Do you like to play detective? Do you enjoy chilling criminal escapades? Here are the 20 best true crime audiobooks to satisfy your inner detective.
There is nothing more thrilling than the unfolding tale of a true crime story. Whether an unsolved mystery, a deep dive into a criminal mastermind, or a look at an infamous serial killer, true crime is gripping, captivating, and engrossing. The best true crime audiobooks will have you on the edge of your seat, anxious for more. Add to that an emphatic and powerful narrator, and you simply won't be able to stop listening. Here are the 20 best true crime audiobooks to satisfy your inner detective.
Known today as the Golden State Killer, a mysterious serial rapist and murderer terrorized California for more than a decade between 1974 and 1986 and then seemingly disappeared, eluding police and detectives—and denying his victims and their families any semblance of justice. Thirty years later, true crime journalist Michelle McNamara picked up the case on her own to try and put the pieces together. The result is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, a detailed journal of her dogged obsession with uncovering the identity of a violent offender who had been allowed to roam free. McNamara tragically passed away while in the middle of her investigation, just two years before the subject of her research was finally identified and charged. With expert narration from the calm and composed Gabra Zackman, an introduction by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and a touching afterword by McNamara’s husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a truly original take on the true crime genre and an exceedingly human portrait of the pursuit of truth.
As a summer intern at a law firm in Louisiana, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich works to defend those accused of murder. A child of two lawyers, she is committed to justice, her beliefs firm; for one, she is decidedly anti-capital punishment. But when she is put on a case regarding the atrocities of child murderer Ricky Langley, Marzano-Lesnevich begins to waver—in her gut, all she wants is for this man to be punished to the ends of the law. As more is unearthed about the traumas of Langley’s past, a more human side of the man dubbed a monster begins to take shape. As the author’s own experiences with child abuse begin to overlap with the case she’s been assigned, she is forced to confront the painful memories she has tried desperately to leave in the past. Narrating her own story, Marzano-Lesnevich’s confessional performance of how she grapples with the logistical, emotional, and ethical snarls in the Langley case make this a can’t-miss, compelling listen.
For a headline-dominating crime story that completely captured the nation's attention when it happened in 2002, there was surprisingly little information on the DC Sniper investigation—until this comprehensive audio documentary came along. Using thorough reporting, victim interviews, and firsthand accounts from the lead FBI investigators on the case (including agents and brothers Jim and Tim Clemente), Call Me God exposes the seams at which our judicial infrastructure breaks down, while elevating the moments of heroism and triumph where both tireless work and a little good luck can deliver justice. Harrowing and immediate, Call Me God is a documentary that feels like an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but with very real-life stakes.
Through the eyes of award-winning journalist John Carreyrou and presented in the commanding, engaging tenor of Audie Award winner Will Damron, Bad Blood gives listeners an inside look at the rise and fall of notoriously fraudulent medical tech company Theranos. At its peak, the biotech start-up was valued at $10 billion with power-hitters like Henry Kissinger and General James Mattis serving on its board. A Stanford dropout in her early 20s, founder Elizabeth Holmes was widely considered to be a technological wunderkind, claiming she would transform not just the medical industry but also the world by making blood tests easier and more efficient. There was only one problem—the technology didn’t work. Bad Blood tells the story of how agencies and regulatory bodies turned a blind eye to the biggest corporate fraud case since Enron—an astonishing tale of a scam layered with greed, manipulation, and recklessness.
In the roaring ‘20s, the Osage Nation was home to the richest people per capita in the world, thanks to huge stores of oil beneath their land in Oklahoma. Suddenly, the Osage began dying off, one by one, without explanation. When outsiders were called in to investigate, they too met mysterious ends. As the death toll climbed into the dozens and repeated investigations were bungled, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the newly established FBI, exasperatedly called in a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. What they uncovered would amount to one of the most frightening conspiracies the United States had ever seen. Adding to this masterpiece of research and storytelling, three excellent narrators—2013 Narrator of the Year Will Patton, theatre and television veteran Ann Marie Lee, and classically trained actor Danny Campbell—trade off to tell this gripping tale of greed, racism, and murder in sections, underscoring each new element of evidence as it’s revealed.
Serving as the basis for the celebrated Netflix series of the same name, Mindhunter is a look into what it takes to catch some of the world’s most sadistic serial killers and criminals—including Charles Manson, Seattle’s Green River Killer, Ted Bundy, and Ed Gein. Author John E. Douglas is a former FBI agent who spent 25 years in the FBI’s Investigative Support Unit using psychological profiling to uncover insights into the motives and methods of these notorious offenders. This listen is a must-hear for all true crime aficionados as it offers a genuine glimpse into how the most chilling criminals of all time are identified, tracked, apprehended, and charged. When paired with staccato, beat-cop-style narration from Richard M. Davidson, Douglas’s recollections of life hunting for the most notorious men in history is absolutely engrossing.
Hall of Fame Narrator Scott Brick (dubbed the “man with a golden voice”) brings an expertly executed narration, rich with intelligence and sensitivity, to this utterly captivating story you won’t be able to pause. In the masterwork that cemented him as a literary icon, Truman Capote tells the chilling story of the vicious murder of a quiet, good-natured family of four in rural Kansas. In November 1959, the Clutter family was killed by a series of shotgun blasts. It was the kind of murder often linked to a robbery—but there was little cash and few valuables in the family farmhouse. Baffled by this startling, seemingly senseless act of violence, local law enforcement was plunged into a furious scramble to uncover a motive. Each event leading up to and following the crime are painstakingly described, leaving you completely breathless right up to the killers’ identification and capture. Capote’s work, based on thousands of interviews with locals, investigators, and the perpetrator themselves, took over six years to be completed—and each vivid detail and line of dialogue showcase the immense consideration and compassion that the author poured into his work.
A podcast-turned-cultural-phenomenon, Serial was the must-listen event of 2014, having been downloaded over 80 million times in less than two years. It told the story of Adnan Syed, a young man who was arrested and charged—perhaps erroneously—for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend. Now, hear the story as never before from Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and family friend who first jump started a new investigation and trial for Syed. Despite a jury’s conclusion, Chaudry maintains that Adnan was wrongfully convicted—and she claims she has the evidence to prove it. Sharing letters from Syed’s time in prison and illuminating key details missed during the trial, this inside look at a case that gripped national attention combines true crime with an in-depth look at our criminal justice system. Fervent, articulate, and passionate, Chaudry narrates her own unflinching work with unforgettable candor.
Combine a celebrated, Edgar Award-winning journalist and the accessible delivery of a multi-Audie winner and what you’re left with is a pause-resistant true crime wonder. In 1893, the titular “White City” was constructed in Chicago, an ambitious, magical fairground expected to host the World’s Fair. But the White City also became the lurking grounds for Dr. Henry H. Holmes, one of history’s most notorious serial killers. On the site of what was at the time an increasingly popular attraction, Holmes constructed the World’s Fair Hotel—which also happened to house a hidden torture chamber. Scott Brick narrates Larson’s twisted tale of two vastly different stories: one of hope and industry as the World’s Fair locale was constructed, and the other of some of the most despicably brutal murders in America’s history.
When Ann Rule met coworker Ted Bundy in 1971, they became fast friends, chatting over shared lunches. Over the next two years, their bond continued to develop and Rule warmly regarded him as kind and empathic. The last thing Rule expected of Bundy was that he was quickly and quietly taking his place as one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. As a charming and handsome young man studying to be an attorney, he managed to evade suspicion for nearly five years until he had murdered over 35 women. Actress and veteran narrator Lorelei King gives what one Audible listener called an “effortless performance” as she enlivens each pang of emotion throughout Rule’s pained recollections. The Stranger Beside Me is one of the most terrifying selections on this list, as both an in-depth look at the details of the Bundy murders and as a testament to how one man’s magnetism helped him masquerade as an upstanding citizen as he carried out some of the most vicious acts imaginable.
Just two days before Christmas 1996, Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a French television producer holidaying in Ireland, was brutally bludgeoned to death outside her home. The crime sent shockwaves through the small, tight-knit town of Schull, a coastal village in County Cork, a normally peaceful province that rarely, if ever, saw an act of violence. As the investigation unfolded, the answer to one question remained unclear—who would want to kill Sophie, a complete stranger to most of the townspeople? Listen in as hosts Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde take a deep dive into the du Plantier murder and the ceaseless hunt for answers. What makes this breathtakingly atmospheric listen so special is the haunting sound design as well as the intimate participation of the case’s main suspect, an English journalist who maintains he was framed—but who many in West Cork are convinced got away with murder.
In this story, the basis for Spike Lee’s Academy Award-winning film BlacKkKlansman, author Ron Stallworth shares what it was like to be instated as the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department—a position that gave him the opportunity to take a shot at dismantling a violent, white supremacist stronghold. Posing over the phone as a white man looking to join the Ku Klux Klan, Stallworth is soon invited to join the cause and “preserve the nation’s heritage.” Seizing an opportunity to infiltrate the nation’s largest domestic terrorist group, Stallworth hatches a plan to send his white partner to stand in as him. This insider story, narrated by the author himself, paints a stunning picture of a divided America, the absurdities that accompany racism, and the phenomenal heroes with the courage to fight back.
When Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old, she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in the middle of the night by a religious fanatic and his wife. Taken to a remote encampment, Smart was held captive, chained to a tree, and repeatedly raped and abused, as her captors warned that her family would be killed if she made an attempt to escape. A decade after her abduction, she published this harrowing listen, a tale of survival, faith, and recovery after trauma. Smart’s honest and stirring retelling of the most horrific moments of her life—and the touching reunion with her family that followed—will keep you captivated, leaving a sense of hope uncommon to the true crime genre in its wake.
Evil Has a Name is another audio entry in the canon of work written about the elusive Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and the Original Night Stalker. But even if you’re already familiar with the crimes of now-identified suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, this audio, led by Paul Holes (the cold-case investigator who helped pin down DeAngelo) and Jim Clemente (a former FBI profiler, prosecutor, and current podcast host) is a new perspective that has never been revealed before. Holes and Clemente walk listeners through the steps it took to close the case over four decades, from examining evidence to identifying suspects to the innovative forensic genealogy that finally cracked the case. Featuring a collection of first-person interviews and intimate conversations with law enforcement, family of victims, and survivors of the attacks, this listen is a window into the tenacity and strength it takes to maintain your humanity while you’re investigating the crimes of a monster.
Considered one of the foremost entries in the true crime canon, Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter sheds light on one of the nation’s most darkly fascinating cases: the cold-blooded homicides carried out by the Manson family. In the summer of 1969, a group of young men and women entered the house of actress-model Sharon Tate under the orders of cult leader Charles Manson and barbarically murdered all five inhabitants, before killing two more the next day. A savagely cruel and senseless crime committed in star-studded Beverly Crest, the story drew massive media attention and became a national obsession. Also narrated by acclaimed voice artist Scott Brick, Helter Skelter offers an expert perspective on the case (Bugliosi was the prosecutor in the case), from the bizarre twists in both the crime and the trial to the sinister ways Manson mindlessly selected his victims.
When his friend and fellow crime writer Michelle McNamara died unexpectedly in 2016, Billy Jensen helped finish her memoir I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which went on to become a major best-seller. In Chase Darkness with Me, Jensen shares intimate details of the hunt for the Golden State Killer, as well as his own investigations into unsolved crimes such as the elusive murder of the Allenstown Four.” Follow Jensen on his journeys into the depths of true crime, as he searches for clues, from tracking down the Halloween Mask Murderer to finding a missing girl in the California Redwoods. Narrated by My Favorite Murder podcast host Karen Kilgariff, this part memoir, part true crime story gives the listener a look into how a true crime enthusiast becomes a professional. After listening to Jensen’s gripping, complex story—and hearing his tips and tools on how to crack any case—you might even feel equipped to go out and try solving a few murders yourself.
When John Sosnovke and Laverne Pavlinac were convicted of the rape and murder of Taunja Bennett in 1990, Keith Hunter Jeperson wasn’t about to let someone else take credit for his kill. On the wall of a truck stop bathroom, Jeperson scrawled a chilling confession to the murder, signing the ominous note with a smiley face. Soon, messages from the so-called “Happy Face Killer” surfaced in the mailboxes of newspaper editors, taunting investigators and the public. As the letters continued, so did the murders—eight of them confirmed, 185 confessed. The riveting chase to catch a serial killer is told from the first hand perspective of journalist Jack Olsen and brought to life by prolific narrator Kevin Pierce (playfully monikered “The Voice of the Apocalypse” for his work in dark, life-and-death audio), carefully unpacking the crimes, the letters, and the tragic backstory of how such a vicious killer came to be.
This vulnerable, hilarious, and heartwarming listen shares never-before-heard stories from the hosts of the wildly popular podcast, My Favorite Murder. Stepping beyond their usual discussions on violence and death, Kilgariff and Hardstark are less guarded than ever as they recount their own personal stories of depression, addiction, anxiety, and eating disorders in addition to getting candid about the experiences that shaped their careers. Expanding on their own personal expertise as two of the most recognized and beloved voices in the true crime world, these co-hosts and co-authors share some thoughts on the cultural, social, and emotional impacts of the crime-as-entertainment business…all while advocating for the importance of staying safe in an often perilous world. Told with ferocious earnestness and an enormous amount of love, this is a must-hear for Murderinos and first-time listeners alike.
In December 1972, Jean McConville, a mother of 10, was dragged out of her home in Northern Ireland with her children clutching at her legs. Her family would never lay eyes on her again—until, that is, her bones washed up on a beach in 2003. Author and New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe weaves the story of McConville’s disappearance with the larger context of the bitter conflicts that plagued Ireland throughout the latter half of the 20th century. The result is a mesmerizing tale set against the backdrop of a low-level war that raged in Ireland, known as “The Troubles,” a seemingly endless era of violence, terrorism, and endless acts of rebellion. In his natural Irish brogue, Matthew Blaney lends an additional layer to the audio, immersing you in a world brimming with every scale of horror imaginable—from individual murders to bombs that brought entire communities to their knees.
One of the longest-standing New York Times bestsellers of all time, John Berendt’s beautiful, intoxicating Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a can’t-miss selection for any true crime fan. Jeff Woodman’s expertly crafted Southern drawl transports you to Berendt’s painstakingly crafted portrait of Savannah, Georgia in the 1980s, depicting larger-than-life characters as their lives intersect. The story begins with the killing of a local male sex worker, but as one mystery unfolds, so do countless secrets held by the socialites, sex workers, entertainers, and eccentrics in this sleepy southern city. Though firmly rooted in the real life killing of Danny Hansford, Berendt’s gripping, narrative work nonetheless reads like an excellently paced novel, keeping you hooked on each new revelation and reveal.