The best murder books

363 authors have picked their favorite books about murder and why they recommend each book.

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Third Policeman

By Flann O'Brien,

Book cover of Third Policeman

An incredible book, disturbing, harsh, and – of course – really, really funny, The Third Policeman is the great dark surreal novel. A simple story of a man who visits a police station, it soon roots itself in a Tristram Shandy-esque mire of absurdity and confusion with its own sense of seeping dread. All Flann O’Brien is superb, but this is the fiercest of all pancakes.

Third Policeman

By Flann O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Third Policeman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Third Policeman is Flann O'Brien's brilliantly dark comic novel about the nature of time, death, and existence. Told by a narrator who has committed a botched robbery and brutal murder, the novel follows him and his adventures in a two-dimensional police station where, through the theories of the scientist/philosopher de Selby, he is introduced to "Atomic Theory" and its relation to bicycles, the existence of eternity (which turns out to be just down the road), and de Selby's view that the earth is not round but "sausage-shaped." With the help of his newly found soul named "Joe, " he…


Who am I?

Like most people, I read lots of different kinds of books, but I am often drawn to novels with unusual themes, structure, or all those things. As a comedy writer, I have always loved surreal writing – the Goon Shows on the radio, or the plays of NF Simpson – and this applies to my taste in literature as well. The unreal, the slightly detuned, anything that suggests this world is not entirely what it seems, or if it is what it seems, then it is an idiot.


I wrote...

All My Colors

By David Quantick,

Book cover of All My Colors

What is my book about?

This is the novel of mine which is the nearest to surreal. It’s about a man who remembers a book that nobody else has heard of and, when he finds he’s desperate for money, writes the book from memory, with horrific consequences. I love books about books, and this was a great deal of fun to write, with everything from Stephen King to Jim Steinman thrown in.

Tombland

By C.J. Sansom,

Book cover of Tombland

At the time of writing, this is believed to be the last in the Shardlake novels and I, for one, am already missing them. I have loved every one of the books in the series, following the adventures of the lawyer/crime solver Matthew Shardlake and his assistants Jack Barak and Nicholas Overton. The author has a real way of bringing the Tudor age to life and as a reader you are instantly transported into the 1500s with Sansom’s descriptive and quite brilliant writing. As a general recommendation I could have picked any of the Shardlake novels but under the heading of books that made me want to know more, the reason I have selected Tombland specifically as one of my top 5 books is the author’s focus on the peasants’ revolt in Norfolk in 1549.

The rebellion was led by a man named Robert Kett and although I had vaguely…

Tombland

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Tombland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tudor England is brought vividly to life in Tombland, the seventh novel in C. J. Sansom's number one bestselling Shardlake series, for fans of Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory.

'When it comes to intriguing Tudor-based narratives, Hilary Mantel has a serious rival' - Sunday Times
'Sansom has the trick of writing an enthralling narrative. Like Hilary Mantel, he produces densely textured historical novels that absorb their readers in another time' - Andrew Taylor, Spectator

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

England, 1549: Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos . . .

The nominal…


Who am I?

I am a writer on the lives of women during the Plantagenet and Tudor periods. I have been fascinated by history since childhood, when the death of my mother when I was six years old encouraged a need in me as I grew up to look backward, for memories and glimpses of the past. When I came across queen Elizabeth Woodville she piqued my interest, and her life story has remained with me ever since. This passion for her life and the era led to my first book on her sisters (The Queen’s Sisters) and was followed up by a second book on her daughters entitled The York Princesses.


I wrote...

The York Princesses: The Daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

By Sarah J. Hodder,

Book cover of The York Princesses: The Daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

What is my book about?

As a collective, the lives of the Princesses of York span seven decades and the rule of five different Kings. The daughters of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, their young years were blighted by tragedy. With their own futures uncertain during the reign of their uncle, Richard III, the girls had to navigate their way through the tumultuous years of the 1480s before having to adjust to a new King and a new dynasty in the shape of Henry VII. 

The stories of the York Princesses are entwined into the fabric of the history of England, as they grew up, survived, and even thrived in the new Tudor age. Their lives are played out against a backdrop of coronations and jousts, births and deaths, marriages and divorces, and loyalties and broken allegiances.

The Stranger

By Albert Camus,

Book cover of The Stranger

The 1942 in-depth examination of a man accused of murder or was it self-defense? The book shows how complex and entangled the truth around crime can be and how quickly society turns on those charged with homicide. It raises timeless questions that we struggle with today with the media and talk shows playing such a large role in current high-profile criminal cases.

The Stranger

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With the intrigue of a psychological thriller, The Stranger—Camus's masterpiece—gives us the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach. With an Introduction by Peter Dunwoodie; translated by Matthew Ward.

Behind the subterfuge, Camus explores what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd" and describes the condition of reckless alienation and spiritual exhaustion that characterized so much of twentieth-century life. 

“The Stranger is a strikingly modern text and Matthew Ward’s translation will enable readers to appreciate why Camus’s stoical anti-hero and ­devious narrator remains one of the key expressions of…


Who am I?

I’m deeply interested in the psychology and emotions behind human violence. I’ve been exploring this subject for the past 35 years in 13 non-fiction books about crime, many of them high-profile cases. I have a passion to understand more about this phenomenon.


I wrote...

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

By Stephen Singular,

Book cover of Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

What is my book about?

Behind a facade of Midwestern normalcy, Dennis Rader hid a life of bloodlust, sadism, and murder beyond imagining. The upstanding family man, Scout leader, and church board president was well liked and trusted by his Wichita community. Kansans -- and all of America -- would never recover from the truth: He was BTK, the madman who bound, tortured, and killed ten victims over the course of three decades. Drawing on extensive interviews, including exclusive access to Rader's pastor and congregation, bestselling author Stephen Singular chronicles the horrific crimes, the investigation, the capture, and confession of BTK -- and, more deeply than any other account, reveals how his 2005 arrest shattered and challenged those in a circle of faith who thought they knew him best.

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote,

Book cover of In Cold Blood

This is the ultimate crime thriller. Yes, I know it is of the true crime genre, but there is no better crime thriller than In Cold Blood, as far as I am concerned. 

This book proves that true crime doesn’t have to read like it was lifted from the pages of your grandmother’s detective magazines. Nor does true crime have to be written like something from the Encyclopedia Britannica

Capote brings the characters to life—murderers, victims, and survivors. And even though you know how it will end, In Cold Blood reads like a thriller because that is just what it is.

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote,

Why should I read it?

11 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…


Who am I?

Crime fiction, true crime, mystery, and suspense books allow us to brush up against the worst society has to offer without getting hurt. There’s a lot to be said for vicarious thrills, isn’t there. I am just a simple man telling simple stories about good vs. evil. And sometimes, in my stories, fiction or not, the bad guys win. But I do love telling stories, and when I find a good one, I can’t wait to tell you aboutit. That’s what I have done here.


I wrote...

Empty Minute: A Murder Mystery

By Rod Kackley,

Book cover of Empty Minute: A Murder Mystery

What is my book about?

Corruption. Conspiracy. Caviar. The patriarch of one of the most powerful families in Kentucky politics is dead. Murdered. And it’s up to private investigator Ron Delaney to figure out who killed his hero. With a $25,000 check from the dead politician’s mistress in his pocket, Ron sets off on a journey that will lead him into conflict with one of the most powerful families in the Russian Mafia.

Along the way, Ron’s illusions about his hero are shattered, his prized Corvette is nearly totaled by a speeding blonde, and he falls in love with a woman half his age who gets kidnapped. And, that’s just the beginning of this wild, action-packed thriller.

Fatal Vision

By Joe McGinniss,

Book cover of Fatal Vision: A True Crime Classic

A highly controversial 1983 book about Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald who was accused of murdering his wife and two children in their home in 1970. Initially, MacDonald hired McGuiniss to prove his innocence, but the author eventually changed his mind about the physician’s guilt. He was convicted and the book underscored the perils of writers getting too close to their subjects, especially when they're criminals.

Fatal Vision

By Joe McGinniss,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fatal Vision as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The electrifying true crime story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, the handsome, Princeton-educated physician convicted of savagely slaying his young pregnant wife and two small children—murders he vehemently denies committing...

Bestselling author Joe McGinniss chronicles every aspect of this horrifying and intricate crime and probes the life and psyche of the magnetic, all-American Jeffrey MacDonald—a golden boy who seemed destined to have it all. The result is a penetration to the heart of darkness that enshrouded one of the most complex criminal cases ever to capture the attention of the American public. It is a haunting, stunningly suspenseful work that no…


Who am I?

I’m deeply interested in the psychology and emotions behind human violence. I’ve been exploring this subject for the past 35 years in 13 non-fiction books about crime, many of them high-profile cases. I have a passion to understand more about this phenomenon.


I wrote...

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

By Stephen Singular,

Book cover of Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer

What is my book about?

Behind a facade of Midwestern normalcy, Dennis Rader hid a life of bloodlust, sadism, and murder beyond imagining. The upstanding family man, Scout leader, and church board president was well liked and trusted by his Wichita community. Kansans -- and all of America -- would never recover from the truth: He was BTK, the madman who bound, tortured, and killed ten victims over the course of three decades. Drawing on extensive interviews, including exclusive access to Rader's pastor and congregation, bestselling author Stephen Singular chronicles the horrific crimes, the investigation, the capture, and confession of BTK -- and, more deeply than any other account, reveals how his 2005 arrest shattered and challenged those in a circle of faith who thought they knew him best.

The Blooding

By Joseph Wambaugh,

Book cover of The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

The Blooding recounts a gripping true tale of murders in the picturesque English countryside-but aside from its haunting atmosphere, it is a detailed account of the beginning of DNA as a crime-solving technique. We have come a long way since the mid-1980s, and we can get much more information from newer DNA methods, but the detailed explanation of exactly how this worked as a revolutionary method is invaluable. Reading this book puts the reader at the very beginning of a revolution.

The Blooding

By Joseph Wambaugh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fifteen-year-old Lynda Mann's savagely raped and strangled body is found along a shady footpath near the English village of Narborough.  Though a massive 150-man dragnet is launched, the case remains unsolved.  Three years later the killer strikes again, raping and strangling teenager Dawn Ashforth only a stone's throw from where Lynda was so brutally murdered.  But it will take four years, a scientific breakthrough, the largest manhunt in British crime annals, and the blooding of more than four thousand men before the real killer is found.


Who am I?

I’m a crime historian and storyteller. I study old crimes, particularly those of scientific interest, and present my findings in public presentations. Sometimes I write about them- in the NY Times, Smithsonian, Lancet, Ellery Queen. I’ve researched in autopsy suites, crumbling archives, and crime labs. I was the founder and moderator of the annual Forensic Forum at Stony Brook University. I’ve consulted on criminal matters for PBS, BBC, and commercial stations. I am fascinated by ancient crime because so much great literature derives from it - the sadly dysfunctional Oedipus family, the fraternal dispute between Cain and Abel- the unhappy Borden family of Fall River. All grist for my mill.


I wrote...

The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases

By E.J. Wagner,

Book cover of The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective's Greatest Cases

What is my book about?

"Holmes is, first, a great detective, but he has also proven to be a great scientist, whether dabbling with poisons, tobacco ash, or tire marks. Wagner explores this fascinating aspect of his career by showing how his investigations were grounded in the cutting-edge science of his day, especially the emerging field of forensics .... Utterly compelling. " Otto Penzler, member of the Baker Street Irregulars and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop

The Science of Sherlock Holmes won an Edgar Mystery Writers' award as well.

The World of Lore

By Aaron Mahnke,

Book cover of The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals

The Lore series, based on the World of Lore podcast, is a wonderful collection of the strange, bizarre, and creepy. This particular book focuses on people who gained fame through their disturbing hobbies and unpleasant predilections: serial killers, criminals, psychopaths, and other associated weirdos. I've always been drawn to collections like these, and this is one of the best. Check out the others in the series too.

The World of Lore

By Aaron Mahnke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A chilling, lavishly illustrated who's-who of the most despicable people ever to walk the earth, featuring both rare and best-loved stories from the hit podcast Lore, now an online streaming series.

Here are the incredible true stories of some of the mortals who achieved notoriety in history and folklore through horrible means. Monsters of this sort - serial killers, desperate criminals, and socially mobile people with a much darker double-life - are, in fact, quite real . . . including H. H. Holmes, the infamous Chicago serial killer; William Brodie, the Edinburgh criminal mastermind who inspired The Strange Case of…


Who am I?

Sylvia Shults is a librarian by day, a ghost hunter by night, and the “hostess with the mostest ghosties” of the Lights Out podcast. During her twenty-plus-year career in libraries, she has managed to smuggle enough words out in her pockets to put together several books of her own, including 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and Spirits of Christmas. She sits in dark, spooky places so you don't have to, and shares her experiences of her brushes with the other side of the Veil.


I wrote...

Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

By Sylvia Shults,

Book cover of Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

What is my book about?

It was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... but are you sure about that? The dark winter nights can hold many secrets, along with tales of both horror and hauntings. In this chilling book, Sylvia Shults has gathered over 120 tales of Yuletide Spirits, Holiday Horrors, and Christmas Catastrophes that give a new meaning to the "dead of winter."

These pages include rollicking legends of holiday helpers with dark sides; gripping accounts of Christmas season fires, train wrecks, and disasters; winter tales of phantoms and haunted houses; and a collection of Christmas spirits that are sure to send a shiver down your spine Hearkening back to the days of the paperback anthologies of the 1960s, you'll be delighted when you unwrap this package on Christmas morning and start turning page after page of eerie and frightening tales. It's the perfect collection for the spookiest time of the year.

The Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold,

Book cover of The Lovely Bones

Contemporary suspense, psychological fiction, the afterlife, family dynamics, and heaps of disturbing are the ingredients mixed together in The Lovely Bones. Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon was raped and murdered. Only none of the living know who did it. But Susie knows. Her soul is stuck in the “Inbetween,” where she can watch the Earth below. She sees her family grieve. Sees her murderer, Mr. Harvey, who lives in her neighborhood near her school. Will he get caught? Or will Susie’s sister or another young girl be his next victim? As a ghostly “watcher” from the Inbetween, Susie narrates this compelling story and elevates it with her amazing voice. The message and emotional weight of The Lovely Bones will keep readers fully invested.

The Lovely Bones

By Alice Sebold,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Lovely Bones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The internationally bestselling novel that inspired the acclaimed film directed by Peter Jackson.

With an introduction by Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles.

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

In heaven, Susie Salmon can have whatever she wishes for - except what she most wants, which is to be back with the people she loved on earth. In the wake of her murder, Susie watches as her happy suburban family is torn apart by grief; as her friends grow up, fall in…


Who am I?

Ghost stories are predominantly one flavor: horror. However, my taste in ghost fiction resembles a smoothie. Blend equal parts of contemporary suspense/mystery and the paranormal; add a splash of science, a pinch of dark family secrets, and a sprinkle of romance; and then spike with a heaping cup of twists. That’s my favorite recipe for the paranormal crossovers I love to read and write. My narration preferences are less typical, too. Ghost stories are usually told by characters being haunted. In novels I love, ghosts participate as storytellers, breathing realism into the supernatural. For me, hauntingly plausible stories generate more goosebumps than those horrifically improbable. (Perhaps because I grew up in a haunted house!)


I wrote...

Mystified

By Julia Ash,

Book cover of Mystified

What is my book about?

Being strangled in her parents’ pool was the last memory 15-year-old Jules Parker could recall...alive, but it hasn’t been the most shocking revelation. That was finding her drowned corpse and realizing she was a ghost. 

Now she’s joining forces with Truitt Windsor, the new teen next door—someone who’s not afraid of the paranormal. Someone who wants to help unlock the mysteries surrounding Jules’s life and death. No doubt, the secrets that’ll surface will be the greatest shock of all. 

Book cover of Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

There are so many books about these two boys that one could be forgiven for not reading any of them. But, if you are going to read one make it this one. Pollard knows what he is talking about because he has a background of authoritative historical study second to none. What you’ll find in this book is as near as anyone is going to get to a balanced account. Forget all the dark myths and whitewashes of Richard III and just read this book.

Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

By A.J. Pollard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Richard III and the Princes in the Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard III has divided opinion for over 500 years. Traditionally, he has been perceived as a villain, a bloody tyrant and the monstrous murderer of his innocent nephews. To others he was and remains a wronged victim who did his best for kingdom and family, a noble prince and enlightened statesman tragically slain. This work explores the story of Richard III and the tales that have been woven around the historic events, and discusses his life and reign and the disappearance of the princes in the tower. It also assesses the original sources upon which much of the "history" is…


Who am I?

I write historical fiction some of which is set during the Wars of the Roses - a period that has always fascinated me. My two series, Rebels and Brothers & the Craft of Kings span the whole topic. But underlying the fiction there is a wealth of knowledge because I have studied or taught about this period for the best part of fifty years. I have also produced in recent years over forty podcasts on the subject which have been very well received by listeners – including students currently wrestling with the sometimes labyrinthine complexities of the topic. 


I wrote...

Feud

By Derek Birks,

Book cover of Feud

What is my book about?

As the Wars of the Roses begin, the rule of law breaks down... In 1459 open war breaks out between the Houses of York and Lancaster and a desperate struggle for the crown of England begins. Yet, while the fire of civil war burns, an old local score is being settled in the heart of Yorkshire.

Young and untried knight, Ned Elder, finds himself at the centre of a bitter feud when his father is executed, his brother butchered and his sisters abducted. Ned barely escapes with his life and is pursued across the land with only a few loyal companions. Determined to find his sisters, recover his lands and put an end to the feud, Ned is forced to take sides in the civil war. He soon gains a formidable reputation in the Yorkist army of young Edward, Earl of March, but the path he must follow is brutal for his enemies are relentless and will show no mercy.

Medicus

By Ruth Downie,

Book cover of Medicus: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire

This is the first book in Downie’s Medicus series, a series of crime novels based around Ruso, a Roman military doctor. Ruso finds himself based in Britain, in an attempt to escape his past, and finds himself reluctantly drawn into a series of mysterious deaths of women working at a local bar. He also finds himself unexpectedly buying Tilla, a British woman, to rescue her from her abusive previous owner – so with a new job, a new household, and a new set of questions to answer, he has plenty on his plate. Downie spins an excellent murder mystery and gives her reader liberal doses of both comedy and tragedy.

Medicus

By Ruth Downie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**

Welcome to the most remote part of the Roman Empire. Britannia, AD117 – primitive, cold, damp and very muddy.

The Gods are not smiling on army doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso in his new posting in Britannia. He has vast debts, a slave girl who is much more trouble than she is worth and an overbearing hospital administrator to deal with . . . not to mention a serial killer stalking the local streets.

Barmaids’ bodies are being washed up with the tide and no one else seems to care. It’s up to Ruso to summon…


Who am I?

I’m a Reader in Latin Language and Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. In my research and my teaching, I think a lot about the literature and culture of the Roman empire around the first century A.D. As well as sharing my enthusiasm about the people whose writing and objects have survived down to us, I also enjoy reading and exploring how contemporary authors have used their creative freedom to recreate the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome.


I wrote...

Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture

By Liz Gloyn,

Book cover of Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture

What is my book about?

In this book, the first in-depth study of how post-classical societies use the creatures from ancient myth, Liz Gloyn reveals the trends behind how we have used monsters since the 1950s to the present day and considers why they have remained such a powerful presence in our shared cultural imagination. She presents a new model for interpreting the extraordinary vitality that classical monsters have shown, and their enormous adaptability in finding places to dwell in popular culture without sacrificing their connection to the ancient world.

Her argument takes her readers through a comprehensive tour of monsters, from the much-loved creations of Ray Harryhausen in Clash of the Titans to the monster of the week in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, before looking at the afterlives of the Medusa and the Minotaur. From the siren to the centaur, all monster lovers will find something to enjoy in this stimulating and accessible book.

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