The hit podcast Serial reminded the true crime lovers of the world that they were not alone. Recently, the arrest of the man believed to be the Golden State Killer brought together true crime amateurs, aficionados, and newcomers alike. What is it about grisly crimes, famous misdeeds or unlikeable men and women that draw the eyes and ears and minds of so many otherwise sane people around the world? Well, I can’t answer that, because I’m one of those people that is fascinated by true crime. I remember where I was when the Casey Anthony verdict was read. Sure, I wasn’t even born yet when OJ Simpson was acquitted, but I’ve read so many books and seen so many documentaries on the subject I feel like I was there. My new dive into the history of the Golden State Killer reminded me of just how many great true crime books there are out there. Whether you remember the case and want more information or are learning about it for the first time, these books, which profile some of the big crimes of the past hundred years, are a great place to start.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area. Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind.

The Run of His Life: The People vs OJ Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

The definitive account of the O. J. Simpson trial, The Run of His Life is a prodigious feat of reporting that could have been written only by the foremost legal journalist of our time. First published less than a year after the infamous verdict, Jeffrey Toobin’s nonfiction masterpiece tells the whole story, from the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman to the ruthless gamesmanship behind the scenes of “the trial of the century.” Rich in character, as propulsive as a legal thriller, this enduring narrative continues to shock and fascinate with its candid depiction of the human drama that upended American life.

Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony by Jeff AshtonIt was the trial that stunned America. On July 5, 2011, nearly three years after her initial arrest, Casey Anthony walked away, virtually scot-free, from one of the most sensational murder trials of all time. She’d been accused of killing her daughter, Caylee, but the trial only left behind more questions: Was she actually innocent? What really happened to Caylee? Was this what justice really looked like? In Imperfect Justice, prosecutor Jeff Ashton, one of the principal players in the case’s drama, sheds light on those questions and much more, telling the behind-the-scenes story of the investigation, the trial, and the now-infamous verdict. Complete with never-before-revealed information about the case and the accused, Ashton examines what the prosecution got right, what they got wrong, and why he remains completely convinced of Casey Anthony’s guilt.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

  In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse

The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next, regarding each other at first with compassion, and later suspicion. Vigilante groups sprang up, patrolling the rural Virginia coast with cameras and camouflage. Volunteer firefighters slept at their stations. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, but local police were stretched too thin to surveil them all. Accomack was desolate—there were hundreds of abandoned buildings. And by the dozen they were burning.

Chappaquiddick: Power, Privilege, and the Ted Kennedy Cover-Up by Leo Damore

This is the damning true story of the death of campaign strategist Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick and of the senator—37-year-old Senator Ted Kennedy—who left her trapped underwater while he returned to his hotel, slept, and made phone calls to associates. It is the story of a powerful, privileged American man who was able to treat a woman’s life as disposable without facing real consequences. And it is the story of a shameful political coverup involving one of the nation’s most well-connected families and its network of lawyers, public relations people, and friends who ensured Ted Kennedy remained a respected member of the Senate for forty more years.

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Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member