Just Like Podcasts: True Crime Audiobooks

Just Like Podcasts

Some of the most popular podcasts are driven by a single, spooky story. Whether it be an inexplicable crime, a suspicious person, or a tragic tale being retold, podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and In the Dark have captured the public's imagination and curiosity. 

Audiobooks of the "true crime" genre provide those same kind of secret sagas. Best of all, you don't have to wait a week to listen to the next episode or play with your podcast app to make sure the episodes aren't out of order. If you're in need of something to binge over the holidays, our staff has recommended eleven great audiobooks for you. When you're listening to stories about these murder mysteries, shadowy figures, and chilling conspiracies, you won't want your car ride to end.

Great Pretender Cover

'The Great Pretender,' by Susannah Cahalan

Doctors have struggled for centuries to define insanity. How do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry's labels. Forced to remain inside until they'd "proven" themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan's watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.

But, as Cahalan's explosive new research shows in this real-life detective story, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors?

Furious Hours, by Casey Cep

'Furious Hours,' by Casey Cep

Reverend Willie Maxwell was accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. He escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell's murderer was acquitted - thanks to the same attorney who had defended the Reverend.
 
Sitting in the audience during the vigilante's trial was Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. She had the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped Truman Capote research. Lee spent a year reporting, and many more years working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the murders and courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. Cep offers a moving portrait of one of the country's most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.

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'Parkland,' by David Cullen

Dave Cullen was among the first to arrive at Columbine High, even before most of the SWAT teams went in. He suffered two bouts of secondary PTSD, and covered later tragedies from a distance, swearing he would never return to the scene of a ghastly crime.

But in March 2018, Cullen went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School because something radically different was happening. He was stunned and awed by the courage, anger, and conviction of the high school's students. They took control, using their grief as a catalyst for change, transforming tragedy into a movement of astonishing hope that has galvanized a nation.

Deeply researched and beautifully told, Parkland is an in-depth examination of this pivotal moment in American culture. As it celebrates the passion of these astonishing students who are making history, this spellbinding book is an inspiring call to action for lasting change.

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'Catch and Kill,' by Ronan Farrow

In 2017, a routine investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood's most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family.

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse. It’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power and sheds light on investigations that shook our culture.

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'Killers of the Flower Moon,' by David Grann

In the 1920s the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long.

American Fire

'American Fire,' by Monica Hesse

The arsons started on a cold November midnight and didn’t stop for months. Night after night, the people of Accomack County waited to see which building would burn down next. The arsonist seemed to target abandoned buildings, and they were burning by the dozens.

Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse first drove down to the reeling county to cover a hearing for Charlie Smith, a struggling mechanic who upon his capture had promptly pleaded guilty to sixty-seven counts of arson. But as Charlie’s confession unspooled, it got deeper and weirder.

A mesmerizing and crucial panorama with nationwide implications, American Fire asks what happens when a community gets left behind. Hesse brings to life the Eastern Shore and its inhabitants, battling a punishing economy and increasingly terrified by a string of fires they could not explain. The result evokes the soul of rural America―a land half gutted before the fires even began.

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'My Friend Anna,' by Rachel DeLoache Williams

Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams's new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous--picking up the tab for lavish dinners, infrared sauna sessions, drinks, and regular workout sessions with a celebrity personal trainer.

When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech at the five-star La Mamounia hotel, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna's credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel when they returned.

Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. With breathless pacing and in-depth reporting from the person who experienced it firsthand, My Friend Anna is an unforgettable true story of money, power, greed, and female friendship.

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'I'll Be Gone in the Dark,' by Michelle McNamara

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

This is the haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case, which was solved in April 2018.

All American Murder Cover

'All American Murder,' by James Patterson

Aaron Hernandez was a college All-American who became the youngest player in the NFL and later reached the Super Bowl. His every move as a tight end with the New England Patriots played out the headlines, yet he led a secret life that ended in a maximum-security prison. What drove him to go so wrong, so fast?

Between the summers of 2012 and 2013, not long after Hernandez made his first Pro Bowl, he was linked to a series of violent incidents culminating in the death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who dated the sister of Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.

All-American Murder is the first book to investigate Aaron Hernandez's first-degree murder conviction and the mystery of his own shocking and untimely death.

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'Diamond Dorris,' by Doris Payne

Growing up during the Depression in the segregated coal town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, Doris Payne was told her dreams were unattainable for poor black girls like her. Doris vowed to turn the tables after the owner of a jewelry store threw her out when a white customer arrived.

Using her southern charm, quick wit, and fascination with magic as her tools, Payne began shoplifting small pieces of jewelry from local stores. Over the course of six decades, her talents grew with each heist. Doris's criminal exploits went unsolved well into the 1970s, partly because the stores did not want to admit that they were duped by a black woman. She was eventually turned in, but she cleverly used nuns and various ruses to help her break out.

Today, at eighty-seven, Doris, tells her own story as a captivating anti-hero in this rip-roaringly fun and exciting adventure.

American Heiress Cover

'American Heiress,' by Jeffrey Toobin

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, the heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The story took its first twist on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre Tania.

The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times. Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who made the stunning decision to join her captors crusade.

Or did she?

Published on December 11, 2019
Last Modified February 29, 2020