Best True Crime Books in the UK

Review & Comparison, Last Update August 12, 2020
If you love stories that are based on real events, true crime books should fit you to a tee. For our shortlist, we have selected the 5 best books that describe interesting stories with great suspense. So even if you are familiar with the crime, you still will be able to enjoy every page of these books. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2020
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
AUTHOR
GENRE
BOOK TYPE
PUBLISHER
NUMBER OF PAGES
 
PROS

Unlike most authors who describe the psychological portrait of the criminal, David Wilson focuses on the victims. He analyses the impact of socio-economic status of the country, which helps determine the killer's motives.

CONS

Some of the chapters are solely based on secondary sources.

OUR VERDICT

David Willson is a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University. He often gives his commentary about the system of criminal justice on radio and television. And this book about the serial killers is definitely a worthy read.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Prof David Wilson

GENRE

True Crime, Nonfiction, History

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable version)

PUBLISHER

Sphere

NUMBER OF PAGES

320 pages

PROS

The story is written from a first person's perspective, which makes it way more interesting and captivating. It provides an in-depth look at the gangs that were active in the East End of London in 1980s.

CONS

The writing is a little childish.

OUR VERDICT

Linda Calvey, also known as Black Widow, has spent 18 years behind bars with the other famous criminals like Rose West and Myra Hindley. Now, out of prison, she tells the story of Ronnie Cook's tragic death.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Linda Calvey

GENRE

True Crime, Nonfiction

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable version)

PUBLISHER

Mirror Books

NUMBER OF PAGES

264 pages

PROS

The case of every serial killer contains information on how, where and when they killed their victims, their life story, as well as a trial and sentence (if they were). All true crime fans will also find horrific quotes of the criminals in this book.

CONS

The content sometimes suffers from a lack of objectivity.

OUR VERDICT

The book provides information about 150 serial killers including such infamous personalities as Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Richard Ramirez, as well as many other criminals from all over the world.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Jack Rosewood

GENRE

True Crime, Nonfiction, Mystery

BOOK TYPE

Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable version)

PUBLISHER

Not listed

NUMBER OF PAGES

444 pages

PROS

The book includes interesting and sometimes even shocking interviews with the criminals, the staff, and medical experts that allow seeing each case from a different angle. Thanks to that, you will be able to get a better understanding of a serial killer's behaviour.

CONS

Some users find the book poorly structured.

OUR VERDICT

Journalist Jonathan Levi and cultural historian Emma French in their book describe the life of the criminals who spend their sentence in the Broadmoor asylum. Their book is based on secret files that recently went public, so everything in this read is 100% true.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Jonathan Levi, Emma French

GENRE

True Crime, Nonfiction, Mystery

BOOK TYPE

Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable version)

PUBLISHER

Blink Publishing

NUMBER OF PAGES

304 pages

PROS

The author conducted her own investigation but had faced a few dead ends. She was unable to find a lot about Keyes' past. There are no documents or records about his childhood or the beginning of his military career. 

CONS

The story is a bit slow-paced.

OUR VERDICT

The book describes the life of Israel Keyes who had committed a series of violent murders, rapes, robberies and other crimes during 14 years. However, a lot of people have never heard of him since the FBI decided not to spread information about his crimes, and the author explains why.

detailed parameters
AUTHOR

Maureen Callahan

GENRE

True Crime, Nonfiction, Mystery

BOOK TYPE

Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook (downloadable version)

PUBLISHER

Penguin Books

NUMBER OF PAGES

299 pages

David Wilson A History Of British Serial Killing:

A Detailed Book By the Leading Criminal Expert

If you are interested in true crimes and especially in the British criminal justice system, you’ve probably heard the name of David Wilson before. Nowadays, he is a professor of criminology at Birmingham City University. But during his career, he also worked as a prison governor and a profiler. David Willson is considered one of the leading criminology experts in the UK and often gives his commentary on different cases and the justice system in general on TV and radio. In his book The History Of British Serial Killing, the author provides an in-depth look at different famous murders.

Starting from the Victorian era, he analyses the crimes of Jack the Ripper - a 19th-century murderer who killed several prostitutes in the Whitechapel area. Even though the killer was never caught, the police were able to make his portrait. For example, one of the theories was that “Jack” could be a doctor due to the precision with which he cut his victims.

The other notorious criminal the author mentions in his books is Harold Shipman. He was a general practice doctor who killed more than 200 of his patients in the period between 1975 and 1998. It was later determined that his main motive was profit.

Of course, such a book could not forget about the Suffolk Murders committed by Steve Wright - Jack the Ripper of the 21st century who killed 5 women. There are also a few other criminals mentioned in the book, both famous and not really. But the author provides a deep analysis for each of them.

Review of David Wilson A History Of British Serial Killing: The Shocking Account of Jack the Ripper, Harold Shipman and Beyond

Analyses not Only Criminals but Also Victims

What makes this book different from other ones that describe serial killer crimes is the fact that the writer focuses not only on the psychological portrait of the killer but also on the victims. What is more, he analyses the impact of the socio-economic status of the country on both victims and criminals. It allows us to find the similarities between them and determine the weakest parts of the British justice system. He also provides his thoughts on how society makes itself exposed to serial killers.

Many readers highly praised the book for good organisation and ease of reading, so even if you are new to the genre, you will be able to enjoy it.

In the end, those true crime fans who want to take a closer look at the famous British crimes and the victims may want to read this non-fiction book by David Wilson. Professor makes a very needed call for social and justice reform that may help avoid the appearance of new serial killers in the future.

David Wilson A History Of British Serial Killing: The Shocking Account of Jack the Ripper, Harold Shipman and Beyond in the use

 

Linda Calvey The Black Widow:

Woman With Horrific Past

Those hardcore real crime books fans who seek an intense read may be interested in the autobiography by Linda Calvey. Linda, who is one of the most well-known women-criminals in the UK, decided to share her life story of gang life, murder and imprisonment in the memoir The Black Widow. The title was chosen for a reason - Black Widow was Linda’s nickname given to her by reporters when her case went public. She was married four times, but each time she ended up a widow, and it wasn’t always just an unfortunate coincidence.

The author describes her memories of all the horrible deeds she did in the past. She recalls growing up in the East End of London after the war. Like with most people of that time, poverty and devastation in the rough neighbourhood were unlikely to provide a happy childhood to the British. At a pretty young age, Linda got involved in a local gang, which was the start of her criminal career. At first, she was a lookout and then became a getaway driver for her gang. Later on, when the love of her life and a fellow gangster Mickey Calvey died, she began to take an active part in the robberies herself and hold people up at the gunpoint.

Black Widow became widely known in 1990 when she was accused of murdering her lover. Linda was in the relationship with Ronnie Cook, who kept her in fear for years. She decided to hire a hitman Danny Reece and paid him £10,000. However, Recce wasn’t actually a person who pulled the trigger. When he refused to kill Cook at the last minute, Linda shot him herself while he was kneeling in front of her.

Review of Linda Calvey The Black Widow: The true crime book of the year

Intense Read For True Crime Lovers

Linda Calvey spent 3 years in prison for robbery and, after she was accused of murder, was put behind bars for 18 years more. Since she refused to confess in her crime, she had to serve a double sentence. This makes her an owner of an unpleasant title of the longest-serving female prisoner in Great Britain. During her imprisonment, she was moved between 14 different facilities and met other infamous criminals, Myra Hindley and Rose West. When she was released, she began to lead a quiet life and married a local businessman (he also died after a while). Years later, Linda decides to open up about her life story in the book.

The narrative in this true story book comes from a first-person perspective, which allows us to feel the atmosphere of the poor East End and take a closer look at the gang life of the 90s. Overall, The Black Widow is not an easy read but it will surely please real crime lovers.

Linda Calvey The Black Widow: The true crime book of the year in the use

 

Jack Rosewood The Big Book of

Collection of Cases from all over the World

Jack Rosewood has written a full-on encyclopedia on serial murderers from all over the world. The Big Book of Serial Killers provides detailed descriptions on how, where and when the murders occurred, psychological portraits of criminals and victims, trials, sentences, and many more.

From the young age, we get frightened by monsters, vampires that lurk in the dark, stalk you, kill and tear you apart. Unfortunately, such horrific creatures exist in the real world, too. And even though they may not have fangs or claws, their deeds are still so horrible and terrifying that it may be hard to believe a person could commit something so vile and convoluted. It is hard to find an American who hasn’t heard the name of Jeffery Dahmer - a killer, rapist and cannibal who murdered around 17 young boys, or John Wayne Gacy - another monster who tortured and killed men. The other notorious killer and psychopath described in this book is satanist Richard Ramirez, who was a killer, rapist, and a burglar. The trial process on these horrible people and their deeds was widely discussed by media. However, there are hundreds of other serial killers who didn’t get such wide press coverage. So in his book, the author gathers the material about 150 serial killers from the USA, Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Corea, China, Denmark, and Australia.

A case of every serial killer contains the description of the crime, psychological portrait of a criminal and victims, trial (if there was one) and sentence. The author also provides his commentary and thoughts on not only the criminals but victims as well. And even though some readers point out that some of his comments may lack objectivity, there is still a lot of raw information you can read about the cases.

Review of Jack Rosewood The Big Book of Serial Killers: 150 Serial Killer Files of the World's Worst Murderers

Includes Graphic Descriptions

The book is pretty graphic and includes very detailed information about horrific murders, which may not fit the taste of every reader. However, if this topic fascinates you, you won’t be able to put the book down. The book is well-written and has a good structure.

This non-fiction book was published in 2017. It also has the second volume that was published 2 years later and included info of other 150 serial killers and their cases.

Summing up, the Big Book of Serial Killers by Jack Rosewood is a good option for those who want to get deep inside the mind of the most notorious killers. It contains lots of little-known info about even the most famous cases.

Jack Rosewood The Big Book of Serial Killers: 150 Serial Killer Files of the World's Worst Murderers in the use

 

Jonathan Levi Inside Broadmoor:

Infamous English Asylum

Broadmoor is a psychiatric hospital in England that can compete with Bethlam in its popularity. But unlike the second one, this facility was used to keep the most dangerous and terrifying criminals isolated from society. Because of that, a lot of people actually believe that it is a prison. After secret files concerning this hospital became public, TV journalist Jonathan Levi alongside with cultural historian Emma French decided to write the book about this fascinating yet somewhat terrifying place.

Broadmoor was built in the 19th century. Originally, it had 5 blocks for men and 1 for women, but later it grew way bigger. The first patient of this high-security facility was a woman accused of infanticide. Later on, the hospital became a prison for such notorious criminals as serial killers - Peter Sutcliffe, who murdered 13 women and tried to kill 7 more; John Straffen, a murderer of 3 young girls; “Stockwell Strangler” Kenneth Erskine, cannibal and murderer of 3; Peter Bryan and many more. Apart from the murderers, one of the most violent robbers Charles Bronson and gangster Ronnie Kay were also kept there.

To give an in-depth look at what actually happened behind those Victorian walls, the authors provide the information that they were able to get from the outside sources, plus they add sometimes shocking but still pretty interesting interviews with the staff of the facility, medical experts and even the criminals themselves. Thanks to that, you will be able to look at each unique case from a different point of view and understand what was going on inside the heads of those horrible people who were kept there.

Review of Jonathan Levi Inside Broadmoor: The Sunday Times Bestseller

The most Detailed Analysis of the Facility so far

It took the authors almost a decade to get a full picture of Broadmoor hospital. Now, in their book, they provide the most detailed description and analysis of the facility up-to-date. This book will fit the bill if you are interested in psychiatry and especially psychological criminology.

However, despite covering a pretty harsh and serious topic, the book is very easy to read and has a good structure. The language can be somewhat childish in some places, but it still doesn’t spoil the overall impression.

To wrap the whole thing up, if you want to take a closer look at the Broadmoor’s past, we highly suggest reading this true crime book. Inside Broadmore contains shocking interviews and revelations that won’t leave you indifferent.

Jonathan Levi Inside Broadmoor: The Sunday Times Bestseller in the use

 

Maureen Callahan American Predator:

One of the Most Horrible yet Little-Known Criminals

The name of Ted Bundy rings a bell in the memory of many people all over the world. But Israel Keyes - the man who admired Bundy and tried to follow his criminal steps, was not that famous. Journalist Mourine Callahan decided to tell the public about this horrific person in her book American Predator.

Isreal Keyes had an unusual childhood. He was born in a Mormon family and had as much as 9 siblings. All of the children were homeschooled, so he wasn’t able to properly socialise with peers. In addition to this, his family spent some years living in a small cabin with no electricity or running water. In his youth, Keyes joined the army and served both in the US and Egypt. After he was discharged, he moved to Alaska so as to start his business there. That is when his murder spree began.

Keyes was convicted for several crimes. Among those, there were a few cases of bank robberies, multiple burglaries and house break-ins, rapes, murders, kidnapping with demanding ransom and many more. All those crimes he committed during 14 years and managed to remain free. His murders were well-planned as he left so-called “kill kits” in advance (one of those he left near the house of his future victims 2 years prior to the crime). What also differs this criminal from others is that his victims and places of the crime were very different, thus, the police were unable to make a victim profile. Keyes wielded in states of Alaska, Washington, Vermont, New York and others. Unlike those killers that were attacking people nearby the areas where they lived and switched their crime places as they permanently moved from one place to another, Keyes rented a car and drove it to the chosen location. Eventually, he was arrested and confessed in a few of his crimes.

Review of Maureen Callahan American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century

Mysterious Story

Israel Keyes died of an apparent suicide in his jail cell. There, the police found his drawings of 11 people, which is considered a total number of his victims. Maurine Callahan got so caught up in Keyes case that she decided to start her own investigation. Unfortunately, she was unable to find a lot about his younger years and the beginning of the military career, which makes the story even more mysterious. But she reveals every detail she was able to find about this vile person. What also makes his case unusual is the fact that a lot of his crimes were not revealed by the FBI to the general audience. The answer to this question is revealed in this book.

So, if you want to read a unique true life crime story, we highly suggest choosing this book about the criminal who was called “pure evil” by the authorities and one of the most “unprecedented cases” in the USA crime history.

Maureen Callahan American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century in the use

 

What Is a True Crime Book?

True crime is a genre of literature that tells the real story of a committed crime. Such a story is not necessarily written by the person involved in the crime - a lot of authors love taking real events as a base for their story, analyse it, provide their own commentary, and sometimes add a tint of artistic license.

True crime exists in various forms: books, movies, and TV series. Nowadays, true crime podcasts also become more and more popular. But going back to the literature, the first works in the genre were dated the 17th century and originated from China. However, British street literature that was published in the 1550s-1700s and described recent murders and other mysterious crimes can also be considered part of the genre. It has never lost its popularity and in the 19th century evolved to the penny press. Such literature was considered a part of the so-called trash culture, yet still had a massive success among not only the British but also the American audience. Now, true crime novels still stay one of the most popular genres of modern literature, and we offer you 5 notable works that can fit the taste of different readers.

If you are open to reading books in other genres, you may also want to check our lists of the best mystery novels, thrillers and horror stories by Stephen King.

What Features to Compare

Crime

One of the most popular topics highlighted in the true-crime literature is murder. Almost half of the books written in this genre analyses crimes committed by serial killers. The other good amount of stories depicts some shocking or sensational murders that provoked a public outcry. Such books usually not only describe the murder but also go in detail with the trial. However, murder is not the only theme you can find in this type of literature. There are also multiple novels about high-profile robberies, kidnapping, arsons, and so on, which sometimes turn out to be not less thrilling and interesting.

Author

Non-fiction crime stories can be written by professional writers, journalists, as well as victims and people involved in the trial or investigations (judges, jury, police officers, lawyers, etc), as well as by criminals themselves. Even people who were actually witnessing the events often manage to carefully pick up the facts to build a full picture and analyse every detail. As a result, you can get an incredibly interesting take on the crime from their perspective. Such books can come not only as memoirs but also as full-on novels that may be much more interesting to read for those who are new to the genre.

Period

Considering that true crime is a genre with a rich history, the crimes depicted in them apply to different periods. Written both by new authors and those who lived in early times, crime books can be a great option for both those who prefer historical literature and those who seek a new sub-genre. Yet, so far, the most popular period in the crime non-fiction is the 20th century. It has a lot to do with the fact that forensic science made a huge step forward with the invention of many new investigation methods. This allowed detectives worldwide to build a more precise crime scene and provided the authors with multiple details for their writings.

Collection

Commonly, the description of one crime can be depicted within one book. Thus, you can rarely see a series of true crime books. However, some authors and publishers sometimes create collections with similar crime books that include similar stories or those that happen in the same place or in the same period.

Number of Pages

Last but not least, books can differ in the number of pages. Some of them can plainly describe the crime and, thus, be quite short, while some authors manage to write a huge novel even if the story itself is very short. By providing their commentaries and thoughts, authors can let you enjoy their crime books for longer.

Did you know?

Have you ever found yourself reading articles about some horrific crimes one by one? Or maybe you kept watching a pretty gruesome detailed news report with interest? Well, there is nothing wrong with that. Psychologists say that our fascination with true crime is actually normal and provide a few reasons for that. So here we have selected interesting facts about why true crimes and non-fiction books based on them are so interesting.

The Desire to Feel Prepared

First and foremost, people want to get prepared and protect themselves and their families. According to attorney Megan Broosma’s study, women are actually more interested in true crime stories considering the fact that they tend to be more vulnerable and generally become a target of a violent act more often than men. Thus, they look for advice and ideas on how to protect themselves in any given situation. They are also more likely to go with the story that has a female victim. Reading such stories and books makes them become more serious about all the dangers of the outside world and take their and their family’s safety more seriously.

The Happy Feel We Are Not the Victim...

Reading about crimes doesn’t necessarily cause unpleasant emotions. On the contrary, people tend to feel glad that they are not the victim, especially if the crime occurred nearby or you can associate yourself with the people who got hurt in the crime. This may give you a strong relief.

... Or a Criminal

People who are sure they will never commit any sort of crime usually can find it pretty interesting to get inside of the head of the criminal to understand what they were driven by. It can also be explained by the growing interest in psychology and sociology among people in recent years.

Evolutionary Benefit

Studies also tell that such close attention to real-life crimes may make people more attentive and promote noticings things that may be dangerous for them. That way, people will be able to avoid unpleasant situations more effectively.

The Media Impact

Last but not least, you’ll probably agree that it is pretty hard not to keep up with all the crimes as the newspapers and e-sources keep shoving them in our faces. All these sources keep bombarding us with that news, and we, in our turn, keep reading and watching them.

Overall, there is nothing bad to enjoy a good crime story, especially if it is well-written and has an educational message. We hope you were able to find an interesting one for yourself in our best true crime books list.

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Publish Date: 2020-08-12 13:56:59