Ankita Arora

A bibliophile at heart, Ankita loves to relax at the beach. When she’s not reading, you can find her eating or shopping. She loves to try new things and monotony kills her vibe. A dance buff, she can shake a leg on any tune; an Economics graduate yet to find her true calling.

17 Gripping Novels Inspired from Real-Life Crime

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One of the most entertaining and much-read genre is that of crime mysteries and thrillers. Some are inspired from real-life, whereas others have inspired real-crime.

Let’s not be diabolical and discuss the former!

Here are 17 gripping novels that are inspired from real-life crime. The following list contains both fictional and non-fictional books:

In Cold Blood by Truman Copote

The Clutter Family murders in 1959, Kansas, are brought to life with this poignant, reverberating and honest reconstruction by Copote. With the help of Harper Lee, Copote pens down the most horrific crime the people of Holcomb, Kansas have ever witnessed. In Cold Blood is considered a classic of true-crime.

See What I’ve Done by Sarah Schmidt

When we talk about terrifying crimes in the past, Lizzie Borden and the Borden House murders never miss a glance. What can easily be named as the most talked about murder-mystery, has been adapted to movies and has a dedicated place in the lore. In See What I’ve Done, a librarian brings forth a historical re-telling of the infamous murders, the mystery of which still remains unresolved.

Murder on Malabar Hills by Sujata Massey

Back to the 1920s Bombay, Perveen Mistry finds herself not capable of arguing cases after graduating from law school due to the restrictions on women not entering the bar association. She assists her father when one of their clients is found dead and later another murder happens in his family. Perveen is now in the middle of investigating the murders with no permission to fight her case. The book bings forth the old times of Bombay and a very talked about murder mystery.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Much before the Salem Witch trials were the Mannington Witch trials. A man by the name Matthew Hopkins, the “Witchfinder General”, took upon himself to put the so-called witches on trial. Beth Underdown has weaved a historical thriller around this real-life story with Alice Hopkins, sister of Matthew, returning to Essex with child and widowed only to find out that her brother is not only powerful but a ruthless hunter.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Agnes is charged with the brutal murder of her former master and is sent to an isolated farm is Iceland to await execution. Hannah Kent spent 10 years in archival research of the women they knew and the women they knew nothing of. Right from her birth to her final resting place, Hannah has documented every detail available about Agnes and what must have led to the murders and of her inner turmoil.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This title needs no introduction. But what many may not know is its connection with a real-life incident of America. Inspired from the Lindbergh Kidnapping case of 1932 and her own experience of travelling the Orient Express in 1922, the Queen of Crime has delivered a masterpiece of fiction with utmost detail and mystery as to who killed the infamous kidnapper of Daisy Armstrong which led to the death of the entire Armstrong family.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Inspired from the Fritzl Case of Austria, Emma writes a fictional story of a child named Jack and his Ma, to whom their room is their world. Being held captive by his father, Jack narrates the story of spending every day of his life in a room with his mother. His father has held them captive for seven years since the birth of Jack and has sexually assaulted his mother on various occasions. Adapted into an Academy Award winning movie, Room is sure to make you cry.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

The real-life murders of two women in Los Angeles most impacted James Ellroy and he crafted this story around the lives of those women. Elizabeth Short is found murdered in a vacant plot in L.A. She was later called the Black Dahlia. Two LAPD detectives found themselves investigating this murder to the point of obsession. James Ellroy took forward this book with a series: L.A Quartet, with more LAPD encounters with gruesome serial killings.

The Search by Howard Linskey

Written in two separate time frames – 1976 and 1996, it involves the disappearance and murder of a young girl. She and five others went to play and the other five came back but she didn’t. Inspired from the real-life crime, Linskey writes a murder mystery which remains unsolved. The killer is charged with murder and while in prison he sends his memoirs to DS Bradshaw and Bradshaw is tasked with hearing out his final confession before he is assumed to die of cancer. What follows is an intricate mystery of the abduction and its effect on the survivors. It’s one of the 4-part series.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry

The true story of The Manson Murders, the infamous mass murder of Sharon Tate and 8 others including Leno LaBianca took place in California in 1969. Sharon was an aspiring actress and pregnant with a child. She had a get-together that evening with 4 other friends at her mansion when Charles Manson and 4 of his followers brutally murdered everyone present and later murdered LaBianca and his wife. Bugliosi was the chief prosecutor of the trial of Manson and his deranged family. A true account of the events with horrifying details will give you chills.

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy, who was like any other normal guy happened to be Rule’s friend. Bundy agreed to have killed over 30 women and in the most atrocious ways possible. He himself was a lawyer and had helped Rule and other detectives in solving crimes. Little did anyone know or have imagined, Ted turned out to be the serial killer that women of America were death-scared of in the 70s. He was a killer, kidnapper, rapist, sociopath and a necrophile, and he owned it. Ann Rule pens down her own experiences with him and how the killer she was searching for was right beside her.

The People V. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

The trial of the century, also adapted into a BBC documentary and a TV Series that is acclaimed worldwide, People V. O.J. Simpson tells the whole story of the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The author analyses both sides of the case and offers a riveting presentation.

The Reykjavik Confessions by Simon Cox 

The true story of Iceland’s most notorious murder case, two men disappear with no evidences or leads, major corruption and various false confessions, the case was stretched for nearly 40 years! This book is based on the BBC News Investigation by Simon Cox. True-crime enthusiasts will love it.

Killing for Company by Brian Masters

Dennis Nilsen was arrested after human remains were found in his drainage resulting in blockage. He confessed to have killed 15 homosexual men who were never reported missing. Masters with Nilsen’s full cooperation, has written an account revealing the psychology of a mass murderer.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Michelle, a true-crime journalist, was somewhat obsessed with finding this serial killer and notorious criminal whom she called the Golden State Killer. The elusive serial-rapist-turned-murderer who terrorized California in late 70s for over a decade and later disappeared. He would study his victims and kill them while asleep blinding them with light. Michelle wrote this book in her end days. He has been caught after a 40-year hunt in April 2018, 2 years after Michelle died.

Vulgar Favours by Maureen Orth

There was a time when “Fashion” was synonymous to “Versace”. And, then there was a time when that name was brutally murdered by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan in 1997. Vulgar Favours recounts the murder of Gianni Versace drawing over 400 interviews and thousands of police reports with details of how Cunanan became one of America’s most notorious serial killers, evading the police and leaving his other victims’ families in disarray. This book inspired a 10-part BBC documentary starring Penelope Cruz and Ricky Martin.

McMafia by Misha Glenny

In this fearless and authoritative investigation, Misha brings forth organized crime worldwide; be it Russian Mafia, Colombian drug cartels or Chinese labor smugglers. She did an extensive research interacting with police, victims, members of global underworld revealing scary truths of our civilization.

BONUS: The Executioner’s Songby Norman Mailer

This Pulitzer Prize Winner with highly mixed reviews from across the globe, brings to light a killer who wished his own death.
Gary Gilmore was the first person to be executed in America since the reinstatement of death penalty in 1976. He demanded his execution after he killed two people in Utah. The Executioner’s Song tells Gilmore’s story and the paradoxical system of his country that was trying to keep him alive.

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