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The best true crime books of all time: Peter Sutcliffe, Charles Ng, Dennis Nilsen, Ed Kemper & more

voices from an evil god rare book peter sutcliffe
A few of our (well-thumbed!) favourite true crime books

Here at Sinister Isles HQ we spend a LOT of time reading true crime books - hey we need to get inspo for all our blogs from somewhere!

We have compiled a list of what we think are the BEST true crime books of all time. Some you might know of, others are more obscure, perhaps about serial killers or wrong'uns you've never heard of before.

Check out our selection below (we have tried to keep it spoiler free) - and let us know if you agree, or if you've read any of these too...

Perfect Victim

This book will always be my #1 True Crime EVER as it absolutely blew my mind when I first read it, aged about 16.

It's the harrowing story of Coleen Stan, who was kidnapped by sadistic couple Cameron and Janice Hooker and kept as a sex slave for seven years, forced to live under their bed in a tiny wooden box. For the one hour a day she was allowed out of the coffin-like structure she was tortured and raped. Eventually she escaped - but not before being brainwashed in to believing that she had been sold to the Hookers by a shady organisation known only as "The Company".

Why?: The Serial Killer in America
Ed Kemper is one of the main contributors to Why: The Serial Killer In America
Ed Kemper is one of the main contributors to his book

If you prefer your true crime to be less trashy and more intellectual, then this book about Ed Kemper by Margaret Cheney will fit the bill.

She went and spent time with him in prison, getting his unique insight in to his own crimes and those of others. Nice to see him putting his 'genius level IQ' to good use.

PANZRAM: A journal of murder
Carl Panzram autobiography
Carl Panzram was one sick fucker - and he didn't care one bit

It's quite rare for us to experience a serial killer's life through their own eyes.

But if you're expecting the memoirs of Carl Panzram to be laden with remorse and begging for forgiveness, you're in for a shock.

Instead, he brags about raping kids, arson, thieving, murder, fraud and everything else in between. He was an evil c**t and proud of it.

Aside from gruesome tales of violence, Panzram also goes in to great detail about the different places he was jailed (all around the world), providing a distressing first hand POV of prisons circa 1910-1930, when he was executed.

DIE FOR ME: The Terrifying Story of Charles Ng/Leonard Lake Torture Murders
Die For Me Charles Ng, A Father's Story Lionel Dahmer
A trip to Lanzarote called for some serious reading

Charles Ng and Leonard Lake are the perfect definition of 'gruesome twosome' - and this book about the Torture Murders is not one for the squeamish, and it is packed with harrowing details and loads of twists and turns.

This quote from Lake sums up what this book covers: "I want to be able to use a woman whenever and however I want. And when I'm tired or bored or not interested, I simply want to put her away, lock her up in [her cell], get her out of my sight, out of my life."

A Father's Story by Lionel Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer's dad tries to unpick his murderous son's childhood to find out just what the f**k went wrong and caused him to grow up to become the Milwaukee Cannibal in this unusual, detached yet compelling memoir.

Voices From An Evil God
voices from an evil god rare book peter sutcliffe
Voices From An Evil God is a very rare, discontinued book about Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe

This book was taken out of print shortly after it was initially published due to legal proceedings by Sonia Sutcliffe, the wife of the Yorkshire Ripper.

It features a lot of interviews with Peter Sutcliffe in Broadmoor and is a very interesting read if you can get hold of a copy.

Fred & Rose: The Full Story of Fred and Rose West and the Gloucester House of Horrors

Fred and Rose book 1995
This book was first published in 1995, shortly after the West murders came to light

This was the first true crime book I ever read when I was on holiday with my friends' parents - aged 13.

Needless to say, I really was way too young to read this very graphic and detailed account of the actions of Gloucester's grossest couple but I couldn't put it down. It definitely remains one of the best books about the Wests and the depravity that went on behind the front door of 25 Cromwell Street.

The best Dennis Nilsen true crime books

All three of these books about Dennis Nilsen are a must-read
All three of these books about Dennis Nilsen are a must-read
Killing For Company

The OG Dennis Nilsen book by Brian Masters, as played out in ITV series Des, starring David Tenant.

Published in 1985, two years after his arrest, the book still has the power to simultaneously enthral and appall.

Dennis Nilsen - Conversations with Britain's Most Evil Serial Killer

Released in 2013, this book was the only way that Dennis Nilsen's reams of memoirs were able to make it in the public domain due to a Home Office ban on them being published.

He granted access to author Russ Coffey, who was at that time, one of only five people who had ever seen the confiscated papers - which were typed up neatly on a typewriter that could be yours (for a whopping fee).

A History of a Drowning Boy

After Nilsen's 2018 death the ban on his memoirs being published was lifted, so we can now read his life story in his own words.

The release of the tome sickened relatives of victims, and although it has been heavily edited, is still incredibly stomach-churning at points.

Man Eater
man eater katherine knight book
Our Lanzarote holiday really was fuelled by true crime books and brightly coloured drinks

When I bought Man Eater I must have been a bit drunk as I actually thought it was about Joanna Dennehy - the Peterborough Ditch killer.

But no, Man Eater is about Australian psychopath Katherine Knight who butchered her boyfriend John Price and planned to dish him up for dinner to his children.

She was an abattoir worker by trade and used her skills and kit to flail his body, making a 'skin suit' that was so gruesome to behold that some of the police sent to investigate her house have never recovered from seeing it.

Not for the faint hearted, this book is an absolutely brutal read. Fom her childhood to her arrest, Kath' didn't have a good life. At ALL. And neither did anyone who crossed paths with her!

Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony: The Inside Story
Did Casey REALLY kill her 2-year-old daughter?
Did Casey REALLY kill her 2-year-old daughter?

Jose Baez, the author, defended the most hated women in America in a case that enraged the public and media equally.

Casey Anthony was accused of murdering her two year old daughter, dumping her body in woodland and then building a web of lies whilst leading a hedonistic lifestyle.

To the casual observer it looked like an open and shut case but as detailed in Presumed Guilty the facts were anything but.

The Devil’s Knot

The author is still campaigning for the 'killers' to be freed
The author is still campaigning for the 'killers' to be freed

The West Memphis 3 are synonymous with the true crime genre having four blockbuster documentaries and a Hollywood film, starring Reece Witherspoon and Colin Firth made about the case between 1996 – 2013.

The film of the same name as the book wasn’t a hit but Mara Leveritt’s book has been hailed as the bible on this case.

Mara is still campaigning for the exoneration of the three men who were released under the alford plea in 2011.

The Murders at White House Farm: Jeremy Bamber and the killing of his family

On 7 August 1985 Nevil and June Bamber, their daughter Shelia and her two young sons were found dead at White House Farm by Jeremy Bamber. Jeremy, June and Nevil’s son was eventually convicted of the murder but to this date questions remain over the validity of the conviction.

Here, critically acclaimed true crime author, Carol Ann-Lee takes a forensic look at the evidence and the poorly executed police operation.


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