the-scenes drama the way it really happened.

One of Time magazine’s All-Time 100 Best Nonfiction Books, this is the book that changed America. Published just months before President Nixon’s resignation, All the President’s Men revealed the…

The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs & Murder

By Sally Denton,

Book cover of The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs & Murder

Why this book?

I was wowed by this book. Denton looks beyond the immaculate white fences and princely politics of Lexington, Kentucky’s thoroughbred horse culture and sees into a drug ring run by a thoroughly corrupt former cop. Her account of a lone police investigator’s confrontation with powerful forces bent on keeping their secrets stands the test of time. It’s a look at how justice too often runs offtrack—a harrowing tale well told.

The Bluegrass Conspiracy: An Inside Story of Power, Greed, Drugs & Murder

By Sally Denton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Kentucky Blueblood Drew Thornton parachuted to his death in September 1985 carrying thousands in cash and 150 pounds of cocaine, the gruesome end of his startling life blew open a scandal that reached to the most secret circles of the U.S. government. The story of Thornton and The Company he served, and the lone heroic fight of State Policeman Ralph Ross against an international web of corruption, is one of the most portentous tales of the 20th century.

The Infiltrator: The True Story of One Man Against the Biggest Drug Cartel in History

By Robert Mazur,

Book cover of The Infiltrator: The True Story of One Man Against the Biggest Drug Cartel in History

Why this book?

The movie based on this book featured the drama of Mazur’s undercover work as a U.S. Customs agent penetrating the money laundering behemoth known as BCCI, the bank that served crooks and governments around the world. What the film didn’t capture was the difficulty Mazur faced from federal officials who refused to act on the evidence he’d risked his life to obtain. After a state prosecuting attorney finally won indictments that brought down BCCI, Mazur testified that Department of Justice officials had ignored “hundreds of leads” that might have linked the institution to other cases of drug money, arms deals, and secret ownership of American banks.

The Infiltrator: The True Story of One Man Against the Biggest Drug Cartel in History

By Robert Mazur,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The electrifying true story of Robert Mazur's life as an undercover agent who infiltrated one of the world's largest drug cartels by posing as a high-level money launderer -- the inspiration for the major motion picture The Infiltrator.

Robert Mazur spent years undercover infiltrating the Medellín Cartel's criminal hierarchy. The dirty bankers and businessmen he befriended -- some of whom still shape power across the globe -- knew him as Bob Musella, a wealthy, mob-connected big shot living the good life. Together they partied in $1,000-per-night hotel suites, drank bottles of the world's finest champagne, drove Rolls-Royce convertibles, and flew…

Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World

By Oliver Bullough,

Book cover of Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World

Why this book?

Ever wonder why, from one end of the world to the other, people are taking to the streets to reclaim their governments from the expanding reach of kleptocrats? Bullough literally follows the money into a realm few of us ever imagine—the rarified, nationless atmosphere where laws written for most mortals do not apply. His picture of Moneyland is a heads-up for the rest of us, a warning that whenever moguls in that world shake hands with public officials we commoners had better take notice.

Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World

By Oliver Bullough,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From ruined towns on the edge of Siberia, to Bond-villain lairs in London and Manhattan, something has gone wrong. Kleptocracies, governments run by corrupt leaders that prosper at the expense of their people, are on the rise.

Once upon a time, if an official stole money, there wasn't much he could do with it. He could buy himself a new car or build himself a nice house or give it to his friends and family, but that was about it. If he kept stealing, the money would just pile up in his house until he had no rooms left to…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in police corruption, the war on drugs, and Watergate?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about police corruption, the war on drugs, and Watergate.

Police Corruption Explore 10 books about police corruption
The War On Drugs Explore 14 books about the war on drugs
Watergate Explore 13 books about Watergate

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Crusade for Justice, Ten Days in a Mad-House, and The Great Reporters if you like this list.