Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Best True Crime Books (and Authors)

The true crime genre is loosely based on examining actual crimes and the actions of real-life people, and in most cases, closely evaluates the subjects of criminal psychology and social realism.

While many books in this genre cover popular, well-known, notorious crimes, other books will focus on lesser-known, obscure crimes. After all, the media only reports crimes that they feel the public can handle. Reading books in the true crime genre is an ideal way to learn about the gruesome and heinous crimes that may have taken place in your own backyard!

Below are the best true crime books and their authors that exist in the genre today. If you feel I should add to this list, let me know in the comments section below!

JonBenet by Steve Thomas, Donald A Davis

As the lead detective on the case, Steve Thomas recounts the murder of JonBenet Ramsey in explicit detail in JonBenet. The account is so factual you can't help but agree that his theories are wholly truthful. As one of the most notorious unsolved mysteries in recent times, author Thomas explains how evidence was tainted from the first moments of the discovery of JonBenet's body, resulting in one of the most frustrating investigations in Boulder, Colorado -- and United States -- history. Fans of true crime will eat this novel up, while those who read the true crime genre less frequently will be enthusiastically glued to the pages until the end.

Here are more great books about JonBenet Ramsey:

  1. Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury's Search for the Final Truth by Lawrence Schiller
  2. Who Killed JonBenĂ©t Ramsey? by Charles Bosworth, Jr. 
  3. Foreign Faction - Who Really Kidnapped JonBenet? by A. James Kolar

Glenn Puit

What makes Glenn Puit stand out from other true crime authors is his structure, and his extremely friendly, likable voice. Friendly voice you say -- in true crime? Yes, absolutely! He has an albeit chummy and shameless way of relating to readers and sharing his personal opinions about each murderer -- which is MUCH preferable to the authors who stick to the facts in the most dullest way possible. In addition, Puit leads up to the crime in a titillating crescendo, educating readers on each murderer's background and upbringing before getting to the violent nitty-gritty. It's a true letdown when a true crime book relates the details of a murder in the first chapter because it gives readers nothing to look forward to. Of Glenn Puit's books, I've read Witch (2005) and Father of the Year (2009). Since reading Witch, I've never been able to shake the thought there might be dead bodies in trash cans nearby each time I visit my storage unit. His other novels included the recently released Ghost (2011), In Her Prime (2009) and Fire in the Desert (2006).

Father of the Year review: Dreamworld Book Reviews -- Father of the Year by Glenn Puit

Jack Olsen

One of the most prolific authors in the true crime genre, the late Jack Olsen breaks down both the crime and murderer; respectfully helping readers understand why each occurred. Like Glenn Puit, Olsen possesses the gift of structuring true crime tales in the most graceful, put-together manner without making his stories sound like cheap tabloids. Olsen sympathizes with the victims while at the same time educating readers on character flaws and questionable upbringings that make murderers into the monsters they are. Writing true crime since 1960, Olsen has more than thirty books under his belt, although not all are true crime. My favorite book by Olsen is Salt of the Earth (1996) and I definitely plan on reading more. Olsen's most recent titles before his passing include The Happy Face Killer (2008), I: The Creation of a Serial Killer (2002) and Charmer: The True Story of a Ladies' Man and His Victims (1994).

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Another of America's most notorious killing in recent times, the Columbine shooting is carefully analyzed in this account by Dave Cullen. Through articulate research and thorough interviews, Cullen brings to light new facts and truths surrounding the events of April 20, 1999. While the public generally speculates on the "whys" behind the killers' motives, Cullen tactfully gears readers in a more plausible and realistic direction, which is one of the key reasons this book is incredible and amazing. In addition to being a New York Times bestseller, Columbine has also won countless awards and has ended up on numerous "Best of 2009" lists.

Here are more books about the Columbine Shooting:

  1. No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine High School
    by Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt
  2. Columbine: A True Crime Story by Jeff Kass
  3. Rachel's Tears: 10th Anniversary Edition: The Spiritual Journey of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott by Beth Nimmo

Columbine review: Dreamworld Book Reviews -- Columbine by Dave Cullen

What are your favorite true crime books? Who are your favorite true crime authors?


  1. I recently discovered a true crimebookon Kindle. The author was James Hays and the book was called The Sharon Kinne Story. As I was reading it I remembered seeing him on Discovery Channel's Deadly Women series. His book was very detailed, yet an easy read. It held my interest until the end. He also has a Fiction murder Mystery called Father 27 which I ordered, but haven't read yet. I like his style.

  2. I haven't heard of James Hays but I will definitely read The Sharon Kinne Story based on your recommendation! It must have made quite the impact if you ordered his fiction novel. Thanks for letting me know!

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