Crime fiction has so many subgenres that are perfect for all of your twisted tale needs. From domestic suspense to police procedural to psychological thriller—or even my personal favorite, serial killer thrillers. There’s something addictive about a boogeyman haunting the characters you’ve just met, the red herrings; the different directions an author can take their reader on with the twists and turns of this kind of story, and the details that go into building such a petrifying villain.
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
In one of the most jaw-dropping reads I’ve read, Find Her by Lisa Gardner takes the trope of a deranged truck driver serial killer and turns it into a poignant and sinister story of survival. Flora Dane was kidnapped seven years ago on spring break and spent 472 days with her captor, enduring the most brutal psychological and physical torture. Since her return to her normal life, she’s spent five years trying to go back to her normal life. That is, until detective D.D. Warren is called to a crime scene involving a dead man and Flora, the woman who killed him. When Flora is connected to three other victims, D.D. must investigate if Flora is a vigilante or just has a string of bad luck. That is, until Flora disappears and D.D. begins to wonder if the hunter had become the hunted.
What You Don’t Know by JoAnn Chaney
Chaney’s novel What You Don’t Know has haunted me since 2017 when she introduced me to one of the most chill-inducing serial killers I’ve ever read about in a tale of the trauma people affected by a serial killer endure when they aren’t his victims. What You Don’t Know gives its brave readers a look at the lives of three people whose lives intersect and will never be the same. Hoskins was the lead detective who solved the case of an infamous serial killer. Now, he works cold cases and his career is plummeting. Sammie was the lead reporter who broke the story. Now, she sells makeup at the local mall and fears she will never report again. Gloria was the killer’s innocent and unsuspecting wife. All three are in for a rude awakening as they relive the nightmare all over again as new murders begin to taunt Denver.
These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall
Weaving a current timeline with pieces of a digital scrapbook and a plethora of lifelike characters with a relentless pacing, These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall was one of the hardest books to put down….so I didn’t. Mickie Lambert creates digital scrapbooks for her clients of their most precious memories. When a curio shop owner and Mickie’s latest client dies unexpectedly, Mickie vows to finish the scrapbook in her honor. As Mickie begins to get further into the project, she starts to receive threatening messages from a dormant serial killer and feels like she’s being watched. As a result, when Mickie dives further into her client’s ominous past, Mickie’s life spirals into a dangerous web of cat and mouse.
Stalker by Lars Kepler
The Joona Linna series is my favorite series in crime fiction, and the case in Stalker will always give me chills. Intricate, dark and sensational, this story plays on your fears if you’ve ever had that moment where you ask yourself “is someone else in my house?” The Swedish National Crime Unite receives a video of a young woman in her home, unaware she is being watched and before the police can find out who she is or where she is, she is found brutally murdered. When the police receive another video of another woman, they call in Joona Linna to help them hunt down this taunting murderer before the bodycount begins to pile up.
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen
If you’re looking for a perfectly written thriller that includes beautiful prose, a dark plot, and vivid characters—you need Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen. There are the bodies of Jane Does hidden in the marsh behind a motel and only one person knows where they lay. When a teenage boardwalk psychic named Clara meets a New York transplant named Lily working at the casino spa, Clara enlists Lily’s help with the disturbing visions she’s been having. As the visions continue and women continue to go missing in Atlantic City, Clara and Lily walk the fine line of coming close to finding out who is responsible—and coming dangerously close to being next.
Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier
Jar of Hearts is one of the darkest stories I’ve ever read. Hillier doesn’t hold back nor flinch with this story of three best friends. Angela, Georgina and Kaiser were the best of friends in high school, that is until Angela disappeared without a trace. Fourteen years later, her remains are found in the woods behind Georgina’s house and Brody, now a detective, is working on the case. The revelation? Angela was the victim of serial killer Calvin James who also murdered other women. The problem? Calvin James was Georgina’s first love. For fourteen years, Georgina knew what happened to Angela and now, the truth is closer than ever to finally being revealed.
Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar
Chasing the Boogeyman’s cover . . . I could stare at all day—but the book itself is even more mesmerizing. Written in a true-crime format featuring some real people that Chizmar knew growing up, as if this had really happened, when he was in college. In the summer of ’88 in a small town in Maryland, teenage girls are being found brutally murdered. Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar and his friend Carly begin their own investigation as rumors swirl of a serial killer haunting their peaceful community, including the most terrifying one possible: what if the killer isn’t human?
A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
If you’re looking for a story that will stick with you long after the final page, A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham is one that is well worth every penny. Chloe Davis was just twelve years old when her father confessed to being responsible for the disappearances of six teenage girls and was then sentenced to life in prison. Twenty years later, Chloe is a psychologist who is trying to live as normal of a life as possible until local teenagers begin to disappear, and the memories of her past come flooding back. Is this the work of a copycat killer or was her father really innocent the whole time?
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Looking to try Nordic Noir for the first time? The Snowman is a great place to start with this serial killer chiller full of mystery, atmosphere, and creepy scenes. In Oslo during the first snowfall of the year, a young boy wakes up to find his mother has disappeared and a snowman is in his yard wearing her scarf. Detective Harry Hole is working the case and realizes that this isn’t the first woman to go missing during the first snowfall. After receiving an ominous letter, Harry finds that there could be a link between the notes he has been receiving and the missing women pointing that he may be the biggest clue to solving these crimes.
The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup
Nordic Noir meets a cinematic and terrifying tale that combines a cold case with present-time murders. Two detectives are hunting down a serial killer in Copenhagen who has been leaving a doll made of chestnuts and matchsticks at each crime scene. During their investigation, the detectives find that one of the chestnuts has a fingerprint belonging to a young girl who had vanished and was presumed murdered a year ago. The detectives begin to question if the man behind bars is guilty or if an accomplice has been loose this entire time.
Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke
Cold cases and podcast elements intertwine in the immersive Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke. Elle Castillo is a trained social worker who hosts a true crime podcast that involves cold cases of missing and abducted children. Elle finally feels like she’s ready to take on the case of The Countdown Killer, someone who kidnapped and murdered three girls over seven days and mysteriously vanished after taking his eleven-year-old victim twenty years ago. When Elle finds a dead body after investigating a tip and another child is abducted, Elle wonders if The Countdown Killer is back or a copycat killer has emerged.
The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart
While you may recognize this name as the co-host of the true crime podcast, Morbid, now she’s an author of one of the creepiest tales that takes place in the Louisiana bayou. A killer is taunting the police and hunting his victims in Louisiana. Forensic pathologist Dr. Wren Muller is using her knowledge of historical crimes to find this madman who is performing medical experiments on his victims and finds herself in a cat-and-mouse game that is so deadly, she wonders if she could be next.
The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson
If you love British crime procedurals like Luther, this dark and immersive story is the one for you. Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has just reported to a crime scene in which different body parts from two different victims have been found. This reminds Anjelica of crimes committed by the Jigsaw Killer, Peter Olivier, who has been in prison for the last two years. While Anjelica hunts for what she believes is a copycat killer, Peter finds out someone is copying his crimes and wants revenge. From here, it’s a race to see who gets to the killer first, Peter or Anjelica.
These Women by Ivy Pochoda
If you want more “true to life” aspects in your serial killer stories with the same amount of chills, check out These Women by Ivy Pochoda. Loosely based off a real serial killer, Pochoda’s story focuses on a group of narrators including a grieving mother and a vice cop who give the reader a story about south Los Angeles and the murders that plagued this area. The murders of these women weren’t taken seriously and put the blame on the victims for living “at risk” lifestyles in a tale about a serial killer along with aspects of female empowerment and social injustice.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
If you want something that’s more psychologically scary with a realistic and poignant approach to its story, check out Notes on an Execution. Danya Kukafka gives an odyssey of a novel in which serial killer Ansel Packer has already been caught and is awaiting execution. Through the eyes of Ansel awaiting his execution and the women in his life that have been affected by the murders he committed, you truly get a full honest portrayal of how harrowing these crimes can be through perspectives of Ansel’s mother, his wife’s twin sister, and the detective who hunted him down in a story that is so engrossing, it’s hard to believe it’s fiction.
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
If a serial killer thriller reminds you of the final girls in some of your favorite horror movies such as Friday the 13th, Scream, and Nightmare on Elm Street, then you’ll want this one on your TBR ASAP! So, the movie is over, the final girl survivor is left standing and the credits roll. What next? Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group dives in deep into the psyche of a group of women who have all survived massacres and are in a support group. Lynnette Tarkington has been meeting with these women who have all struggled to get their lives back on track after surviving brutal attacks and dealing with decades of trauma. When one of the other “final girls” goes missing from the group, Lynette and the other women wonder if someone is hunting down members of their group.