The true crime genre is becoming a popular genre to read. Whether it is strictly a true crime story, a documentary or a podcast, it is only plausible that we start seeing it weaving into mainstream fiction. I have found true crime intriguing and exciting, so seeing it in fictional stories cements in me the darkest part of humanity. The world around us constantly inspires writers, and true crime stories give readers the scary and tether to reality but also, at the same time, how the popularity of the true crime genre can be abused and manipulative towards the real victims of the crime.
I saw a lot of this while reading the many mysteries of 2023. Through thought-provoking and compelling fiction, some writers display the pros and cons of the true crime genre, which provides a scintillating and exciting reading experience.
So, if you are looking for mysteries and thrillers inspired by true crime, here are some highlighted books you should check out:
Broadway Butterfly by Sara Divello
Manhattan, 1923. Scandalous flapper Dot King is found dead in her Midtown apartment, a bottle of chloroform beside her and a fortune in jewels missing. Dot’s headline-making murder grips the city. It also draws a clutch of lovers, parasites, and justice seekers into one of the city’s most mesmerizing mysteries.
Among them: Daily News crime reporter Julia Harpman, chasing the story while navig
ating a male-dominated industry; righteous NYPD detective John D. Coughlin, struggling against city corruption; and Ella Bradford, the victim’s Harlem maid, closest confidante, and keeper of secrets. Adding fuel to the already volatile crime: a politically connected Philadelphia socialite, an Atlantic City bootlegger, Dot’s dicey gigolo lover, a sultry Broadway dancer, and a cagey sugar daddy guarding secrets of his own.
From Broadway’s glittering lights to its sordid underbelly to the machinations of the country’s most powerful men, Julia embarks on a quest for justice. What she discovers, twist after breathtaking twist, might be even more nefarious than murder. (Credit: Thomas & Mercer)
Murder In The Family by Cara Hunter
It was a case that gripped the nation. In December 2003, Luke Ryder, the stepfather of acclaimed filmmaker Guy Howard (then aged 10), was found dead in the garden of their suburban family home.
Luke Ryder’s murder has never been solved. Guy Howard’s mother and two sisters were in the house at the time of the murder–but all swear they saw nothing. Despite a high-profile police investigation and endless media attention, no suspect was ever charged.
But some murder cases are simply too big to forget…
Now comes the sensational new streaming series Infamous, dedicated to investigating–and perhaps cracking–this famous cold case. Years later a group of experts re-examine the evidence – with shocking results. Does the team know more than they’ve been letting on?
True crime lovers and savvy readers, you can review the evidence and testimony at the same time as the experts. But can you solve the case before they do? (Credit: William Morrow & Company)
Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll
Masterfully blending elements of psychological suspense and true crime, Jessica Knoll–author of the bestselling novel Luckiest Girl Alive and the writer behind the Netflix adaption starring Mila Kunis–delivers a new and exhilarating thriller in Bright Young Women. The book opens on a Saturday night in 1978, hours before a soon-to-be-infamous murderer descends upon a Florida sorority house with deadly results. The lives of those who survive, including sorority president and key witness, Pamela Schumacher, are forever changed. Across the country, Tina Cannon is convinced her missing friend was targeted by the man papers refer to as the All-American Sex Killer–and that he’s struck again. Determined to find justice, the two join forces as their search for answers leads to a final, shocking confrontation. (Credit: S&s/ Marysue Rucci Books)
The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard
One year ago, Lucy’s sister, Nicki, left to meet friends at a pub in Dublin and never came home. The third Irish woman to vanish inexplicably in as many years, the agony of not knowing what happened that night has turned Lucy’s life into a waking nightmare. So, she’s going to take matters into her own hands.
Angela works as a civilian paper-pusher in the Missing Persons Unit, but wants nothing more than to be a fully fledged member of An Garda Síochána, the Irish police force. With the official investigation into the missing women stalled, she begins pulling on a thread that could break the case wide open–and destroy her chances of ever joining the force.
A nameless man drives through the night, his latest victim in the back seat. He’s going to tell her everything, from the beginning. And soon, she’ll realize: what you don’t know can hurt you …(Credit: Blackstone Publishing)
Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater
Roach would rather be listening to the latest episode of her favorite true crime podcast than assisting the boring and predictable customers at her local branch of the bookstore Spines, where she’s worked her entire adult life. A serious true crime junkie, Roach looks down her nose at the pumpkin-spice-latte-drinking casual fans who only became interested in the genre once it got trendy. But when Laura, a pretty and charismatic children’s bookseller, arrives to help rejuvenate the struggling bookstore branch, Roach recognizes in her an unexpected kindred spirit.
Despite their common interest in true crime, Laura keeps her distance from Roach, resisting the other woman’s overtures of friendship. Undeterred, Roach learns everything she can about her new colleague, eventually uncovering Laura’s traumatic family history. When Roach realizes that she may have come across her very own true crime story, interest swiftly blooms into a dangerous obsession. (Credit: Scarlet)
Penance by Eliza Clark
On a beach in a run-down seaside town on the Yorkshire coastline, sixteen-year-old Joan Wilson is set on fire by three other schoolgirls.
Nearly a decade after the horrifying murder, journalist Alec Z. Carelli has written the definitive account of the crime, drawn from hours of interviews with witnesses and family members, painstaking historical research, and most notably, correspondence with the killers themselves. The result is a riveting snapshot of lives rocked by tragedy, and a town left in turmoil.
But how much of the story is true? (Credit: Harper)
True Crime Story by Joseph Knox
What happens to all the girls who go missing?
In 2011, Zoe Nolan walked out of her dormitory in Manchester and was never seen or heard from again. Her case went cold. Her story was sad, certainly, but hardly sensational, crime writer Joseph Knox thought. He wouldn’t have given her any more thought were it not for his friend, Evelyn Mitchell. Another writer struggling to come up with a new idea, Evelyn was wondering just what happens to all the girls who go missing. What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?
Evelyn began investigating herself, interviewing Zoe’s family and friends, and emailing Joseph with chapters of the book she was writing with her findings.
Uneasy with the corkscrew twists and turns, Joseph Knox embedded himself in the case, ultimately discovering a truth more tragic and shocking than he could have possibly imagined…
(Credit: Sourcebooks Landmark)
Kill Show: A True Crime Novel by Daniel Sweren-Becker
Sara Parcell disappeared without a trace on a crisp April morning in Frederick, Maryland. Her tragic story was a national obsession and the centerpiece of a controversial television docuseries that followed her disappearance in real time. But is it possible that everyone missed the biggest secret of all?
Ten years after these events, the people who knew Sara best are finally ready to talk. In this genre-bending novel, Daniel Sweren-Becker fashions an oral history around the seemingly familiar crime of a teenage girl gone missing. Yet Kill Show, filled with diabolical twists and provocative social commentary, is no standard mystery. Through “interviews” with family members, neighbors, law enforcement, television executives, and a host of other compelling characters, Sweren-Becker constructs a riveting tale about one family’s tragedy–and Hollywood’s insatiable desire to exploit it.
By revealing the seedy underbelly of the true crime entertainment machine, Kill Show probes literary territory beyond the bounds of the standard whodunit; it’s a thoughtful exploration into America’s obsession with the mysteries, cold cases, and violent tales we turn to for comfort. Groundbreaking, fast-moving, and informed, this is a novel about who’s really responsible for the tragedies we love to consume. (Credit: Harper)
Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay
After a late night of partying, NYU student Matt Pine returns to his dorm room to devastating news: nearly his entire family–his mom, his dad, his little brother and sister–have been found dead from an apparent gas leak while vacationing in Mexico. The local police claim it was an accident, but the FBI and State Department seem far less certain–and they won’t tell Matt why.
The tragedy makes headlines everywhere because this isn’t the first time the Pine family has been thrust into the media spotlight. Matt’s older brother, Danny–currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his teenage girlfriend Charlotte–was the subject of a viral true crime documentary suggesting that Danny was wrongfully convicted. Though the country has rallied behind Danny, Matt holds a secret about his brother that he’s never told anyone: the night Charlotte was killed Matt saw something that makes him believe his brother is guilty of the crime.
When Matt returns to his small hometown to bury his parents and siblings, he’s faced with a hostile community that was villainized by the documentary, a frenzied media, and memories he’d hoped to leave behind forever. Now, as the deaths in Mexico appear increasingly suspicious and connected to Danny’s case, Matt must unearth the truth behind the crime that sent his brother to prison–putting his own life in peril–and forcing him to confront his every last fear. (Credit: Minotaur Books)
The Family Plot by Megan Collins
At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse is haunted by her upbringing. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she is unable to move beyond the disappearance of her twin brother, Andy, when they were sixteen.
After several years away and following her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house, where the family makes a gruesome discovery: buried in their father’s plot is another body–Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.
Dahlia is quick to blame Andy’s murder on the serial killer who terrorized the island for decades, while the rest of her family reacts to the revelation in unsettling ways. Her brother, Charlie, pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister, Tate, forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic facade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin. (Credit: Atria Books)
If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier
When her favorite true crime podcast host goes missing, an adrift young woman sets out to investigate and plunges headfirst into the wild backcountry of Northern California and her own dangerous obsession.
Sera loves true crime podcasts. They give her a sense of control in a world where women just like her disappear daily. She’s sure they are preparing her for something. So when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera knows it’s time to act. Rachel has always taught her to trust her instincts.
Sera follows the clues hidden in the episodes to an isolated ranch outside Rachel’s small hometown to begin her search. She’s convinced her investigation will make Rachel so proud. But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel. Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won’t be the last…
Rachel did try to warn her.(Credit: Berkley Books)
Truly Darkly Deeply by Victoria Selman
Matty Melgren is a convicted serial killer serving life without parole for the murders of several women in London in the 1980s. He has consistently protested his innocence, and the evidence against him was largely circumstantial. At the time of his arrest, Matty’s girlfriend was Amelia-Rose, a single mother to 12-year-old Sophie. Sophie adores Matty. He’s handsome, funny, respectable–she could never suspect him of the brutal killings in the headlines. Then a police sketch of a suspect is released that looks a lot like Matty. Was it him? Sophie is consumed with doubt and guilt, causing her to act impulsively, ripping her family apart. Years later, she is still haunted by her actions. Was she wrong to have done what she did all those years ago? Then Sophie receives a letter from Matty–he’s dying and asks her to visit him in prison. Will she finally get the answers she needs to be able to reclaim her future? (Credit: Union Square & Co.)
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