A Life of (true) Crime

By Kristi S.

I was raised on true crime. I recognize that this is a weird statement, but it is completely true. I’ve had insomnia all my life, so instead of struggling to sleep I would stay up with my mom watching investigations unfold. We loved Dominick Dunne, 48 Hours Mystery, and Psychic Detectives. To this day, if we are together in the evenings, we inevitably turn on Investigation Discovery and try to solve cold cases as though we are more qualified than the professionals.

Unfortunately, my love of true crime was not particularly useful throughout my schooling. Most kids don’t want to talk forensics on the playground. However, the genre is definitely on the rise now. With podcasts, documentaries, and streaming series coming out all the time, people are hungry for the thrill of in-depth investigations. So, if you are like me and anxiously awaiting the next installment of your favorite podcast, this list is for you!

What to Read

The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller
Spoiler Alert: Lizzie Borden did not actually give her (alleged) victims that many whacks. This book is a comprehensive and accessible look into an infamous crime, drawing on legal records and newspaper accounts to present evidence and authentic dialogue. This is a quick and engaging read with photos and diagrams to enhance the narrative.

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
Journalist David Simon spends a year shadowing three detectives on the streets of Baltimore, and creates this entrancing and fast-paced book that reads like a detective novel. The book details multiple cases while also offering an inside look into the judicial system and the difficult lives of police in one of the most crime-ridden cities in America. Simon expertly weaves together a year of cases into a captivating narrative that later became the inspiration for two TV series, Homicide, Life on the Street and The Wire.

What to Watch

The Jinx
If you are a fan of true crime and you have not yet watched this documentary, drop everything and watch it now. Robert Durst’s level of cooperation with the filmmaker is astounding and the end will completely shock you.

The Perfect Crime
I am always interested in the motivation behind murder, and the motivation of the men in this documentary is particularly sinister. The movie covers the details of the crime well, using real photos of the crime scene, and addresses the larger debate in court about capital punishment and mental health. Bonus: This crime inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rope.

What to Listen to

The Cases That Haunt Us by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Does this author sound familiar? John Douglas is the basis of Netflix’s popular original series, Mindhunter. In this book, he and Mark Olshaker team up to apply advanced criminology techniques to eight controversial unsolved murder cases in an attempt to offer new insights into the nature of the murderer. The research is exhaustive and the notoriety of the cases have you on the edge of your seat. And, yes, John Douglas is as arrogant as he is portrayed on Mindhunter.

Psycho USA by Harold Shechter
Why do some murderers become legendary, while others are largely forgotten? Schechter expertly addresses this question while dissecting the crimes, media coverage, and public reaction to lesser-known murderers in American history. Filled with gritty historical detail and divided into short chapters, this audiobook is great for people who are used to getting their true crime fix through podcasts.

Are you interested in true crime, but none of these titles pique your interest? Conduct your own search! Simply enter ‘true crime’ as a keyword search term in our catalog and filter results to your heart’s content. Prefer downloadable material? We have 978 items in the True Crime category on Overdrive. You can even search ‘True Crime’ in Hoopla to find movies and television series to stream instantly. The options are endless and you are sure to find something fascinating.

Let me know what you are reading, watching, and listening to (podcasts too!) in the comments. I can’t wait to get started on my next case.

Note: No child psyches were harmed in the making of this human.

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12 responses to “A Life of (true) Crime”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I loved Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker. It’s great because it centers the victims instead of the killer – they’re not just faceless dead women, they’re real people with histories and personalities. Really excellent!

  2. Lindsey A. says:

    I have to thank the podcast My Favorite Murder for getting me into true crime. I have a close friend who has always been fascinated by crime and I never understood the appeal, but now it’s something we talk about all the time. I started listening to that podcast and it led me down so many rabbit holes of research, as well as new podcasts (Atlanta Monster, In the Dark, Missing & Murdered, Someone Knows Something, to name a few more). I especially love cold cases (they’re maddening but they encourage us to think like detectives), historical cases, and cases that focus on marginalized victims whose murders didn’t garner widespread media attention. Love the post!

    • Kristi S. says:

      I am also a My Favorite Murder and Atlanta Monster fan! Did you listen to Up and Vanished as well? Cold cases are my favorite because I irrationally think that I have the skills to solve them. I can’t wait to try out the other podcasts you mentioned, some of them are new to me!

  3. Isaac H. says:

    My wife loves the “My Favorite Murder”! Shes part of the ‘meowderino’ subgroup (folks with an unusual interest in murder and cats). She’s even brought me out to a few of the Seattle ‘Murderino’ group meetings and Seattle historic crime tours. Theres a “My Favorite Murder” true crime booklist on bibliocommons (not sure how to link it here).

    • Kristi S. says:

      Meowderino is my new favorite thing. As a crime and cat lover myself, I cannot believe I did not know about this until now. Funny you should mention the Seattle historic crime tours because I was just discussing doing one with a friend today! What did you think?
      And here is Isaac’s awesome My Favorite Murder booklist for more true crime suggestions. I’ll be adding many of them to my reading list!

      • Isaac H. says:

        I thought it was great. The one we took was almost entirely in the Pioneer Square area, and conducted by one of the SPL librarians who also has a podcast (I can’t recall the name). It was really fun!

      • Kristi S. says:

        Awesome, thank you! I will absolutely be doing this.

    • Amy S says:


  4. Amy S says:

    Thanks for this post! I just got in line for I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara and look forward to listening to that.

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