This year at True Crime Index, we have been fortunate enough to read some of the best and most-anticipated true crime texts published this year. Covering an array of crimes and historical periods, the texts we reviewed this year featured something that appealed to nearly every true crime buff. Therefore, we’ve decided to put together an essential holiday gift guide for the true crime lover in your life, whether that’s you or someone else! Whether you’re interested in famous cases, historical true crime, or something else, there is a 2021 true crime release that is perfect for a holiday gift. We encourage you to purchase these books from your local bookstore.
A Killer by Design by Ann Wolbert Burgess (Hachette Books, 2021)
For the Mindhunter fan in your life. Following famous texts by John Douglas and Robert Ressler, Ann Wolbert Burgess’s new text provides the much-needed perspective of the third member of the ‘Mindhunter’ team at the Behavioural Analysis Unit at the FBI in the 1970s and 1980s. Wolbert’s text provides readers with her perspective on the development of FBI profiling and the famous cases that served as case studies for this work.
True Crime Anthology:
Murder, Madness, and Mayhem by Mike Browne (HarperCollins, 2021)
This book is perfect for the true crime podcast lover. Comprised of short and compelling true crime stories ranging from murder, cults, natural disaster, and disease, Mike Browne’s Murder, Madness, and Mayhem is a great gift for someone who prefers a collection of smaller stories on separate crimes. As the host of the Dark Poutine Canadian true crime podcast, Browne’s writing is accessible and fun, with lots of reflection on the way the book interacts with the podcast.
Last Call by Elon Green (Macmillan, 2021)
Elon Green’s much-anticipated book, Last Call, recounts the story of the Last Call Killer and the gay community in New York City who was terrorized by this individual. Part social history and part true crime, this text is essential reading for queer people looking to engage with important aspects of queer history throughout the second half of the twentieth century.
Canadian True Crime:
Wish You Were Here by John Allore and Patricia Pearson (Penguin Random House, 2021)
For the Canadian literature lover and Canadian true crime buff. This memoir/true crime text by John Allore and Patricia Pearson recounts the 1978 unsolved murder of Theresa Allore, John Allore’s sister, who was found dead in Quebec. Theresa’s violent and unresolved death continues to haunt the Allore family, and Pearson and Allore explore the possibilities behind Theresa’s death and ask crucial questions about why the case remains unsolved, who could have possibly committed this crime, and if Theresa’s murder was connected to other unsolved crimes in the area.
Historical True Crime:
The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream by Dean Jobb (HarperCollins 2021)
This book is ideal for history lovers and historical true crime lovers. Jobb’s book recounts the case of serial killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, a British-Canadian serial killer who repeatedly murdered those close to him. A dangerous and transnational criminal, this Victorian case has a number of compelling twists and turns that will draw true crime readers in.
Cultish by Amanda Montell (HarperCollins, 2021)
Amanda Montell’s Cultish is perfect for those readers who seek out wider and further-reaching analyses of true crime and its social consequences. Montell surveys the work of language in dominating or creating insular and sometimes dangerous social groups. She engages with some of the most famous cultish groups in history, as well as the everyday groups that we might not think of as ‘cultish.’ Interviewing sociologists, linguists, historians, and cult survivors, as well as relying on her own expertise, this book is comprehensive and thoughtful.
True Crime Memoir:
The Uninnocent: Notes on Violence and Mercy by Katherine Blake (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021)
The perfect text for the avid memoir reader in your life, Blake’s text recalls a murder committed with her cousin. Her delicate and sophisticated prose puts this memoir in the ranks of Joan Didion and Mary Karr and allows this text to be elevated beyond the average true crime text. Blake discusses, among other things, her experiences in law school, teaching in prisons, and communicating with her cousin while he was incarcerated. This book is a must read for anyone interested in memoir or the true crime, memoir hybrid.
The Overdose/Opioid Crisis:
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (Penguin Random House, 2021).
This book is a must-gift for anyone in your life who may be studying or writing the opioid crisis, or even anyone who is just eager to learn. Keefe’s book adds to the growing literature on the opioid crisis with this extensive history of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma. Empire of Pain leaves no stone unturned and is crucial for understanding the opioid crisis.
The Autopsy of a Crime Lab: Exposing the Flaws in Forensics by Brandon L. Garrett (University of California Press, 2021)
For the budding criminologist, or even anyone simply trying to supplement their true crime reading with some scientifically oriented literature, Brandon L. Garrett’s The Autopsy of a Crime Lab: Exposing the Flaws in Forensics is the perfect text. Garrett’s meticulous research exposes the significant problems in forensics, questioning the aspects of the field that seem to have no scientific basis.
Gun Control Activism:
The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by Jillian Peterson and James Densley (Abrams Press, 2021)
For teachers, business owners, parents, and health care providers, for anyone passionate about gun control laws, or anyone yearning to know more—this text is for everyone. The Violence Project tells you everything you need to know about the mass shooting epidemic in the United States and offers evidence-based solutions as to how this crisis can be abated. The authors discuss everything from live shooter drills to security products, explaining what works and what doesn’t based upon their extensive research.
Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes by Silver Donald Cameron
For the Maritimer in your life, or anyone hailing from a small town, Cameron’s text explores a notorious crime that occurred in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The wonderful thing about this text is not just how well it tells the story of a crime, but how well it tells the story of the place in which this crime took place—and the people who were there to witness it.