3 Underrated (and Incredible!) True Crime Books You Haven’t Heard Of

Updated on May 2, 2019
Astrid McClymont profile image

Astrid graduated with a Bsc Hons in Criminology and Psychological Studies in 2017 and currently works as a professional ghostwriter.

True crime books have become increasingly popular in recent years and have come a long way since the dawn of the genre with Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. I'll be honest in that I'm a complete fiend for true crime books and have read more than I can even remember. Over the years I've discovered some absolute gems that give us a fantastic insight into the criminal mind, and the many complicated dynamics that lead up to a criminal incident.

Books, unlike documentaries and movies provide us with a far more in depth examination of events and the relationships surrounding them. Here, we take a look at 5 underrated true crime books you may not have heard of.

If you are familiar with the case of Bible John, you'll be aware that it gripped the Scottish city of Glasgow for decades. Between 1968-69, a serial killer took the lives 3 women and to this day, their murders have remained unsolved.

Yet the case has become increasingly complicated as the years have passed, and Glasgow's memory of the brutal and sadistic killings have not faded. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Bible John until I found this book, and I was suddenly plunged into a quagmire of new and terrifying information.

It tells the story of young Hannah Martin who, after leaving the infamous Barrowland Ballroom, was raped by an unknown assailant. But when the photo-fit of Bible John hit the news, he wasn't unknown any more. Hannah was certain her rapist fit his description but told no one, and her secret continued to haunt her long after she discovered she was made pregnant by her attacker.

Bible John's Secret Daughter: Murder, Drugs and a Mother's Secret Heartbreak by David Leslie

After giving her child up for adoption, she attempted to forget all about that horrendous night, but was always plagued by the image of Bible John. David Leslie does a terrific job of outlining the traumatic events of her life and how she became embroiled in an underworld that was worthy of its own book.

Yet the end brings a startling revelation that not only makes the Bible John case more convoluted and horrifying, but provides evidence of the involvement of another famous British serial killer.

I couldn't put this book down and was gripped from the first page. Although I might be biased because David Leslie has long been one of my favorite authors. But seriously, it's one of those books that makes you miserable when you've finished it, and raises so many questions you'll be up all night trying to crack the case of Bible John yourself.

Rose West: The Making of a Monster by Jane Carter-Woodrow

I'll be honest. I was never that interested in the case of Fred and Rosemary West because they simply repulsed me. But one day I stumbled across this book and realized there was so much more to Rose than I first thought.

Believe it or not, she was a highly likeable child, beautiful and caring... and completely disturbed. The book outlines her life and examines the tumultuous family background she was born into. It discusses fascinating topics that may or may not have contributed to her notoriety in later life. Such as the abuse she was victim to in her childhood, the deranged habits of her father, and how her mother received electro-convulsive therapy while she was pregnant with Rose. To name just a few examples...

Carter-Woodrow does a tremendous job of giving us every detail imaginable about Rose's life so we can come to our own conclusions about the woman she later became. And I was shocked to discover her life was shockingly tragic and eventful before she even met Fred West.

This was a deeply fascinating read that took me by surprise. However, it's not for the faint-hearted and can be incredibly difficult to read at times.

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry

I have a very distinct memory of reading this book in the middle of summer in the blistering sunshine and getting goosebumps. It terrified the absolute life out of me, but equally enthralled me.

The case of Lucie Blackman became familiar to me when her disappearance hit the British headlines when I was a teenager. I knew nothing of the Japanese culture of hostesses and found it both mysterious yet sinister.

Author of The People Who Eat Darkness, Richard Lloyd Parry was as close to the case as any writer could be. As a journalist he covered her disappearance, the investigation into her murder and the long, intense trial that gripped the world. Over the course of ten years, he gained access to Japanese officials and her friends and family in a bid to discover everything that needed to be known about Lucie's death.

There are three things that stood out for me in this book. Firstly, Parry gives us a respectful and detailed insight into the girl that Lucie was. And through this, he has managed to let her personality shine on long after her death.

Secondly, he navigated all the twists and turns of the case with impeccable ease. So the read feels like being on a seamless though rudderless roller-coaster ride into the depths of the macabre.

Lastly, he places Lucie's death within the much needed context of Japanese history and culture. This isn't just interesting in itself, but gives us an understanding of their legal system and how justice was sought for Lucie. All together, Parry's work gives a full, rich picture of the case that is absolutely unforgettable.

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    © 2019 Astrid McClymont

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