The best true crime books to keep you up at night

Nicole Maggi Author Of The Forgetting
By Nicole Maggi

Who am I?

I’ve always hated horror movies and anything scary—but I love true crime. I’m particular in how I consume it; I prefer to listen to it rather than read it and never at night. But give me a Dateline marathon and I’m a happy woman. While much of my own writing is far from true crime (Twin Willows Trilogy is YA urban fantasy, and What They Don’t Know is contemporary YA), my thriller The Forgetting explores dark subject matters—so dark, in fact, that my agent said to me, “But you seem so nice.” I am, for the most part…but I’m also not afraid to shine a flashlight into the darkness that lives in all of us.

I wrote...

The Forgetting

By Nicole Maggi,

Book cover of The Forgetting

What is my book about?

When Georgie Kendrick wakes up after a heart transplant she feels…different. The organ beating in her chest isn’t in tune with the rest of her body. Like it still belongs to someone else. Someone with terrible memories…memories that are slowly replacing her own. A dark room, a man in the shadows, the sharp taste of adrenaline—these are her donor’s final memories. Pieces of a deadly puzzle. And if Georgie doesn’t want them to be the last thing she remembers, she has to find out the truth behind her donor’s death…before she loses herself completely.

A 2016 International Thriller Writers Thriller Award Finalist, A 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection, and #1 Kindle Bestseller. “From the tender moments to the thrilling climax, this one will keep your heart racing.” —Natalie D. Richards

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The books I picked & why

And the Sea Will Tell

By Vincent Bugliosi, Bruce Henderson,

Book cover of And the Sea Will Tell

Why did I love this book?

In 1974, two couples sailed into the Palmyra Atoll in search of a tropical paradise—but only one couple sailed back. When Eleanor “Muff” Graham’s body washes up on shore 6 years later, Buck Walker and his former girlfriend Stephanie Stearns are charged with her murder, but the outcome of their trials surprises everyone. Written by Stearns’ famed defense attorney Vincent Bugliosi, this story has everything: a tropical island teeming with tension, two couples whose ideologies were bound to come to a head, and a wild court case that will have you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

By Vincent Bugliosi, Bruce Henderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And the Sea Will Tell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ALONE WITH HER NEW HUSBAND on a tiny Pacific atoll, a young woman, combing the beach, finds an odd aluminum container washed up out of the lagoon, and beside it on the sand something glitters: a gold tooth in a scorched human skull. The investigation that follows uncovers an extraordinarily complex and puzzling true-crime story. Only Vincent Bugliosi, who recounted his successful prosecution of mass murderer Charles Manson in the bestseller Helter Skelter, was able to draw together the hundreds of conflicting details of the mystery and reconstruct what really happened when four people found hell in a tropical paradise.…

Book cover of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Why did I love this book?

In the 1920s, members of the Osage Indian Nation were the richest people per capita in the world, thanks to the oil discovered on the reservation the U.S. government had banished them to and the sales of the head rights for that oil. But when wealthy members of the tribe start dying in Osage County—some mysteriously, some violently—a former Texas Ranger is brought in to investigate from a newly-formed government agency that would become the FBI. This story is yet another dark chapter in the atrocities White Americans have visited upon Native Americans, and it’s told here beautifully in unflinching detail.

By David Grann,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Killers of the Flower Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. As the death toll climbed, the FBI took up the case. But the bureau badly bungled the investigation. In desperation, its young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. Together with the Osage he and his undercover…

The Monster of Florence

By Douglas Preston, Mario Spezi,

Book cover of The Monster of Florence

Why did I love this book?

When an American writer moves to Italy and befriends a former investigator, the two have no idea that they will soon be dragged into one of Italy’s most infamous murder cases. The Monster of Florence operated from the late 1960s through the 1980s, killing couples in the hills around Florence, always on a Saturday night when there was a new moon. The case went cold for more than a decade, but when Preston and Spezi begin to collaborate on a book about it, the prosecutor in charge of the case sets his sights on a new suspect: Spezi. The twists and turns of this story will have your jaw on the floor more than once. 

By Douglas Preston, Mario Spezi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Monster of Florence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Monster of Florence, which was shortlisted for the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger Award for Non Fiction in 2010, is a true account of brutal serial murder in idyllic Florence. After settling in Italy in 2000, Douglas Preston discovered that the olive grove in front of his family's new home had been the scene of one of the most infamous double-murders in Italian history, committed by a serial killer who had never been found and was known only as the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, met Italian journalist Mario Spezi, who had followed the case since the first murders in…

Book cover of Justice: Crimes, Trials, and Punishments

Why did I love this book?

Every month when my copy of Vanity Fair arrived, I’d flip directly to Dominick Dunne’s column and savor every word. Each story in this collection reads like those columns: full of juicy details alongside human pathos. While most of the pieces cover the O.J. Simpson trial (for which Dunne was front and center in the courtroom every day), he also writes about other high-profile cases of the rich and infamous such as the Menendez Brothers and Sunny von Bulow. But the first story in the book is about the murder of Dunne’s own daughter, Dominique, reminding us that at the other end of these sensationalized stories is a real person whose life has tragically been cut short. One of the things that affected me most about Dunne’s writing is that he was always on the side of the victim, and that’s displayed here in spades.

By Dominick Dunne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dominick Dunne's mesmerizing tales of justice denied and justice affirmed.

For more than two decades, Vanity Fair published Dominick Dunne’s brilliant, revelatory chronicles of the most famous crimes, trials, and punishments of our time. Whether writing of Claus von Bülow’s romp through two trials; the Los Angeles media frenzy surrounding O.J. Simpson; the death by fire of multibillionaire banker Edmond Safra; or the Greenwich, Connecticut, murder of Martha Moxley and the indictment—decades later—of Michael Skakel, Dominick Dunne tells it honestly and tells it from his unique perspective. His search for the truth is relentless.

Book cover of Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide

Why did I love this book?

While not a true-crime book per se, this memoir from the hosts of the smash-hit podcast My Favorite Murder is written with humor and authenticity. The book is filled with anecdotes about all the dumb mistakes they made as teenagers that could’ve ended very badly, lists such as "Ten Starter Ideas For Self-Care Beginners," and stories about the origins of their true-crime obsession. My Favorite Murder stands out amongst all the other true crime podcasts because of the way Hardstark and Kilgariff use humor to cope with the darkness in our world, and their special blend of dark humor is on every page of their book.

By Karen Kilgariff, Georgia Hardstark,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The instant #1 New York Times and USA Today best seller by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the hit podcast My Favorite Murder!

Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.

In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts,…

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