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Crime News

True Crime Books In 2018 That Had Us Checking The Locks And Sleeping With The Lights On

In 2018, we got a glimpse into the minds of well-known murderers like the Golden State Killer and Aaron Hernandez, as well as lesser-known evil-doers like a tennis coach pedophile and the Oakland County Child Killer.

By Becca van Sambeck

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In 2018, the fascination with true crime only continued to grow. You probably already downloaded all the hit true crime podcasts of the year, like "S-Town," the third season of "Serial," and of course, Oxygen's very own "Martinis and Murder." You also probably already binged 2018's hottest true crime documentaries, like "Wild Wild Country," "Innocent Man," and the second season of "Making A Murderer." But have you turned your attention yet to all the incredible true crime books that were published this year?

It was a year packed with bone-chilling, mind-boggling literary releases: from memoirs of experiences with pedophiles to investigations into infamous unknown serial killers to psychological portraits of notorious scammers, there was a book for everyone this year. Ahead, our top picks for 2018.

 "I’ll Be Gone In the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer" by Michelle McNamara

Undeniably the true crime literary hit of the year, Michelle McNamara’s book chronicled her years-long investigation into the identity of a California serial killer who allegedly killed at least 13 people and committed more than 50 sexual assaults. While McNamara would ultimately die before completing the book, her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, as well as crime writer Paul Haynes and investigative journalist Billy Jensen, would finish the book for her — and in a twist stranger than fiction, the alleged Golden State Killer was arrested just a few months after the book was published. It seems likely her years of investigating and drawing attention to the case helped catch the notorious criminal. — Becca van Sambeck

"You All Grow Up and Leave Me: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession" by Piper Weiss

This isn’t your ordinary true crime book. Instead, this story is marketed as “a riveting blend of true and coming-of-age memoir” that blurs the lines of what true crime investigative books can accomplish. When Weiss was 14 years old, her tennis coach, one of the most prestigious instructors in 1990s New York City, killed himself after attempting to abduct one of his students. If that wasn’t horrifying enough, it turns out Gary Wilensky, who Weiss viewed as a mentor and called "Grandpa Gary," was a child predator, stalking young girls and fetishizing them, even going so far as to build his own secret torture chamber in his “Cabin of Horrors” upstate. Weiss’ book attempts to both investigate Wilensky as well as come to terms with her own complicated feelings about a man she once cared deeply for. — BV

"The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World" by Sarah Weinman

“Lolita” is one of the most famous books of the 20th century — after all, the term “Lolita” to describe oversexualized young girls has made its way firmly into our cultural lexicon. But here’s the thing: Vladimir Nabokov’s tale of a pedophile rationalizing his obsession with a young girl he eventually abducts is actually based on a true story. Nabokov was inspired by the horribly sad tale of Sally Horner, an 11-year-old girl who was abducted in 1948. Weinman’s book doesn’t just share the the story behind the real-life Lolita, it gives her the voice she’s been denied for decades. — BV

"Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup" by John Carreyrou

This non-fiction book, written by journalist John Carreyrou, is all about the scandalous multi-billion dollar fraudulent firm Theranos, a company that falsely claimed to have created revolutionary blood tests. He details how the firm, headed by Elizabeth Holmes, managed to totally scam Silicon Valley. In fact, even then-Vice President Joe Biden was fooled by Holmes! Carreyrou’s depiction of Holmes as the controversial firm’s leader is compelling and frightening. After all, she was once named the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America by Forbes, but by the summer of 2018, she was indicted on wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges. This book documents her very public downfall and shift from businesswoman-hero to suspect. — Gina Tron

"All American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers’ Row" by James Patterson

Aaron Hernandez was a football legend — not only was he a star college player, but he went on to become the youngest player in the NFL. But Hernandez’s life came to a tragic, bizarre end after he was convicted of murder and ended up dying by suicide while in prison. James Patterson, a legend of his own in the true crime world, explores Hernandez’s secret life, revealing how such a talented young man could meet such a brutal, senseless end. Shocking secrets are uncovered as readers are treated to a fuller portrait of such a controversial sports figure. — BV

 "The Girl on the Velvet Swing: Sex, Murder, and Madness at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century" by Simon Baatz

This historical account of a 1906 murder and the events surrounding it prove that sensational homicides and excess are nothing new in America. The book explains the intense story of Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl who starred in a New York City musical. At just 16, she believed a famous architect raped her. She kept the story quiet until she married millionaire Harry Thaw a few years later, who promptly shot the architect at a crowded performance in Madison Square Garden, a building that he had designed. The book details the dramatic trial, the gossip surrounding the crimes, and Nesbit’s cocaine addiction that followed the murder.- GT

 "The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality, and Murder" by Nikki Meredith

This book is the culmination of the work of award-winning journalist Nikki Meredith, who regularly visited Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel in prison. Both women were once deemed "monsters" for their role in the Charles Manson Family murders during the infamous summer of 1969. The book is a dark journey not only into the horrific acts committed by the two women, but also into the human psyche. Meredith explores how a so-called normal person could be driven to kill. She also weaves in some of her own darker experiences, including her own brother's incarceration. — GT

 "The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit's Most Notorious Serial Killer" by J. Reuben Appelman

There are some killers who have basically become the stuff of myths: the Zodiac Killer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and so on. Other killers have largely faded from memory, but thanks to the investigative work of author J. Reuben Appelman, the horrific crimes of the Oakland Child County Killer, who was never caught, won't be forgotten. Back in Oakland County, Michigan in the 1970s, four children were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered. Appelman decided to investigate the murders all these years later, and the result is a book that not only provides compelling theories about what happened to these children, but an intriguing look into the author’s own history with violence. — BV

"Sons Of Cain: A History Of Serial Killers From The Stone Age To The Present" By Peter Vronsky

Peter Vronsky is an investigative historian who has been studying serial killers for years, this book being the the third volume in his serial killer history series. This book doesn’t just examine contemporary serial killers but it goes back — way back to the B.C. years. The book details his research of the birth of serial killers in the prehistoric era, and he examines how they evolved into the present-day form. After all, the term “serial killer’ wasn’t coined until 1981. The meticulously researched book doesn’t offer any easy answers, but it will surely make you think. — GT