books

'I'm obsessed with books about crime. Here are the 5 best I've ever read.'

Not too long ago, for about two straight years, I only read books about crime.

True crime, crime fiction, thrillers, books about serial killers, detectives, and scams - I ate it all up. My bookshelves were stacked with dark ominous covers depciting shadowy figures and glistening knives.

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I have since branched out and now read across all genres, which is good because not only was I struggling to sleep, but I was starting to guess whodunnit within the first few chapters - I had read so many crime books, I could pick out patterns in an instant.

That's why these books that I'm recommending are my favourite crime books. They all veer a bit outside of the standard 'person gets murdered and a hardened detective with a drinking problem and/or a female detective trying to prove herself has to solve the crime'. There's nothing wrong with that type of crime book (I love a good Ian Rankin Rebus novel myself) - but it's nice to discover books within the genre that are just a little bit different. 

These are a mixture of true crime and fiction crime, so there's something for every crime buff. 

1. The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People’s Temple by Jeff Guinn.

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This true-crime-biography tracks the story of Jim Jones and the rise of the People's Temple, the cult that ultimately led to one of the largest murder-suicides in American history. This book is a definitive look at the preacher himself and the events that led to the tragedy.

This one is hefty, but it's worth the effort. If you, like me, have ever been perplexed about how cults can snowball to the point of utter tragedy, this book offers that insight. It's a snapshot of history, of a time and place that was ripe for Jim Jones to take advantage. It's comprehensive and exacting – a biography, true crime and lesson in psychology all in one. It's a book that looks at one of the greatest tragedies and asks, we know how it all ended... but how did it all begin?

2. Sadie by Courtney Summers.

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The blurb for this novel reads: "A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about." And really, that's all I'm going to give to you in terms of the plot because I think it's best to sit back and let this harrowing and riveting book tell its own story.

It's raw, emotional and, at times, quite dark. The fascinating mode of story-telling blends a podcast-style narration with Sadie's own telling of her story and is incredibly well-done. The ending will stick with you in both a good and bad way, with an echo of chilling timeliness that really clings to you. This book tackles some tough topics, so make sure you're fully prepared for it. Maybe line up some Bob's Burgers as a palate cleanser after?

3. The Search Party by Simon Lelic.

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This book follows five teens who set off into the woods in search of their missing friend, Sadie Saunders. However, each of them has a secret and knows more about Sadie's past – and perhaps her disappearance – than they are willing to admit. And not everyone is going to make it home.

I devoured this novel in about two days. This was a book with a twist that had me gasping; a captivating, atmospheric whodunnit of a book that had me second-guessing every character. There's a lot of suspense and intrigue and conflicting character dynamics that kept me turning the page.

4. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.

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This novel is the unforgettable true story of the lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated and the wrongly condemned. 

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If you want to feel fired up with rage at a broken justice system and simultaneously buoyed with a hope for those who fight against it – this is the book for you. It's true crime in the sense that it directly looks at the criminal justice system and explores real-life cases of crimes in which serious miscarriages of justice have taken place. The reason I include this book in my recommendations is because I don't think that we can really consume true crime without looking at the criminal justice system itself, acknowledging the flaws and biases that exist. There's a reason this book is so widely known and praised – it is so vitally important for us to consume, even if you don't live in the US.

5. The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie.

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When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered. This novel follows Cecily, who was supposed to be inside the building, Kate, who fled the disaster to start a new life, and Franny, a woman in search of her birth mother. All the women are guarding terrible secrets – how far will they go to keep them?

I love a multi-perspective novel (if you hadn't noticed) – there's something about different narrators confusing the hell out of me that I find makes crime thrillers that much more intriguing. This book was jam-packed with twists and turns that kept me guessing and delivered an entertaining character-driven ride.

For more from Shaeden Berry, you can find her on Instagram @berrywellthanks.

Feature Image: Supplied/Booktopia/Mamamia.

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