While the world can be an amazing place, and there are plenty of stories that highlight its beautiful side, there are just as many stories that focus on the darker sides of the world.
There are plenty of genres that specialize in this, whether it is horror stories, tragedies, or disaster stories, but no story captures the more disturbing side of humanity than serial killer stories.
These stories tend to revolve around a central killer, whether we are following them from their perspective, or following other characters who interact with them.
Also, some of the best serial killer stories are not limited to fiction and you can get some remarkable books about serial killers that are based around true serial killers.
These books are usually referred to as true crime and they are incredibly popular.
These stories are well worth trying if you have never read any before.
No matter what kind of serial killer stories you are on the lookout for, if you are a massive fan, then we have gathered some amazing stories here that fit in this category.
So, if you want to read more serial killer stories, but are lacking suggestions, keep reading to get our top 21 choices!
About Serial Killer Books
It is worth noting, even though it will be obvious to most readers, but these stories can contain some incredibly mature themes, and will typically portray or describe some form of graphic violence.
This can be incredibly disturbing for plenty of different readers, this is why we recommend checking the trigger warnings of specific books if you are not sure if you will enjoy them or not.
This can be even more impactful if you are reading a non-fiction book since these are of course describing real events.
Make sure when you are choosing a serial killer story to read, or to give to someone, that you are sure that it is appropriate!
Our Favorite Serial Killer Books
As we referenced in the introduction, there is a massive range of genres and styles of storytelling that are encapsulated in serial killer stories.
Because of this we have tried to include as much variety as possible so you can be sure that you are getting a good range of choices.
Make sure to read our descriptions of each book so you know what you are getting into, whether this is a fictional story, a non-fiction book, or something more unconventional like a graphic novel.
Whatever kind of serial killer books you like, you are sure to find something that you are interested in here!
You By Caroline Kepnes
The first story on our list by Caroline Kepnes is one of our favorites for just how strong and believable the character writing is and how this makes you get attached.
The killer we follow in this story is called Joe Goldberg, and like a lot of skilled serial killers, he seems perfect at first glance.
He is a man that is intelligent, as well as charismatic, and he could get just about any woman he wanted.
However, his flaw is that he is completely obsessive and he is willing to do whatever he has to if that means he can get what he wants, and of course, killing is not off the menu.
We join him soon after he has met Beck, and he quickly realizes that he will do just about anything to make it so he will fall in love with him.
He quickly tries to turn himself into the perfect man that she will always love, and part of the way he does this is by ‘taking care’ of any potential obstacles that fall in her way.
So, while he is smart enough to transform himself initially, for such an obsessive man, he might not be able to keep up this act forever.
The tension the reader experiences when working through You is incredibly palpable and makes this a story you will be unable to put down before you finish it!
- The relationship between Joe and Beck is terrifying to read.
- The subject matter of an obsessive relationship might be something you want to avoid.
The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold has gained quite a reputation and is one of the most popular stories in the subgenre, and this is for a reason.
We follow Susie Salmon who is a 14 year old, and when we join her, she has just been killed in a cornfield.
But instead of leaving her here, we instead see her wake up in a land similar to purgatory, and then we watch her witness her father start to fall apart in reaction to her death, as the killer is able to walk free without having been caught.
However, what makes this situation unique, is that like most serial killers, Susie is not the only victim of this killer.
Because of this, we see her watch her father start to work out what has happened to her by connecting her death to similar cases.
This leads our protagonist to start to believe that her father could get to the truth and bring justice to her and all the other girls who died to the same killer.
The unique perspective created by Sebold in The Lovely Bones makes it an engaging read, and seeing the emotion from Susie and her father makes this easier to get invested in compared to similar stories.
- The perspective the story is told from makes it a unique read.
- Perspective can make it feel a little detached.
My Sister, The Serial Killer By Oyinkan Braithwaite
We follow Korede who has always felt in the shadow of her beautiful younger sister Ayoola, however, this changes when she starts to uncover her sister’s secret, that she has killed 3 of her previous boyfriends.
While it seems like Ayoola had been the victim of abuse, Korede starts to catch on that she may have been smarter than people thought.
And when Korede;s crush starts to date Ayoola, she feels she has to intervene.
- The personal connection to the killer makes this an engaging read.
- If you do not like serial killer stories with a family element this might not be your favorite.
The Silent Patient By Alex Michaelides
We follow Theo who is just starting to work as a psychologist, and he is working in the same ward as Alicia who is known for having shot her husband.
Because of this Theo wants to work out why Alicia did what she did, but since the day of the shooting she has not spoken at all, but Theo thinks he can change this.
- The psychological aspect makes this an engaging read.
- If you get bored with Alicia’s character, it can be difficult to get through.
Helter Skelter: The True Story Of The Manson Murders By Vincent Bugliosi And Curt Gentry
This non-fiction book follows the story of famed killer Charles Manson who was a cult leader who convinced his family to kill seven people.
We still do not know why Manson was able to turn normal people into killers, and how he ended up with such a strong influence, but this is what this story uncovers.
- If you are invested in the story of Charles Manson, then this will be an engaging read.
- True crime is an acquired taste, especially if you prefer fiction.
In Cold Blood By Truman Capote
We see the reaction to an awful murder that has happened in a small town called Holcomb which has left a whole family dead.
However, there is little motive for a killer.
The story is based on a true story and we follow the tension that surrounded the events.
- The non-fictional aspects really make the story believable.
- Being based on true events can turn some people off.
American Psycho By Bret Easton Ellis
We follow the seemingly harmless Patrick Bateman who made a fortune on Wall Street and is able to get through life using his charm to get support.
However, he has a hobby at night where he indulges in his desires to murder which start to pull him away from his normal self.
- The character of Patrick Bateman is incredibly interesting to follow.
- If you do not connect to the protagonist this might be a tough read.
The Silence Of The Lambs By Thomas Harris
Perhaps one of the most popular fictional serial killer stories is The Silence of the Lambs and this is for a reason.
We follow the FBI agent who is trying to catch Buffalo Bill and gets the help of Hannibal Lecter to help catch him.
This does aid the case, however, it also makes Clarice reflect on parts of her past she would much rather forget.
- The relationship between Clarice and Hannibal is incredibly engaging.
- If you are looking for a more obscure pick, this is not the one.
Hannibal Rising By Thomas Harris
If you enjoyed the previous pick, then we recommend reading this prequel that goes into detail on how he becomes the killer we know in The Silence of the Lambs.
- A great explanation and character study of Hannibal.
- If you are not a fan of the original, this will not change your mind.
American Predator: The Hunt For The Most Meticulous Serial Killer Of The 21st Century By Maureen Callahan
This true crime story talks about Israel Keyes who is one of the more overlooked dangerous serial killers.
This story goes into depth on how Keyes used his kill kits and how he abducted his victims.
- True crime that explores an often overlooked serial killer.
- One of the more disturbing true crime books.
The Wasp Factory By Iain Banks
We follow a 16 year old killer who already has 3 victims, and we are supposed to believe that he is not going to kill again, but of course this is not the case.
- Following from Frank’s perspective makes this an engaging story.
- The young character of Frank can be grating.
Mindhunter: Inside The FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit By John E.Douglas And Mark Olshaker
If you enjoyed the Netflix series Mindhunter then we recommend reading the book that inspired it.
- This exploration of Douglas’ career is an interesting read.
- If you have already watched the series there is some overlap.
Zodiac: The Shocking True Story Of The Hunt For The Nation’s Most Elusive Serial Killer By Robert Graysmith
If you have ever wanted to learn more about the Zodiac Killer, then this true crime book is one of the best ways to inform yourself.
- The story of the Zodiac Killer is well told here.
- If you already know a lot of the story, this will touch a lot of familiar ground.
Death Note By Tsugumi Ohba
This Japanese graphic novel tells the story of a high school student who happens upon a notebook that will kill whoever you write in it.
This leads him to a moral rampage trying to rid the world of evil and avoid getting caught when detectives catch on.
- A long form story detailing an interesting antagonist from his perspective.
- The fantasy aspect makes this turn off a lot of potential readers.
I Am Not A Serial Killer By Dan Wells
We follow John Cleaver who wants to kill but does not have the will to, however, when a murder case comes to his town, this changes.
- The unique case of Cleaver is a fun read.
- Takes a while to pick up.
Final Girls By Riley Sager
We follow a survivor of a mass killing who has to relive her trauma when she is a target of a new killer.
- Twist on the genre is a fresh read.
- Maybe a little too self-referential.
Dark Places By Gillian Flynn
Libby returns to her hometown to uncover the truth of the murder that was blamed on her brother.
- Libby’s family dynamic is fun to follow.
- Can be difficult to follow.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter By Jeff Lindsay
We follow Dexter who is a serial killer going after bad guys while working on the Police force, and he also has a copycat now.
- If you are a fan of the show you will love this.
- Feels a little too episodic.
Psycho By Robert Bloch
Psycho and Norman Bates are a combo we can not overlook when discussing serial killer stories. This is a classic you can not miss.
- A classic for a reason.
- Can feel dated.
The Girls He Adored By Jonathon Nasaw
We follow Irene who is captive of a serial killer but also a psychiatrist who wants to work out what motivates his actions.
- Interesting killer-target relationship.
- Irene is a little more interesting than the killer
The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy By Elizabeth Kendall
When it comes to true crime, we can not ignore Ted Bundy.
- This story is from the perspective of his partner of 6 years.
- There are other retellings of Bundy and his actions.
Hopefully this guide has given you a wide range of selections to choose from when it comes to what serial killer story you want to read next.
There is a massive selection here that spreads over a variety of different genres and you are likely to find something that you will enjoy.
This subgenre is always growing and evolving, so make sure to pay attention to new releases, and keep track of what kind of serial killer stories you enjoy so you know what your preferences are, for example, fictional tales, or nonfiction retellings!
Frequently Asked Questions
Best Serial Killer Book Adaptations?
The film adaptation of Silence of the Lambs is incredibly well regarded as one of the best adaptations of a serial killer story still being iconic today!
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