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Halloween is just around the corner, and we can’t think of anything more fitting than curling up in your favorite reading chair with one of the best true crime books of 2019. After all, there’s nothing more spooky than a twisted tale of suspense and mystery — except for a tale of suspense and mystery that actually happened.
According to NPD BookScan via Publisher’s Weekly, the true crime genre, which details the events of real crime and their aftermath, is experiencing a boom in a big way, with 1.6 million true crime books being sold in 2018 alone — the category sold 976,000 print copies just two years prior.
“At its most basic, true crime appeals to people’s desire for a vicarious thrill,” Will Underwood, the Kent State University Press acquiring editor, told the outlet. “People have always been fascinated with stories of others who behaved badly and tried to get away with it.”
Oftentimes, they also offer insight or alternate perspectives on the people behind these chilling crimes, helping the reader — or the author — to make sense of what happened.
For Kerri Rawson, the daughter of serial killer Dennis Rader, aka the BTK strangler, writing her memoir, A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming ($17.99, Amazon), was therapeutic. “This process has healed me,” she told Esquire in February. “Because I have been private and hiding these things for almost 10 years and to be able to just be like, here’s my life, here’s me … there was almost a power in that, a positive thing that could come out of all this awfulness.”
The Best True Crime Stories of 2019
From comprehensive accounts of some of this year’s biggest crimes and scandals to chilling tales of remembrance from those who were victimized firsthand by scam artists and thieves, we’ve rounded up some of the most jaw-dropping true crime books of the year. Keep reading for FIRST’s picks for the best true crime books of 2019.
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Catch And Kill
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
Where to buy: $18, Amazon
Sitting at No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller’s list is award-winning journalist Ronan Farrow’s account of the espionage and intimidation tactics he faced while investigating Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse scandal, which Farrow was instrumental in breaking in October 2017. More than that, however, he examines the dark practices going on behind closed doors via a "catch and kill" strategy, in which those in positions of power will take extreme measures to bury unfavorable stories from being reported.
Murder, Interrupted by James Patterson
Where to buy: $11.83, Amazon
A master of suspense on the fiction side, Patterson manages to cross over into true crime seamlessly with Murder, Interrupted, a harrowing retelling of the crimes of Frank Howard, an adulterous financier who wants to off his wife, and Gypsy Rose, a young woman who plots her mother’s death after learning she has been falsely made to believe that she is chronically ill to keep her dependent.
My Friend Anna
My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel Deloache Williams
Where to buy: $18.49, Amazon
Vanity Fair photo editor Deloache Williams’ tale about befriending supposed German heiress Anna Delvey in New York City and jet-setting across the globe with her to Marrakesh begins like a Real Housewives plotline. It took a turn for the terrible, however, when Williams realized her new “friend” was no heiress at all, but a scam artist in disguise who had taken her for thousands of dollars.
The Ghosts Of Eden Park
The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbot
Where to buy: $21.07, Amazon
Hailed as “Gatsby-era noir at its best" by beloved true crime author Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, $9.99, Amazon), The Ghosts of Eden Park follows famed Prohibition-era bootlegger George Remus, who, at one point in time, solely owned 35 percent of all of the restricted liquor available in the United States. When he is eventually caught, his wife takes up with investigator Franklin Dodge, leading to her untimely death once Remus is released from prison.
Letters From Christopher
Letters from Christopher: The Tragic Confessions of the Watts Family Murders by Cheryln Cadle
Where to buy: $19, Amazon
The nation was rocked in late 2018 when Christopher Watts admitted to murdering his pregnant wife of six years, Shan’ann Watts, and their two young daughters. In this book, author Cheryln Cadle, who wrote to Christopher in jail, shares letters she received from him in which he puts his crimes to paper, revealing details behind the atrocities he committed that were reportedly not even known by the FBI.
The Less People Know About Us
The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets, and Stolen Identity by Axton Betz-Hamilton
Where to buy: $24.30, Amazon
Not all crime has a face — a fact author Axton Betz-Hamilton makes all too clear in her autobiography, The Less People Know About Us. In it, she recounts her life growing up in rural Indiana in the ‘90s as her parents were dealing with a double case of stolen identity. Though the family made the decision to go into hiding to escape the perpetrator, Betz-Hamilton’s own identity was ultimately stolen in adulthood as well, perpetuating the nightmarish cycle that began with the theft of her mother and father’s information when she just 11 years old.
If You Tell
If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen
Where to buy: $11.99, Amazon
If You Tell examines the relationship between three sisters who suffered abuse at the hands of their murderous mother in their youth. Together, they find the strength to overcome their personal trauma and bring her to justice, ultimately ending her reign of terror for good.
The Gifted School
The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
Where to buy: $22.49, Amazon
OK, OK, so this novel about a community of well-to-do parents who will do anything, including lying, cheating, and stealing, to get their children into a prestigious new “gifted” school in the neighborhood, isn’t “exactly” a true crime novel. But its plot sure seems familiar. Many drew comparison between this sordidly juicy tale of deceit and the headline-making college admissions scandal that broke earlier this year, in which celebrity parents Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were indicted on charges of bribery and fraud for allegedly paying bribes to ensure their children’s college admission and boost their SAT scores, respectively.
A Serial Killer's Daughter
A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson
Where to buy: $17.99, Amazon
Kerri Rawson’s world was rocked in 2005 when she learned that her loving, devoted father, Dennis Rader, was the living a double life as the “BTK (bind, kill, torture) strangler,” — a man responsible for the murders of 10 innocent people between 1974 and 1991. "My mom and I have both said, early on, if we had known, we would've gone screaming out the door, running to the police," she told Esquire in February. "[We] didn't know we were living with a psychopath. They're really good at hiding."
Here, she shares her story of coming to terms with his true identity and rebuilding her life in the wake of the shock and horror.
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