Most Shocking
10 Most Disturbing Crime Books You Will Ever Read

Many people are intrigued by crime. It transgresses the borders of acceptability in society. The majority of people will never commit a serious crime. However, true crime books remain a very popular genre of reading material for a large amount of people. Why? Possibly because people want to know the gory details.

For others, it’s to try to understand the people who would commit such acts in the hope that they would be able to identify such people, thus reducing the potential of them becoming a victim. And other people, well, they just like to read about crime as a legal way of experiencing it.

10Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (1974)

Helter Skelter is the biggest-selling true crime book ever published. It was written by Charles Manson’s prosecutor, about both the crimes and Manson’s trial. In 2015, Bugliosi sadly passed away aged 80-years-old, at the time of his death Helter Skelter had sold over seven million copies.

Manson not only murdered people but also convinced others to perform a series of murders for him. Helter Skelter isn’t for the easily scared – the murders were savagely violent. One of the victims, Sharon Tate, was eight and a half months pregnant and was stabbed 16 times. Although Manson was sentenced to death, it was eventually outlawed in California so Manson is currently serving life in prison.

To purchase from please press the link below:
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders


9. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966)

Truman Capote’s classic, In Cold Blood, became the second biggest seller in the genre. Focusing on the murders of four members of the Clutter family who were murdered in their own home in November 1959. Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock and Perry Smith broke into the Clutter house, tied them up then shot them, one by one. The murders were brutal, the killers unapologetic and seemingly pointless.

Hickock and Smith thought they’d be in the money but they found less than $50 and slaughtered the family anyway. Despite going on the run, Hickock and Smith were eventually found and executed for their crimes.

Although there are said to be some discrepancies between what really happened and Capote’s interpretation, the facts of the murders remain true, Capote simply used creative licence to tell the story. In Cold Blood is regarded as the first non-fiction novel.

To purchase from please press the link below:
In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)


8. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (1980)

Ann Rule was asked to write a book about the murders of multiple young women, which were unsolved at the time of her being commissioned. Little did she know, the man responsible for those vicious killings was a man she had worked beside on a suicide hotline with – Ted Bundy. During their time as colleagues, Ann came to regard Ted as a friend.

Although the revelation that her friend was a brutal murderer shook Ann Rule, it left her as possibly the best person to write about Bundy and his vile crimes. The first few chapters of The Stranger Beside Me not only describe Bundy’s early life but also his interactions with Rule and her initial reluctance to believe her friend is the perpetrator of these awful crimes.

To purchase from please press the link below:
The Stranger Beside Me

7. Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano (2006)

Gomorrah traces the decline of Campania in Naples, Italy, which has one of the highest murder rates in Europe. This is due to the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation. Since 1979, over three and a half thousand people have been brutally murdered at the hands of Comorra. Saviano infiltrated and investigated businesses and other areas controlled or affected by Camorra.

In Gomorrah, Saviano exposes the extent of Camorra’s control by detailing the degeneration of the region due to Camorra’s influence. Saviano also reveals how brutally the organisation is run as well as the lengths they will go to in order to protect its interests. Following the publication of the book, Saviano has received a myriad of death threats and now has his own permanent police escort.

By January 2009, over two million copies of Gomorrah had been sold in Italy alone. It has won several literary prizes.

To purchase from please press the link below:
Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia

6. The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer (1979)

Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book is based almost entirely on interviews with the family and friends of murderer Gary Gilmore and his victims. The novel is divided into three sections – the lead-up to the murders, Gilmore’s trial and his eventual execution. The Executioner’s Song includes information relating to Gilmore’s court appearances, his decision not to continue the appeals process and his demand for the death penalty.

Gilmore, in order to be executed for the murder of two men, had to fight a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after he’d been sentenced to death. Gary Gilmore was the first man to be executed in the US following the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Mailer subsequently revealed that Gilmore’s case interested him because “he embodied many of the themes I’ve been living with all my life”. 

To purchase from please press the link below:
The Executioner’s Song (Arena Books)

5. Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss (1983)

In February 1970, Jeffrey MacDonald was found injured, while his pregnant wife and two young daughters were discovered murdered. MacDonald claimed that attackers had broken in and knocked him unconscious while they murdered his family. The account that MacDonald gave was similar to the well-publicised Tata-LaBianca murders which had occurred the previous year. However, there was no evidence of a break-in, MacDonald was tried for the murders.

MacDonald hired McGinniss to write about the trial, sure that the journalist would prove his innocence but McGinnis became certain that MacDonald murdered his family in a drug-induced rage. Fatal Vision is written in a narrative format, interspersed with transcripts of recordings, becomes an investigation that gradually builds a case against MacDonald. Fatal Vision has been criticised for its inconsistencies and there have been several books written in response to it.

To purchase from please press the link below:
Fatal Vision

4. For the Thrill of It by Simon Baatz (2008)

In 1924, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two graduate students from wealthy families, kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy with no motivation other than the thrill of killing – and their belief that they’d get away with the crime.Leopold and Loeb were intelligent young men and they believed they were too clever to get caught. Graduates from the University of Chicago, Leopold and Loeb’s crime was described at the time as ‘the crime of the century’.

When they were caught, the state attorney was sure that the pair would be sentenced to death but Loeb’s parents retained Clarence Darrow, the most famous lawyer in the US. Darrrow’s closing speech lasted twelve hours. Both men were sentenced to life in prison plus 99 years. Loeb was killed by a prisoner in 1936, Leopold was released in 1958.

To purchase from please press the link below:
For the Thrill of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago

3. A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism by Alston Chase (2004)

A radical interpretation, Alton Chase’s book, A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism, describes the life of Ted Kaczynski, a former academic also known as the Unabomber who between 1978 and 1995 killed three people and injured twenty-three by sending bombs to universities and airlines. Kaczynski advocated anti-modernity and nature-centred anarchy.

Alston Chase argues that Kaczynski wasn’t the wild mountain man that the media assumed him to be and that, though Kaczynski was a cold-blooded killer, his ideas were actually pretty close to those of mainstream America. Chase strips away the tabloid sensationalism of the Unabomber and avoids shallow ‘lone madman’ judgements. Chase gives a brilliant pen portrait of his subject, describing Kaczynski’s love of reading and isolation to his pursuit of murder.

To purchase from please press the link below:
A Mind for Murder: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origins of Modern Terrorism: The Education of the Unabomber and the Origin of Modern Terrorism


2. The Last Victim: A True-Life Journey into the Mind of the Serial Killer by Jason Moss (1999)

The Last Victim A True-Life Journey into the Mind of the Serial Killer by Jason Moss doesn’t focus on one serial killer but five. In 1994, Jason Moss was a college student and as part of his thesis, he began to correspond with John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, Henry Lee Lucas, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Charles Manson. Prior to writing to each killer, Moss researched what would most likely interest them and cast himself as either potential victim, admirer, surrogate or disciple.

Moss stated in his book that he had been interested in a career with the FBI and thought the best way to mark himself out as a candidate would be to gain the trust of a serial killer and hopefully learn more about their crimes or unsolved murders.

He formed a strong relationship with Gacy (who sexually assaulted and killed at least 33 teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978). Gacy maintained his innocence to Moss. However, the title of the book comes from Moss’s belief that he was Gacy’s ‘final victim’, having had a face-to-face meeting with Gacy in prison, Moss felt he was psychologically overpowered by Gacy.

Jason Moss committed suicide in June 2006.

To purchase from please press the link below:
The Last Victim: A True-life Journey into the Mind of the Serial Killer

1. Columbine by Dave Cullen (2009)

Published to coincide with the ten year anniversary of the tragedy, Cullen’s work about the Columbine mass shooting covers two distinct timeframes: the killers’ lives prior to the attack, and the survivors’ difficulties in the aftermath of the tragedy. Each chapter switches between the two ‘stories’ including graphic representations of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris’s shooting spree.

Former journalist Cullen’s book addresses many myths associated with Columbine. According to the author, the massacre had nothing to do with bullying, goth subculture or Marilyn Manson. It is even more chilling when Cullen discusses that the attack was not initially intended as a shooting, but rather as a bombing. The shooters had wanted to create the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Columbine won several awards and was declared the Top Education Book of 2009 by the American School Board Journal.

To purchase from please press the link below:

Here at we strive to bring you the most shocking and interesting crime facts. Notice something not quite right or inaccurate? Get in touch in the comments below and we’ll be happy to investigate…


About the author

Victoria Watson is a writer, copy editor and Creative Writing tutor. She has won awards for her fiction and non-fiction works and she’s the official blogger for the multi-award-winning Whitley Bay Film Festival.

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *