Nothing ups the ante on a mystery or thriller quite like it being true. Knowing that someone really did these terrible things and (hopefully) someone else solved the case, found the perpetrator, and figured out why they did it, adds extra chills to the experience. True crime is a gripping genre with a dedicated audience so if you, like me, have read just about everything out there already, here are some new true crime books to check out and a few classics you might have missed.
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New True Crime Books
Sierra Crane Murdoch
When Lissa Yellow Bird is released from prison, she returns to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota to find that her community has been completely transformed by the oil boom. Then an oil worker goes missing, and she is the only one who looks into his mysterious disappearance. Part crime thriller, part history lesson, Murdoch skillfully weaves Yellow Bird’s story, at the heart of which is the devastation of colonialism, exploitation and greed.
Kate Winkler Dawson
Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America’s first (and best) forensic scientists. Known as the “American Sherlock Holmes,” he cracked more than 2,000 cases in his forty-year career with his own innovations that are still used today. Each chapter tells the story of one of Heinrich’s cases, which illustrates one of his techniques, including using soil samples and insects to determine place and time of death, blood spatter analysis, and more.
In this captivating biography of one of America’s greatest film icons, Suzanne Finstad’s years of research and hundreds of interviews tell of the complicated and sorrowful life, and the mysterious death of Natalie Wood. This updated edition includes incredible new findings like a detailed timeline and interviews about the night she died that may reveal why the case has recently been reopened and why her famous ex-husband has been named a person of interest.
The Scientist and the Spy
Industrial espionage doesn’t get the same frontpage treatment as terrorism, but it may be even more of a threat to national security. In this unexpected page turner, three Chinese men were caught by local police trespassing on a farm growing seeds owned by Monsanto, which launched a two-year FBI investigation with real-life implications at the root of the current US-China Trade War.
Patrick Radden Keefe
In 1972, during the violent Northern Ireland conflict known as “The Troubles,” a mother of ten young children was snatched from her Belfast home never to be heard from again. Everyone knew the I.R.A. did it, but no one would speak up. In 2003, her remains were found, setting the stage for the human toll of the bloody guerilla war that tore a society apart for decades.
Hell in the Heartland
In the early hours of December 30, 1999, the fire department was called to a home in rural Oklahoma where, once extinguished, they found the bodies of two adults, and discovered the two teenage girls were missing. It took 18 years for an arrest to be made, which was held up by police misconduct and corruption in a community ravaged by addiction and the complex struggles of 21st century middle America.
In Cold Blood
Perhaps the inventor of the genre, Capote’s seminal work of journalism written in narrative prose tells the story of two young killers who arbitrarily targeted a rural Kansas family with unspeakable violence. Capote’s mastery is not just his investigative chops or writing acumen, but in the intimate ways he illustrates the savagery and humanity of the young killers, whom he developed a personal relationship with during the writing process.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Was it self-defense or murder when a local handyman was shot by his wealthy lover in Savannah, Georgia? New York author John Berendt went down to investigate, only to discover much more than a true crime story. With its eccentric mélange of southern gentility, a thriving gay scene and colorful characters—from debutantes to drag queens—Savannah offers the perfect setting for any story.
The Poisoner’s Handbook
What do the authorities do with a confessed murderer and no evidence to convict him? This narrative follows a medical examiner and a toxicologist as they investigate mysterious deaths by poison in Jazz Age New York City—whether from bootleg alcohol, increasingly toxic household products, or at the hands of nefarious murderers. It’s equal parts true crime, history, and science as it details the birth of modern-day forensic medicine.
I Heard You Paint Houses
“To paint a house” in the mob means to kill someone, the paint being the blood spatter. The title of this book comes from the first words that infamous Chicago Union leader Jimmy Hoffa said to the man who would end up allegedly killing him. Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran confessed to more than 25 murders, including Hoffa’s, in this account of being a hitman, which was the basis for the 2019 Oscar-nominated Scorsese film.