Share 13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

Kerry Fiallo is a New York native and copywriter at Simon & Schuster. A lifelong voracious reader, she has a particular fondness for ghost stories, history, and anything to do with Mary Shelley, Ada Lovelace, and the Brontë sisters. The only thing she may love more than books is black tea, but they do often go well together. You can find her as she navigates through literature and history on Twitter @ReadingInNYC and on Tumblr.

We all love reading thrillers—from murder mysteries to gripping heists—but sometimes we are even more intrigued by a thriller when it is based on startling true events. Below are several of our favorite examples of fast-paced and suspenseful novels that were inspired by true crimes and shocking incidents throughout history.


The Two Mrs. Grenvilles
by Dominick Dunne

Dominick Dunne expertly depicts the tawdry lives of the rich and famous. In this novel, the matriarch of a society family is horrified when her banking-heir son marries a showgirl. The women butt heads until a scandalous shooting binds the two Mrs. Grenvilles together forever.

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles
Dominick Dunne

Dominick Dunne expertly depicts the tawdry lives of the rich and famous. In this novel, the matriarch of a society family is horrified when her banking-heir son marries a showgirl. The women butt heads until a scandalous shooting binds the two Mrs. Grenvilles together forever.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

The Daughter of Time
by Josephine Tey
Considered one of the greatest mystery novels of all time, THE DAUGHTER OF TIME explores the infamous alleged crimes of King Richard III. When a Scotland Yard inspector comes across a portrait of the king, he becomes obsessed with discovering the truth about the famous Plantagenet—and questions everything from his hunchback to his role with the legendary Princes in the Tower.
The Daughter of Time
Josephine Tey

Re-creating one of history’s most famous—and vicious—crimes, THE DAUGHTER OF TIME investigates who really killed Richard III’s nephews, the Princes in the Tower, and reveals the usurpers lying in wait behind the British throne.

MENTIONED IN:

9 Literary Daughters With Page-Turning Stories to Tell

By Aimee Boyer | November 15, 2016

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Who Wrote That?: 12 Books Written Under Pen Names

By Kerry Fiallo | October 6, 2016

11 Books Inspired by Shakespeare

By Allison Tyler | April 19, 2016

Addicted to Outlander? 11 Books to Read During the Long Wait for Season Two

By Caitlin Kleinschmidt | June 4, 2015

Close

Black Water
by Joyce Carol Oates

Based loosely on the Chappaquiddick incident that involved longtime U. S. Senator Ted Kennedy, this haunting, lyrical novella is told in flashbacks as a young woman slowly drowns after the car she is in—driven drunkenly by an unnamed senator—crashes into a deep marsh.

Black Water
Joyce Carol Oates

Based loosely on the Chappaquiddick incident that involved longtime U. S. Senator Ted Kennedy, this haunting, lyrical novella is told in flashbacks as a young woman slowly drowns after the car she is in—driven drunkenly by an unnamed senator—crashes into a deep marsh.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

The Alienist
by Caleb Carr
In Gilded Age New York, unconventional police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt is desperate to solve a brutal murder. He enlists a reporter, a psychologist, and an NYPD secretary to craft a psychological profile of the criminal—a revolutionary idea aimed at discovering the killer’s identity before he kills again.
The Alienist
Caleb Carr

Fast-paced and gripping, infused with a historian's exactitude, The Alienist conjures up the Gilded Age and its untarnished underside: verminous tenements and opulent mansions, corrupt cops and flamboyant gangsters, shining opera houses and seamy gin mills. Here is a New York during an age when questioning society's belief that all killers are born, not made, could have unexpected and mortal consequences.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

12 Fascinating Historical Novels That Will Transport You to Another Time

By Erin Flaaen | October 11, 2016

Teddy, Franklin, and Eleanor: 8 Books That Explore the Other Side of the Roosevelts

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 23, 2014

6 Great Books Explore the Wormy Heart of the Big Apple

By Off the Shelf Staff | April 10, 2014

Close

Room
by Emma Donoghue
Inspired by real-life horrifying kidnapping cases, ROOM is less a true crime novel and more a testament to the powerful love between mother and child. Determined to escape from the tiny room she’s been held in for several years, a young woman embarks on a harrowing and dangerous plan to gain freedom for herself and her son.
Room
Emma Donoghue

Adapting a child narrator for the screen could make a screenwriter’s life hell—but the author herself penned the script in this case, so there’s hope that the book’s celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child will have the adaptation it deserves.

Release date: Fall 2015

MENTIONED IN:

Bestselling Novelist Lisa See’s 13 Favorite Books

By Lisa See | March 28, 2017

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

13 Irish Writers to Read this St. Patrick’s Day

By Sarah Jane Abbott | March 15, 2016

Listen to the Kids! 12 Memorable Novels With Child Narrators

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 10, 2015

A Harrowing Novel of Evil and Redemption

By Erin Flaaen | September 25, 2015

13 Books You’ll Want to Read Before They Hit the Big Screen

By Emma Volk | July 14, 2015

Close

To Die For
by Joyce Maynard

A satirical cult classic based on the sensational case of Pamela Smart, this sharp and chilling look at media culture features a weatherwoman who craves fame but decides that her husband is in her way. So she hatches a plan: seduce a teenager and convince him to commit murder.

To Die For
Joyce Maynard

A satirical cult classic based on the sensational case of Pamela Smart, this sharp and chilling look at media culture features a weatherwoman who craves fame but decides that her husband is in her way. So she hatches a plan: seduce a teenager and convince him to commit murder.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt
by Edgar Allan Poe

Though only a short story, Poe’s crime masterpiece is famous for being one of the first mysteries based on a real murder: that of Mary Rogers, known as New York’s “beautiful cigar girl.” Poe’s detective uses analytical reasoning—much like the future Sherlock Holmes—to solve the sensational murder of a young woman.

The Mystery of Marie Rogêt
Edgar Allan Poe

Though only a short story, Poe’s crime masterpiece is famous for being one of the first mysteries based on a real murder: that of Mary Rogers, known as New York’s “beautiful cigar girl.” Poe’s detective uses analytical reasoning—much like the future Sherlock Holmes—to solve the sensational murder of a young woman.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

Quiet Dell
by Jayne Anne Phillips

A female journalist in 1930s Chicago investigates the sudden deaths of a woman and her three children. Is the charming man who promised to marry her and provide for her and her children involved? Based on the crimes of a real con man, Phillips crafts a mesmerizing and moving hunt for justice.

Quiet Dell
Jayne Anne Phillips

A female journalist in 1930s Chicago investigates the sudden deaths of a woman and her three children. Is the charming man who promised to marry her and provide for her and her children involved? Based on the crimes of a real con man, Phillips crafts a mesmerizing and moving hunt for justice.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

Silence of the Lambs
by Thomas Harris
Drawing from the modus operandi of several real serial killers, Thomas Harris crafted two of the most frightening villains of modern times: Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill. At the heart of this novel, though, is FBI trainee Clarice Starling, who juggles her own personal demons while tracking down a serial killer before he strikes again.
Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris

To understand the machinations of serial killer "Buffalo Bill," FBI trainee Clarice Starling is assigned the task of interviewing criminally insane Dr. Hannibal Lecter for insight. A former psychiatrist with unusual tastes and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind, Dr. Lecter is formidable twisted mind that Clarice must decode to solve to the case.

MENTIONED IN:

23 Thrilling Novels from the Bookshelf of Linwood Barclay

By Linwood Barclay | December 29, 2016

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

13 Most Terrifying Books of All Time

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 31, 2014

Gone Girl Withdrawal: 11 Books to Read If You Love Gillian Flynn

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 2, 2014

Pinned and Mounted: Literary Butterfly Collectors That Will Make Your Skin Crawl

By Sarah Jane Abbott | June 24, 2014

Close

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
There’s more than one side to every story as this compassionate historical retelling attests. Set in the isolated Icelandic countryside in 1829, BURIAL RITES follows the emotional last days of a young maid accused of the murder of her former employer.
Burial Rites
Hannah Kent

MENTIONED IN:

13 Most Shelved Books on Off the Shelf in 2016

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 13, 2016

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

A Powerful Story of a Young Woman and an Unspeakable Crime

By Sally Christie | May 27, 2016

Close

Legion
by William Peter Blatty

A serial killer mystery with a supernatural twist, this sequel to THE EXORCIST is sadly underrated. A killer is apparently copying the crimes of the long-dead Gemini Killer (based on the real Zodiac Killer)—or is something more sinister stalking the streets?

Legion
William Peter Blatty

A serial killer mystery with a supernatural twist, this sequel to THE EXORCIST is sadly underrated. A killer is apparently copying the crimes of the long-dead Gemini Killer (based on the real Zodiac Killer)—or is something more sinister stalking the streets?

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

True Confessions
by John Gregory Dunne

The Black Dahlia murder—the most notorious Hollywood crime—inspired this gripping and clever mystery, in which a prostitute is found brutally murdered in 1940s Los Angeles. Two brothers, a detective and a priest, are brought together in the investigation as guilt, hostility, and the dark sides of Hollywood test their loyalties.

True Confessions
John Gregory Dunne

The Black Dahlia murder—the most notorious Hollywood crime—inspired this gripping and clever mystery, in which a prostitute is found brutally murdered in 1940s Los Angeles. Two brothers, a detective and a priest, are brought together in the investigation as guilt, hostility, and the dark sides of Hollywood test their loyalties.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

The Great Train Robbery
by Michael Crichton

This thrilling heist novel brings the 1855 Great Gold Robbery to life. A master thief in Victorian London charms the upper class while planning the most daring robbery of the century: stealing a fortune of gold from a steam locomotive.

The Great Train Robbery
Michael Crichton

This thrilling heist novel brings the 1855 Great Gold Robbery to life. A master thief in Victorian London charms the upper class while planning the most daring robbery of the century: stealing a fortune of gold from a steam locomotive.

MENTIONED IN:

13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes

By Kerry Fiallo | October 18, 2016

Close

Thank you for joining our email list!

If you create and Off the Shelf account, you'll be able to save books to your personal bookshelf, and be eligible for free books and other good stuff.

Click here to create your free account.

Debugging information below
(This will not show up in Production)

WP_Post Object
(
    [ID] => 17161
    [post_author] => 81408
    [post_date] => 2016-10-18 06:00:54
    [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-18 10:00:54
    [post_content] => We all love reading thrillers—from murder mysteries to gripping heists—but sometimes we are even more intrigued by a thriller when it is based on startling true events. Below are several of our favorite examples of fast-paced and suspenseful novels that were inspired by true crimes and shocking incidents throughout history.
    [post_title] => 13 Gripping Novels Inspired by True Crimes
    [post_excerpt] => We all love reading thrillers—from murder mysteries to gripping heists—but sometimes we are even more intrigued by a thriller when it is based on startling true events. Below are several of our favorite examples of fast-paced and suspenseful novels that were inspired by true crimes and shocking incidents throughout history.  
    [post_status] => publish
    [comment_status] => open
    [ping_status] => open
    [post_password] => 
    [post_name] => 13-gripping-novels-inspired-by-true-crimes
    [to_ping] => 
    [pinged] => 
    [post_modified] => 2017-05-15 13:26:06
    [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-15 17:26:06
    [post_content_filtered] => 
    [post_parent] => 0
    [guid] => http://offtheshelf.com/?p=17161
    [menu_order] => 0
    [post_type] => post
    [post_mime_type] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [filter] => raw
)