True crime books have enjoyed a resurgence since the podcast Serial and Netflix series Making a Murderer woke a new generation to the thrill of real-life investigations. For the new fan, there is a rich vein of excellent narrative nonfiction ready to tap into, not least Truman Capote's classic, genre-defining In Cold Blood, and Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song.
The resurgence of enthusiasm for true crime has also seen a wave of brilliant new writing in recent years. The New Yorker's David Grann, himself the author of the best-selling, award winning Killers of the Flower Moon, highlighted in an interview some of the best true crime books that had influenced his work, while the crime novelist Jax Miller independently contributed her favourite reads in the genre.
Casey Cep's book, Furious Hours, was shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction in 2019. Whilst Hallie Rubenstein's book, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper won the Baillie Gifford Prize for nonfiction 2019
Why do women kill? What does violence tell us about human nature? How do the methods of the criminal justice system speak to an era? Cara Robertson—a lawyer, author and expert on the famous Lizzie Borden case—picks five true crime books that deal in murder, individual psychology, public trials and justice.
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science
by Douglas Starr
Murder and the Making of English CSI
by Ian Burney & Neil Pemberton
The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial
by Maggie Nelson
Killer in the Shadows: The Monstrous Crimes of Robert Napper
by Laurence Alison & Marie Eyre
Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification
by Simon A. Cole
Jim Fraser, veteran forensic investigator and author of Murder Under the Microscope, selects five of the best books about forensic science. Forget what you think you know about the subject from crime fiction and television dramas, and bring a healthy scepticism: this line of work can be as much a craft as a science.
True crime books can be all too easily chalked up as a genre of grisly murders and cheap, voyeuristic thrills—but to do so would be to overlook compelling evidence to the contrary. David Grann, whose true crime book revisits long-forgotten, or concealed, crimes in the Osage community of Oklahoma, raises the bar with examples of true crime books rich in historical discovery, literary merit and the kind of political inquiry these murky times are calling for