13 True Crime Audiobooks to Completely Destroy Your Faith in Humanity.
Sometimes truth is stranger – and more murderous – than fiction. Jack-o’-lanterns, werewolves, and marauding zombies can be scary, but there’s nothing more terrifying than the ordinary looking guy next door who happens to bury his victims in the basement. True crime sheds light on the darker side of life, investigating, reporting, and even trying to solve some of the worst crimes in history. Almost half of all true crime audiobooks investigate the homicidal predilections of the serial killer, by far one of the most fascinating and terrifying offenders.
Our list of 13 true crime audiobooks includes two classics: Truman Capote’s classic, and the progenitor of the genre, In Cold Blood. Published in 1966, it’s the second biggest selling true crime book of all time – and a must listen for true crime fan. Also on the list is Jeff Guin’s The Road to Jones Town. Jim Jones and Temples People. Guin’s is a comprehensive, authoritative, and tragic story of preacher Jim Jones, the man responsible for the Jonestown Massacre—the largest murder-suicide in American history.
As well as the classics, two newer, but no less fascinating titles have made the list including I’ll Gone in the Dark. One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by the late Michelle McNamara. As the title suggests, Michelle was intent on tracking down the serial rapist and murderer who terrified California for over a decade. Michelle passed away (of natural causes) before finishing the book, but it was completed by Michelle’s co-armchair investigators who’d worked with her on the case. I talked more about I’ll Be Gone In The Dark in my column last month.
The following books are definitely for adult ears only.
1. Mindhunter. Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker, narrated by John E. Douglas.
Special Agent John E. Douglas – inspiration for Jack Crawford’s character in SIlence of the Lambs – and inventor of criminal profiling discusses the individual case histories of some of America’s worst murders. It’s now a Netflix Original Series (which I recommend you check out)
Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, the Atlanta Child Murderers.
2. The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, narrated by the author
Alexandria opposed the death penalty. As a lawyer she actively defends men accused of murder. But as soon as the face of convicted murderer Rick Langley flashes on the screen, Alexandria is overcome by the desire to see Langley die. As she pores over the facts of the murder, Alexandria finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.
The Suspect(s): Rick Langley
The Victim(s): Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (the author), 6-year-old Jeremy Guillory
The Sentence: Guilty?
3. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.
The Suspect(s): The Golden State Killer (GSK)
Also known as: East Area Rapist, Original Night Stalker, Dollner Street Prowler, Diamond Knot Killer
The Victim(s):13+ murdered, 50+ raped, 120+ burgled
The Sentence: Suspect in custody
4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, narrated by Scott Brick
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues.
The Suspect(s): Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock, Perry Smith
The Victim(s): The Clutter family (4 deaths)
The Sentence: Death by hanging
5. Black Klansman. Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime by Ron Stallworth, narrated by the author
A black detective goes undercover to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan after answering a Colorado newspaper ad in 1978:
Ku Klux Klan
For Information Contact
P.O Box 4771
A searing portrait of a divided America and now a movie.
6. Dead Girls. Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin, narrated by Em Eldridge
Bolin explores the trope of dead women in fiction and our obsession with women who are abused, killed, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories.
The Suspect(s): Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, Serial
7. American Heiress. The Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin, narrated by Paul Michael
Nineteen-year-old Patty Hearst is kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Front, a cult-like group of political extremists and criminals. Whilst in the hands of the SLF, Patty appears to join her captors, taking part in a crime spree across California. Why did did she join them, what happened next?
The Suspect(s): Patty Hearst, The Symbionese Liberation Front
The Sentence: Found guilty of bank robbery, Sentence commuted by Jimmy Carter (1979), Pardoned by Bill Clinton (2001)
8. The Real Lolita. The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
The 1948 abduction of eleven-year-old Sally Horner formed the real-life inspiration behind Vladimir Nabokov’s classic and controversial novel Lolita. Sarah Weinman tells Sally’s full story for the first time and uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the case and the efforts he took to conceal that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.
The Suspect(s): Frank La Salle
The Victim(s): Florence Sally Horner
The Sentence: 30-35 years in prison
9. The Library Book by Susan Orlean, narrated by the author
The most catastrophic library fire in American history
The Suspect(s): Unknown
- 400,000 books
- 700,000 books damaged
- Los Angeles readers
10. The Road to Jones Town. Jim Jones and Temples People by Jeff Guinn, narrated by George Newbern
The Case: The Jonestown Massacre
The Suspect(s): Jim Jones
The Victim(s): 909 member of the cult, including 304 children by cyanide poisoning
The Sentence: Jones committed suicide by a gunshot wound to the head (1978)
11. The Feather Thief. Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
On a cool June evening in 2009 twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. I know what you’re thinking – hardly a normal start to a true crime audiobook. But the Tring museum was home to ridiculously valuable rare bird specimens, specimens that Edwin and others like him obsessed over. Once inside Edwin grabbed hundreds of bird skins and escaped into the darkness.
The Suspect(s): Edwin Rist
The Victim(s): The British Museum of Natural History, Ornithologists everywhere
The Sentence: 12 months (suspended), Fined £125,150 ($165,602 – 2018)
12. My Story by Elizabeth Smart (with Chris Stewart), narrated by the author
June 5th 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart is taken from her close-knit Mormon family in the middle of the night by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Chained, dressed in disguise and repeatedly raped, Elizabeth was told her family would be killed if she tried to escape.
The Suspect(s): Husband and wife, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee
The Victim(s): Elizabeth Smart (the author)
- Wanda Barzee: 15 years in prison (released September 2018)
- Brian David Mitchell: life in prison without parole
13. The Devil in the White City. Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson, narrated by Scott Brick
Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds – a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.
The Suspect(s): Henry H. Holmes, aka Herman Webster Mudgett, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes
- 9 known
- Estimated 20-200
The Sentence: Death by hanging (1896)