Fiction or Non-Fiction, the books that are written on serial killers are always scary. Where non-fiction books based on serial killer shows us the true crime and real horror concerned with it, the fiction ones let the imagination of the authors go wild and let them create the most terrifying tale ever.
In this article, we are going to discuss the best books ever written on serial killers, both fiction and non-fiction ones. Many talented authors have showcased their talents in this genre and have provided us with some greatest novels that gave us a toe-curling experience.
There is a whole different world out there, filled with darkness and crime, with each step the story gets more thrilling and ultimately the scary feeling is left behind, the one that keeps us awake at night. The novels written in this genre will introduce you with this world, the world that you are afraid to know, the stories that you will regret to witness and the feelings that you will be terrified to experience.
The books that we have mentioned below are not only the best books ever written about serial killers but they are also known to be giving the readers the most terrifying experience of reading. The mystery, the drama, the thrill is definitely toe-curling and it is the kind of scary that will haunt you for a long time.
Best Serial Killer Books – Fiction
Fiction, the literary work that is based on imagination rather than facts gives the opportunity to the writers to write their hearts out and doesn’t make them bound to describing what happened in real. The author could go to any extent to provide you with the most terrifying tale ever and that’s the best thing about reading fiction books on serial killers.
1. The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is written by Thomas Harris and it was published in the year 1988. The psychological horror book is the sequel of his book named Red Dragon. Both these books feature an imprisoned serial killer named Dr. Hannibal who is introduced in the story to help the FBI agent capture another killer on the loose.
The answers that only he knows but in exchange for that, the FBI agent Clarisse Starling must confront her horrible past and childhood demons, she must find the answers in herself.
The Silence of the Lambs is definitely one of the most terrifying tales focusing on serial killers. The book itself and its prequel also have its theatre adaptation.
2. The Killer Inside Me
The Killer Inside Me is written by American author Jim Thompson, the book was published in the year 1952. The novel is one of the most disturbing and uncompromised crime novels ever written. The American author famous for gritty pulp sensibility has written more than 30 novels in his career.
The Killer Inside Me will take you into the mind of a serial killer. Texas-based Sheriff Lou Ford is admired by society but that’s only because of the fake show that he puts on in front of them, there’s a whole other side of him that they are unaware of.
Through this book, you will learn how the violent sexual tendencies of a person will turn him into a serial killer. The theatre adaptation of the book was also released with the same name starring Jessica Alba, Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, etc.
Karin Slaughter, the New York Times as well as an international bestseller author for writing crime novels has blessed us with Criminal who is the sixth book of her series featuring Will Trent. The book was published in the year 2012. The theme of the book is set in the early seventies in Atlanta.
The book for the first time will introduce you to the Childhood of Will Trent, the Agent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Through Criminal you will learn about the horrific killer who holds an impact on his future. If you are a fan of crime novels, you just can’t go wrong with Karin Slaughter. Her all crime novels are great, but Criminal especially is a true jewel in the list.
Monkeewrench written by the mother-daughter writing team known as PJ Tracey is the first novel of their series of the same name. Published in the year 2003, it revolves around a game known as Serial Killer detective developed by a software company named Monkeewrench.
A copycat serial killer is on a killing spree and using the Serial Killer detective game as a template. The killer has been recreating the murder that takes place in the computer game. Now it is up to Grace McBride and her colleagues to capture the killer who is on a killing spree using their game.
The debut book released by PJ Tracey is a fast and furious read that gave birth to a whole series. However, the first book is where you will find the most thrill.
5. The Dexter Series
The Dexter Series written by Jeff Lindsay is the most famous serial killer fiction that you will find on this or any other list for that matter. The Dexter series is the eight-book series and the first installment of the series was released in the year 2004 and its recent installment was published in 2015.
Winner of the various awards since its release the Dexter series is a collection of outstanding books one better than the other. Dexter Margon from the Miami-metro police department. has a dark side to himself that only people who escaped justice will get to see.
He targets people who have committed some heinous crimes and somehow escaped from their justice. To all those criminals, dexter is here to make them taste their karma. He has his own way of providing justice to these people. Every book of this series is a great crime-read.
6. When She Was Bad
When She Was Bad written by Jonathan Nasaw was released in the year 2007. The book is about two serial killers named Lily DeVries and Ulysses Maxwell who fell in love and later escaped the mental institution they both are admitted in. Later these two lovers go on a killing spree and are untamable.
Now it is up to the former FBI agent EL Pender to capture these serial killers and end this terror. He along with a psychiatrist named Dr. Irene Cogan very cleverly catch these criminals in this non-stop thriller. The book will provide you with an action-packed thriller that will keep you awake at night.
7. Where Serpents Lie
Where Serpents Lie is another crime thriller in the list to make your toes curl of shock. The book was written by T. Jefferson Parker and was published in the year 1998. The story of the book revolves around Terry Naughton who is the head of the police department. He works at Crime Against Youth, the division he founded.
Terry is finally confronted with the most challenging case of his career when he starts hunting a criminal dubbed as The Horridus. The child killer starts off by kidnapping young girls. This is another great example of a crime thriller written by T Jefferson Parker. With this book, the author will make you experience the most terrifying tale ever.
Psycho by Robert Bloch was published in the year 1959 which is a classic horror novel about a serial killer. The story of the book is based on the life of Norman Bates. Partly based on a real-life serial killer, the novel is one of the most terrifying Gothic novels in America. There’s a high chance you have already heard about Norman Bates, the killer who becomes embroiled in the series of murders.
Norman Bates who becomes a serial killer because of his domineering mother is a caretaker at an isolated motel. Still considered one of the creepiest characters in crime fiction, Norman Bates is totally unforgettable once you read the book.
The book also has its theatre adaptation released in the year 1960 by Alfred Hitchock who completely did the justice with the creepiness of the character of Norman Bates.
9. Rusty Nail
Rusty Nail by J. A. Konrath is the third book of the series featuring Lt. Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels mystery. The book was published in the year 2006. The witty book uses a unique approach in crime fiction without compromising with the thrills. It is the talent of the author to make you laugh out loud in the middle of some horrifying situations.
The book will introduce you with a pretty unique criminal who gives Jack from the Chicago police department a run for her money. The Anthony Award finalist J. A. Konrath has introduced us with a feisty female officer in this unstoppable thriller. The crazy characters, storyline, scary situations and nail-biting thrills are all worth it for.
Carmen Palma, the creation of David L. Lindsey in his book Mercy is one of the most fascinating characters in crime fiction. The book, Mercy was published in the year 1990. The haunting novel by the writer David L. Lindsey will show you the horrors of a criminal doing the sexual violence on anonymous victims.
The unique pattern of the killing of this criminal is what interests the detective Carmen Palma the most. Now it is her duty to track down the serial killer and find the whole truth. The novel will show you the real horrors of this psychopath who targets random strangers. After reading this book you will realize, Mercy is actually Merciless.
Best Serial Killers Books – Non-Fiction
If the fiction books on serial killers were that chilling, you can imagine the horrors of the ones written on actual incidents and people admitting those heinous crimes in real. This is where the deal gets real. The non-fiction books written on serial killers are as terrifying as they get.
The lovers of crime novels have that terrible part of their brain that is always curious about knowing what goes in the minds of psychopaths and sociopaths. These non-fiction serial killer novels are the treat for those curious minds.
1. Deviant: The Shocking True Story of Ed Gein, the original ‘psycho’
You may remember the name Ed Gein from the article above where we mentioned that the book ‘Psycho’ written by Robert Bloch is partly based on him. Well, let us introduce the book that is wholly based on it, ‘Deviant’. The book will introduce with one of the creepiest people in crime novels, Ed Gein.
The number of people killed by Ed Gein may be less than that of the other serial killers on the list but his creepiness will make up for it and will prove to you that he is one of the most terrifying serial killers that the world has ever witnessed.
The psychopath is said to be so disturbing that he would even fail the character of Buffalo Bill from the famous book The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. With Deviant you will be able to experience the story of this terrifying murder who has a love for robbing graves.
2. Killer Clown
‘He has murdered 33 boys, now he will die for his crimes’ the book comes with this line on its cover. Written by Terry Sullivan and Peter T. Maiken, the story of the book is based on John Wayne Gacy. The man who used to work as a clown. John Wayne Gacy used to go to entertainment parties, charity events, parades dressed as a clown to entertain the kids.
But that’s not all he intended to do with the kids, apparently raping and killing boys and young men was also his hobby. He has killed a total of 33 boys in his life and has buried about 26 of them in the crawl space of his house. The true terrors of the serial killer will get encountered by the readers through this book.
Readers have been already warned before reading this terrifying novel that will creep out even the most obsessive crime novel readers.
3. The Stranger Beside Me
It is not possible to not mention Ted Bundy when talking about real-life serial killers. I am sure most of you have already heard or read about this evil serial killer. Well, even if you have, you should definitely read this book written by Ann Rule who will introduce you with the details of his murders and his heinous crimes.
The writer has already written a load of crime stories, but the insanity of none of those will match with that of, The Stranger Beside Me. The horrors that this book will introduce you with, is something that will wonder you mind for a long amount of time, you have been warned.
The Stranger Beside Me is the New York Times bestseller novel focusing on Ted Bundy and his series of murders. The interesting fact about this book is that Ann Rule personally knew Ted Bundy really well. The mass murderer has killed over 30 women in his life, not just killed but kidnapped and raped too. The book will introduce you to a devil on earth.
4. The Night Stalker
The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez are written by Philip Carlo. Through his book, the author has tried to explain to us the life story of Richard Ramirez who is one of the most widely recognized serial killers in the world. The man who terrorized California in the mid-1980s with his home invasion crime spree has raped and killed about 13 women in his life.
Richard Ramirez is also famous for his trial. His trial is believed to be one of the most sensational trials in history. The author has very vividly detailed the mass murders of the serial killer. After watching his hundreds of interviews, Philip Carlo has given us quite a tour into the mind of Richard Ramirez.
5. The Devil in the White City
The National bestseller, Devil in the White City is written by Erik Larson. Murder, Magic, and Madness at the fair that changed America is the tagline, the book comes with. H.H. Holmes, the serial killer in the United States who is considered to be the first person in the country to start this killing is spree is one of the most terrifying figures from history.
The time during his mass killing took place was between, 1888 to 1894. H.H. Holmes was most active during the World’s Fair in Chicago. The vicious killer mostly targetted young women, the kind looking for new opportunities in the big city.
The murderer has a way of killing his targets. He had constructed this ‘Murder castle’ where he used to kill the people in the most horrifying way, whether it is lovers, employees or the guests of the hotel.
6. Jack The Ripper and Black Magic
There’s a high chance you have already heard about Jack The Ripper who is considered one of the most terrifying serial killers in history. The unidentified killer has millions of theories about his identity by people. He was active around 1888 during the tail end of the victorian era at the Whitechapel, London.
The killer is often called as the Whitechapel murderer and leather apron. He has believed to be killed, five prostitutes. Jack The Ripper was thought to be magical and this is legit. The murder has never been caught but you can catch his stories with this book, Jack The Ripper and Black magic written by Spiro Dimolianis.
7. The Real Bluebeard, The Life of Gillis De Rais
Gillis de Rais was a captain of the French Army in the 15th Century, a companion to Joan of Arc. The serial killer himself has confessed the mass murders that he did. Apparently the man killed 140 children in his killing spree and he has believed to have inspired the character of ‘Bluebeard’ in a fairytale by Charles Perrault.
Even though the stats of his killing has been erased from history, you can still read about the whole thing in this book written by Jean Benedetti. With historical deep cuts, the author has brilliantly penned down the terrifying tale of this historical serial killer.
8. The Monster of Florence
The Monster of Florence is written by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. The story of the book is based on a serial killer who terrorized Italy from the time 1968 to 1985, he used to target only couples and has killed 16 people in total. The serial killer got famous by the name ‘Monster of Florence’ and hence the name.
The story of the author beginning this book is also quite interesting. It takes us back to 2000 when the author of the book, that is Douglas Preston moved to Italy. As soon as he moves to the country he finds out that the olive grove that was on his property was actually where the Monster of Florence used to murder his targets.
The author then takes the help of investigative journalist Mario Spezi and they both start the discovery of this man’s identification.
Zodiac Killer was a widely used term back in the 1960s and 1970s used for a famous serial killer. The killer terrorized California and possibly Nevada too and claimed the lives of 37 people in total. The book Zodiac written by Robert Graysmith will introduce you with the killer’s reign of terror. The story even gets more disturbing and unsettling when the killer starts sending out newsletters to three different newspapers.
The mass murderer has never been caught and there are various theories about his identity but nothing proved to be right yet. The National bestseller will introduce you with the bizarre story of the nation’s most bizarre mass murderer.
10. From Cradle to Grave
From Cradle to Grave written by Joyce Egginton features a female serial killer. Very less often you may have heard about the female serial killers but let us tell you they are just as terrifying. From Cradle to Grave is the story of Marybeth Tinning, the woman who killed her 9 children in infancy. I think this is the most creepy story of a serial killer you must have heard on this list.
And the fact that Marybeth Tinning was a school bus driver and also used to work as a nurse at a hospital makes it all so shocking when the truth comes out in front of everyone.
The stories focusing on serial killers are all so disturbing and unsettling and yet we want to read them because there’s a part of our brain that is curious about the psychopaths and sociopaths among us. These books are written especially to satisfy that part of your brain and let us tell you, they do their job well.
These were some of the best fiction and non-fiction books that were written about serial killers. On one hand wherein non-fiction books, the authors have accounted for the lives of the most terrifying human beings that ever lived on the planet, on the second hand the fiction genre has given the liberty to te writers to create the creepiest character ever lived.
Enjoy these great books for that curiosity in your mind but be ready for the nail-biting thriller and haunting of these serial killers in your mind, you have been warned. If you know about any other serial killer books that deserved to be on this list, please let us know about it in the comment section below. Also, we would be thrilled to receive your feedback.