True crime is everywhere these days: podcasts, TV miniseries, and even star-studded spoofs like Only Murders in the Building.
If you enjoy the genre but want a little more distance from real events, try one of these novels. These stories deliver tales of monstrous criminals – some loosely based on true stories – without exploiting the stories of real victims.
For even more chilling novels, cloudLibrary offers e-books and audiobooks you can read on most smart devices.
Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar
This metafictional thriller follows a recent college graduate who chronicles terrifying events in his small town, where a serial killer has set up shop. This novel is a fascinating blend of real-world and the imaginary. The book’s narrator is a fictionalized version of the author, with inner and external details from his real life, but the grisly murders he documents are the work of Chizmar’s imagination.
Conviction by Denise Mina
True crime podcasts figure into this story about an upper-class housewife whose world is turned upside down when a new true crime podcast connects to her own past. This spellbinding thriller balances mystery and humor with intriguing commentary on modern life.
The Darkness Knows by Arnaldur Indriðason
A Nordic noir! The body of a man who disappeared 30 years ago is found in a melting glacier, forcing detective Konrad out of retirement to reopen the investigation. Soon, he discovers his own father, a fake medium and “a bit of a devil,” might be tangled up in the case. You’ll be thinking about revenge and family loyalty long after finishing this chilling tale.
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
The teenage daughter of a serial killer is placed in an affluent foster family and given a new identity. But in the face of bullies and threats against a friend, she wrestles with whether she should follow in her mother’s violent path. This is an intricately plotted story with an unsettling, suspenseful tone – perfect for fans of true crime stories.
The Harbor by Katrine Engberg
A teen boy vanishes, leaving behind a strange note with a quote from Oscar Wilde that leads detectives to think he may have died by suicide. But the plot thickens after two of his teachers are found dead, sending the police on a desperate search through Copenhagen to find the missing teen.
I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan
Filmmaker/podcaster Cody Swift was best friends with two boys who were beaten to death back in 1996, when they were just 11 and 10 years old. In 2017, a mentally disabled adult convicted of the killings dies by suicide in prison, prompting Cody to reexamine the murders. As his podcast raises doubts about who was to blame, he’s increasingly under threat from one of the victim’s mothers, a detective who lost his career because of the case, and the detective who originally built the now-crumbling case. This is a riveting thriller that blends scenes from the original investigation with Cody’s present-day interviews.
No Bad Deed by Heather Chavez
The night before Halloween, veterinarian Cassie is driving home when she sees a man assaulting a woman by the side of the road and confronts him. The next night, while trick-or-treating with their daughter, Cassie’s husband disappears. When the cops dismiss her concerns about her husband, it’s up to Cassie to hunt down a psychopath.
Survive the Night by Riley Sager
In the early 1990s, Charlie accepts a ride to Ohio from a fellow student at her university, which has been devastated by the recent murders of three students. The whole book unfolds over one horrifying night in which Charlie slowly realizes she might be sitting beside the Campus Killer himself. This is a page-turner with lots of film references (Charlie’s namesake is the heroine in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt) and a hellish locked-room setting.
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
This haunting domestic noir will remind you of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones or Room by Emma Donoghue. When Laurel’s 15-year-old daughter disappeared a decade ago, she was chalked up as a runaway. But when she meets a new man whose 9-year-old daughter bears an uncanny likeness to her missing daughter, Laurel begins to put the pieces together. This book has plenty of twists and turns that will keep even the most observant reader guessing until the end.
This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel
Sisters Natalie and Kit are estranged after their mother’s death. When Kit joins a commune on a private island off the coast of Maine, Natalie receives a disturbing email from someone at the commune who threatens to expose a secret she’s been keeping from Kit. Natalie heads to the commune to try to rescue her sister, but the group’s charismatic leader has other plans for the siblings. This page-turner builds and builds until you’re racing to the end!