The best true crime tragedies

Why am I passionate about this?

Working as a prosecutor, trial lawyer for defendants, and as a magistrate, I’m always bothered by the misconception most people have of our criminal justice system. Unfortunately, cops are crooked, judges are corrupt, and witnesses lie on the stand. Not everyone, not every day, but more often than you would ever imagine. I write true crime books about cases where the underlying focus is on officials who are incompetent, derelict in their duties, or simply downright corrupt. The cases are always suspenseful, but justice is rarely served, and both the defendant and the public are the ones who lose.


I wrote...

Saving Stacy: The Untold Story of the Moody Massacre

By Rob St. Clair,

Book cover of Saving Stacy: The Untold Story of the Moody Massacre

What is my book about?

Fifteen-year-old Stacy was shot in the face - twice - and left to die. The killer left her bleeding in her upstairs bedroom. Later that morning, the sheriff would declare it a rampage, a tragic murder-suicide. Eighteen-year-old Scott Moody lived on a family farm with his mother and sister; his grandparents lived nearby. The night before his high school graduation something snapped, and Scott went on a shooting spree. He murdered his two grandparents, his mother, a high school classmate, his girlfriend, and then he turned the rifle on himself, committing suicide. Stacy would survive, but when asked in her hospital bed who shot her, she’d tell a different story. Everyone knew Scott couldn’t have been the shooter. What was the sheriff’s office hiding?

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of In Cold Blood

Rob St. Clair Why did I love this book?

This book started a new way on how this genre is written. It’s a fiction novel, where the author adds his imagined dialogue to keep the story flowing.

On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.

Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, generating both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is timeless, providing insights into the nature of American violence.

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked In Cold Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly…


Book cover of Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders

Rob St. Clair Why did I love this book?

After you read the book, you need to see Once Upon a Time... In Hollywood.

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was the motivation behind such savagery?

The murders marked the end of the sixties and became an immediate symbol of the dark underside of that era. Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, and this book is his riveting account of how he built his case from what a defense attorney dismissed as only “two fingerprints and Vince Bugliosi.”

The meticulous detective work with which the story begins, the prosecutor’s view of a complex murder trial, the reconstruction of the philosophy Manson inculcated in his fervent followers - these elements make for a true crime classic.

By Vincent Bugliosi, Curt Gentry,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Helter Skelter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1969, in Los Angeles, a series of brutal, seemingly random murders captured headlines across America. A famous actress (and her unborn child), an heiress to a coffee fortune, a supermarket owner and his wife were among the seven victims. A thin trail of circumstances eventually tied the Tate-LeBianca murders to Charles Manson, a would-be pop singer of small talent living in the desert with his "family" of devoted young women and men. What was his hold over them? And what was the motivation behind such savagery? In the public imagination, over time, the case assumed the…


Book cover of The Columbus Stocking Strangler

Rob St. Clair Why did I love this book?

When you live in Columbus, Georgia, this one takes on special meaning. During an eight-month period in 1977 and 1978, Columbus was terrorized by a mysterious serial killer who raped and ritualistically strangled seven elderly women in one of the community’s finer neighborhoods.

Despite intensive efforts on the part of the police, who proved to be incompetent, the Stocking Strangler, as he came to be known, managed to elude capture. After the last murder in April 1978, the case went cold. In the spring of 1984, a series of fortuitous events connected to an unrelated murder and a stolen pistol led to the capture of Carlton Gary, who had recently escaped from a South Carolina prison.

Following a dramatic trial in August 1986, Gary was convicted of three of the seven Columbus murders and sentenced to death, a penalty that would not be carried out until March 2018.

This convoluted tale of crime and punishment is punctuated by dramatic and unexpected twists and turns including issues of race, alleged conspiracy, and misconduct on the part of the police and the judiciary, a second serial killer active in Columbus during the time of the Strangler murders, the Ku Klux Klan, errors in DNA analysis, and a vigorous and prolonged struggle by attorneys and death penalty opponents who believed in Gary's innocence.

Quite simply, they executed the wrong man.

By William Rawlings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During an eight-month period in 1977 and 1978, the city of Columbus, Georgia, was terrorized by a mysterious serial killer who raped and ritualistically strangled seven elderly women in one of the community's finer neighborhoods. Despite intensive efforts on the part of police the Stocking Strangler, as he came to be known, managed to elude capture. After the last murder in April 1978, the case went cold. In the spring of 1984, a series of fortuitous events connected to an unrelated murder and a stolen pistol led to the capture of Carlton Gary, who had recently escaped from a South…


Book cover of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

Rob St. Clair Why did I love this book?

Everyone loves Harper Lee, but not everyone knows her background as a reporter.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members, but with the help of a savvy lawyer he escaped justice for years until a relative assassinated him at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted—thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the reverend himself.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more trying to finish the book she called “The Reverend.” In this well-written true-crime story, Cep brings to life the horrifying murders, the courtroom drama, and the racial politics of the Deep South while offering a deeply moving portrait of Harper Lee.

By Casey Cep,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A BARACK OBAMA BOOK OF THE YEAR
WINNER OF THE 2020 CRIME WRITERS' ASSOCIATION ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
A SUNDAY TIMES, ECONOMIST AND SPECTATOR BOOK OF THE YEAR

'A triumph on every level. One of the losses to literature is that Harper Lee never found a way to tell a gothic true-crime story she'd spent years researching. Casey Cep has excavated this mesmerizing story and tells it with grace and insight and a fierce fidelity to the truth.'
DAVID GRANN, author of Killers of the Flower Moon
_____________________________
The stunning…


Book cover of Filthy Rich: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein - The Billionaire's Sex Scandal

Rob St. Clair Why did I love this book?

There’s a reason James Patterson is a popular, best-selling author. His books are well-written, entertaining, and – when he turns his pen to nonfiction – informative.

Jeffrey Epstein rose from humble origins into the New York City and Palm Beach elite. A college dropout with an instinct for numbers – and for people – Epstein amassed his wealth through a combination of access and skill. But even after he had it all, Epstein wanted more. That unceasing desire – and especially a taste for underage girls – resulted in sexual abuse charges, to which he pleaded guilty and received a shockingly lenient sentence.

Included in Filthy Rich are police interviews with girls who alleged sexual abuse by Epstein, details of the investigation against him, and a new introduction with up-to-the-minute developments on the case, including Epstein's death by suicide. 

Filthy Rich is a riveting tale of wealth, power, and the easy price of justice for America's wealthiest citizens. And there’s still a little black book out there somewhere with explosive information that would highlight our two standards of justice, one for the filthy rich and one for the rest of us.

You might also like...

Snow on Magnolias

By Betty Bolte,

Book cover of Snow on Magnolias

Betty Bolte Author Of Notes of Love and War

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Editor Traveler Crocheter Reader

Betty's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Magnolia Merryweather, a horse breeder, is eager to celebrate Christmas for the first time after the Civil War ended even as she grows her business. She envisions a calm, prosperous life ahead after the terror of the past four years. Only, all of her plans are thrown into disarray when her secret lover returns and starts asking questions she can’t answer without disaster following.

Bryce Day comes home to Alabama after he’s discharged from the First Alabama Cavalry USA with guilt weighing on his heart. His neighbors won’t cotton to his Unionist bent, and the woman of his heart likely won’t give him a second chance after his silence during the war. Only, she’s hiding something from him.

How can they have any hope of a loving life together with lies and secrets between them?

Snow on Magnolias

By Betty Bolte,

What is this book about?

One terrible lie, a desperate measure to save her past, just might destroy her future…

Award-winning author of historical fiction presents a new novel of love and lies, secrets and sensuality, and the hands of fate weaving it all together.

The American Civil War is finally over and Christmas beckons. Magnolia Merryweather, backyard horse breeder, is eager to celebrate for the first time since the war began even as she continues to grow her business. She envisions a calm, prosperous life ahead after all the terror of the past four years. She’s preparing to follow in her mother’s matriarchal footsteps,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, murder mystery, and police corruption?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, murder mystery, and police corruption.

Murder Explore 943 books about murder
Murder Mystery Explore 498 books about murder mystery
Police Corruption Explore 13 books about police corruption