10 New & Upcoming True Crime Books You Need to Read
From gripping exposés to a stunning new memoir by the detective who helped catch the Golden State Killer.
Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases
By Paul Holes
Unmasked is the highly anticipated new true crime memoir from Paul Holes, the renowned detective who helped cracked the Golden State Killer case using DNA evidence. Holes opens up about the many harrowing cases from his decades-long career — including the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard, the murder of Laci Peterson, and the Pittsburg serial murders. He also candidly discusses both the rewards of his profession and the toll it’s had on his relationships and personal health. Many true crime narratives are written from an outsider’s perspective, but here Holes does what no outsider could ever do — convey the real-world risks of solving crime, as experienced by someone who’s dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice.
Bad City: Peril and Power in the City of Angels
By Paul Pringle
Paul Pringle’s Bad City won’t be out until midsummer, but we’re eagerly counting down the days to this riveting exposé of betrayal and institutional corruption in the City of Angels. After all, Pringle is an L.A. Times journalist who’s won multiple awards for his investigative work, including a Pulitzer and a George Polk Award. Bad City begins with a report about a drug overdose at a swanky hotel that involves Dr. Carmen Puliafito, dean of the University of Southern California’s esteemed medical school. But what begins as a salacious tip soon exposes a web of criminality and cover-ups that stretches across greater Los Angeles.
Sentence: Ten Years and a Thousand Books in Prison
By Daniel Genis
Daniel Genis’s striking true crime memoir made plenty of waves when it hit shelves earlier this year. The book, entitled Sentence: Ten Years and a Thousand Books in Prison, focuses on Genis’s battles with heroin addiction, a habit that eventually led to a decade in prison. The author was born into a reputable family; his father is Soviet émigré writer and broadcaster Alexander Genis. After graduating from New York University, Genis began a career in publishing, but he soon slipped into addiction. Eventually, he turned to crime to finance his habit, selling drugs and robbing New Yorkers at knifepoint until the law caught up with him. In Sentence, Genis — who was known as the “Apologetic Bandit” because of the apologies he offered to his victims as he mugged them — frankly discusses life on the inside and the activities that kept him going as he served out his time, from having philosophical discussions with fellow inmates and taking on odd jobs to reading 1,064 books.
Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free
By Sarah Weinman
If you like your true crime with a strong dose of social critique, be sure to check out Sarah Weinman’s latest, Scoundrel. The narrative tells the shocking true story of Edgar Smith, a convicted murderer in 1960s America who was sentenced to death for the killing of a teenage girl but who escaped his execution after earning the sympathy of National Review founder William F. Buckley. Smith’s campaign of deceit and manipulation led not only to his release from prison but to a book deal, fame, and a second attempt at murder. With expert precision, Weinman dissects how a dangerous man conned the criminal justice system and duped the American public — and how his lies and crimes left multiple victims in their wake.
Shadow Man: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling
By Ron Franscell
Rob Franscell’s Shadow Man is a new true crime book that crackles with the intensity of a big-budget crime flick. The book examines the first time that the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit created a criminal profile to catch a serial killer. The case in question was that of David Meirhofer, who committed a string of murders in rural Montana in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As the manhunt for their suspect intensified, investigators turned to what was then a radical new approach to solving crimes: Develop an in-depth forensic profile of the criminal you’re trying to catch and use it to anticipate their next move. Franscell vividly captures the origin story of criminal profiling, delivering a true crime narrative suffused with forensic history.
The Other Dr. Gilmer: Two Men, a Murder, and an Unlikely Fight for Justice
By Benjamin Gilmer
Benjamin Gilmer’s The Other Dr. Gilmer, which expands upon one of This American Life’s most popular episodes, boasts a plot so unbelievable that you could easily mistake it for a work of fiction. And yet this stunning tale is all too true. Upon completing his medical residency, Benjamin Gilmer landed in rural North Carolina, where he found work at a clinic alongside an older doctor who shared his last name — the first oddity in a string of bizarre twists and turns. Dr. Vince Gilmer was a beloved member of their close-knit community, until the night he strangled his sickly father to death, returning to work the next day. Friends and family were shocked, as was Benjamin. What could have caused this seemingly kind physician to carry out such a brutal act against his own dad? But the deeper Benjamin dug into Vince Gilmer’s case, the more he began to suspect that Vince may have been suffering from a rare brain illness. This knockout narrative is part true crime, part medical mystery, and 100-percent captivating.
A Taste for Poison: Eleven Deadly Molecules and the Killers Who Used Them
By Neil Bradbury
This fascinating read proves that true crime books don’t need to follow a tried-and-true formula to enthrall their readers. In A Taste for Poison, medical biochemist Dr. Neil Bradbury draws on his passion for science and interest in true-life murder mysteries to examine 11 deadly molecules that have doubled as murder weapons throughout history. From arsenic and strychnine to polonium and ricin, Bradbury shares the scientific story behind each poison. He also dissects the deadly schemes in which these poisons were employed, from little-known crimes of passion to notorious serial poisonings and political assassinations. Science-minded true crime readers will revel in Bradbury’s morbidly enlightening narrative about the marvels of the human body and the deadly effects different poisons have on us.
When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold
By Alia Trabucco Zerán
The overwhelming majority of those who commit murder are men, which is perhaps why female killers make for particularly fascinating subjects. In her true crime book When Women Kill, celebrated novelist Alia Trabucco Zerán examines four homicides committed by Chilean women through a bold and necessary new lens. In each case, Trabucco Zerán picks apart the murder and its aftermath, covering the events that preceded the killings, the apprehension of each woman, and the misogynistic coverage they received as they went through the judicial system. Trabucco Zerán enriches each account with her own critical analyses and excerpts from her diary, producing a genre-bending true crime study told from a feminist perspective.
Hell’s Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, a Serial Killer Family on the American Frontier
By Susan Jonusas
In her new true crime book, historian Susan Jonusas delivers a transfixing read for history buffs and true crime fans alike. Hell’s Half-Acre transports readers all the way back to the American frontier in 1873, when a staggering number of bodies were uncovered near a cabin in Labette County, Kansas. The discovery of the corpses — and the cabin’s blood-stained cellar — sparked a manhunt for the homesteader family who had lived on the property. They were known as the Benders, and their horrifying crimes transfixed a battered nation still struggling to heal from the wounds of the Civil War. Jonusas draws on a cache of archival materials to trace the disappearance and reemergence of the Bender clan, interweaving the stories of the victims’ families, dogged detectives, and fugitive accomplices into a sweeping historical true crime narrative.
When a Killer Calls: A Haunting Story of Murder, Criminal Profiling, and Justice in a Small Town
By John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
When a Killer Calls is the latest true crime book from Mark Olshaker and FBI criminal profiler John Douglas. For true crime aficionados, the duo need no introduction: Their first work together, Mindhunter, chronicled Douglas’s 25-year career in the FBI’s Serial Crime Unit and served as the basis for the Netflix series of the same name. In their latest outing, Olshaker and Douglas focus on one of most haunting investigations of Douglas’s career: the case of Larry Gene Bell, a serial murderer from South Carolina. Bell’s crimes triggered an intense and desperate search, pushing Douglas and his fellow FBI investigators to the brink and testing the limits of their criminal profiling techniques before they finally brought the killer to justice.