In the shadows of our human experiences, stories about true crime lurk and grip our imagination with nefarious deeds. For a long time, I felt that detective and perpetrator points of view dominated the true crime literary world. However, I have witnessed and appreciated the transformative shift that has surfaced towards voicing the victims’ experiences.

Even though I am a sucker for crime fiction, I feel like nonfiction entries do it more for me. These memoirs and biographies not only recount the chilling crime details, they do so through the eyes of those who were directly or indirectly impacted by the atrocities.

In this article, I have compiled eight books offering unique lenses into true crime. These book were selected by  Let’s get to it.

What Are The Popular True Crime Memoirs and Biographies?

Journey From Midnight, by Selira V. Samanne (2023)

What a riveting and incredibly moving memoir to illustrate a young girl’s resilience and determination while navigating unimaginable hardships.

 Journey from Midnight gives a true crime memoir account of Selira’s soul as she adapted to adulthood while tackling the streets, their snares, and a lot of setbacks. While trying to escape abuse at the age of eleven, Selira got into the world only to enter into a lonely road.

She was trying to find herself and a better place. However, she was lured into the American streets and got into a life of sex, drugs, and Rock n Roll.

If you fancy reading about resilience in the face of adversity, this book is for you. It has incredible lessons about raising awareness and supporting child abuse victims. Even though it was immensely tense and emotional, I loved Selira’s indomitable spirit and how it helped her shine.

Being a feminist, I can attest that this account is a testament to the power of a woman’s strength. Selira’s journey at a very young age was brave, and I think this is a crucial reminder for us to rise above life's challenges.

I love that Selira made a point to explain how putting this book together has helped her heal from her trauma. If you are a music fan, this book details several rock songs you might remember. This was an excellent way to keep the heavy emotions light.

The Amish Wife, by Gregg Olsen (2024)

Gregg has always had a unique knack for putting together true crime to read like a novel, and he’s back with this new entry. His impressive approach and advocacy for the survivors and victims have always been things I admire in his works. I believe that’s why he has always been a top-selling author.

In The Amish Wife, Gregg unravels what happened to Ida Stutzman. She was pregnant and perished in a barn fire in 1977 while living in the Ohio Amish community. According to the report that came from the coroner, no one ever thought of Eli, her husband, as a suspect. After a while he rejected the faith and went away with Danny, his son. Murder transpired. But what really happened?

Gregg and Daniel Gingerich, Ida’s brother, were haunted by the same question which is how this book came to be. With aging witnesses and shocking evidence, Gregg unravels the disturbing mystery, secrets, and silent conspiracy surrounding Ida’s murder.

If you have read Gregg’s works, you know how gifted he is at weaving interview material into a cohesive narrative. You will love how he has written this book procedurally, and you will feel like you were there with him as he knocked on doors and spun out on the Midwestern ice.

This accurate historical excavation is gripping with its sturdy prose, and only Gregg could have graced Ida’s voice posthumously.

The Devil to Pay, by Sean Scott Hicks (2024)

If you love true crime memoirs about blood and vengeance but with a ray of hope, you better watch out for The Devil to Pay.

In this book, Sean Scott discusses his upbringing as part of the Boston criminal gangs. He grew up in South Boston and ran jobs for the Irish mob. His drug-befogged mother mistreated him, which is how he found himself in the arms of his adoptive family of unlawful uncles- the Winter Hill Gang. They may have been crooks, but they indeed looked after young Sean.

Having lived this life, Sean turned into a life of crime, and in this book, he talks about his experiences. Get to see how he ran illegal goods along the Massachusetts coast and his theory about how million-dollar-worthy art disappeared from the Isabella Gardner Museum.

I love that this is a book of redemption and one that shows that it is never too late to change for good. One thing that stands out is the value of family. Even though Sean was felonious, you will think deeply about how important family is.

This true crime autobiography illustrates greed and avarice and the reckoning criminals eventually face and will ultimately have you reflect on the realities of being in dangerous, dark, and insidious places.

Scott reminds us that acknowledging the present shouldn't be difficult if we believe in the past. Salvation is possible.

Among the Bros, by Max Marshall (2023)

As I read this book, I kept shaking my head in astonishment that the way of life depicted even existed. I have read books about fraternity life, but this was on a different level. Each page digs deeper into the most unimaginable things, but alarmingly, the words are true.

Max got into the College of Charleston, hoping to look into a Xanax trafficking ring. On the contrary, he came across a homicide, various student killings, and lots of dollars in circulation around the Deep South. These occurrences also brought up an elite world unknown to outsiders. Behind the “Greek life” was a primary breeding ground and drug trafficking bubble of American power.

Max is an excellent journalist, and his compassion, reporting style, and attention to detail add up to make this book an unforgettable crime page-turner. I would recommend Among the Bros if you like reading about organized crime in a specific setting. It is also a good addition if you are about to join college in the South.

This book feels like a conversation in which Max lets you in on secrets he shouldn’t say out loud. It is an eye-opener about how drug use was prevalent and also addresses how the same is related to issues of mental health. I hope that once you read this book, you will think more deeply about privilege and understand the implications of power for the future.

The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel (2023)

I read this book and was mesmerized by Finkel’s craft to create a riveting story about misplaced brilliance and obsession. If you love art history, this one will be right up your alley. This biography vividly shows how humanity can be beautiful and still utterly flawed.

Michael brings us into Breitwieser’s world, a thief who didn’t loot for money. Instead, he took away art treasures and kept them for his admiration in secret rooms. Breitwieser was a master burglar and carried out hundreds of heists for almost over eight years.

He would steal art all across Europe, whether in cathedrals or museums. His girlfriend Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus was his lookout until his audacious theft act fell apart spectacularly.

Breitwieser grew a disregard for risk and was driven by his addiction to score. He ignored his girlfriend’s pleas to end theft until his final act crashed.

This enthralling book will suck you in, and you will be left wondering if Breitwieser was just an aesthete or a career criminal. I loved how Finkel kept the prose tight while heightening each theft’s drama, but I also kept thinking about how much Breitwieser was addicted to beauty and possessing every art masterpiece he could get his hands on.

Seeing how Breitwieser absolved himself of his criminality, eventually destroying his credibility, will be an eye-opener of how obsession can breed destruction. You will ponder on how fortune can change in the blink of an eye.

The Waltham Murders, by Susan Clare Zalkind (2024)

Suppose you are a fan of true crime investigation books. In that case, The Waltham Murders is an intriguing account and the inside story of Susan’s passionate search for what happened behind an unsolved national tragedy.

September 2011, in Waltham, Massachusetts, Erik Weissman and his two friends were brutally killed in a homicide.  These cases went unsolved for years, and there seemed to be no discernible leads.

However, Erik’s friend and journalist, Susan, was looking for closure and was confident that finding it would be her job. She began looking for answers, and as the Boston Marathon bombing brought up shocking and new leads, she found herself entangled within a dangerous path to discovering the truth.

As you read this book, Susan’s journalistic approach is evident. She interviewed people, and the interviews brought new threads to the discussion. Each one was webbed in conspiracy theories, crime, and corruption, but eventually, Susan concluded a decade-defining domestic terrorism act.

I felt Susan as she came to grips with her grief as she tried to piece together what happened.

This story is intriguing and packed with what-ifs. The crimes are fascinating, and I appreciate Susan for being a dominant force. This book couldn’t have been easy to write, but Susan’s reporting is top-notch.

Presenting any evidence that may support or refute the account is illuminating, and seeing how she remained faithful to the course despite the many hindrances was professionally admirable.

The Meaning of Malice, by John Leake (2023)

This book will be highly compelling if you have lived in Dallas or area Texan. You will identify with some of the story’s facts and may even be interested in discovering some of the many locations on its pages.

In this biography, John narrates the story of Sandra Bridewell, a Dallas socialite in the seventies and eighties. Her husband died and was followed by her second husband’s doctor’s wife. Her third husband was found dead in his car, and his death was ruled a homicide. In all these events, Sandra was just a prime suspect but never got arrested.

Later on, she featured on the D Magazine, which suggested that she was the murderer. In 2007, John, who frequented Sandra’s home, began his investigation, and in this book, he exposes how she evaded law enforcement scrutiny.

This book is very well written, but I must warn you that it is not a ‘relaxed read.’ It features many characters, and it feels like watching an investigative movie in which the detective tries to link all the characters. John lays out every detail logically and gives compelling descriptions surrounding Sandra’s deranged deaths and relationships.

Mistress of Life and Death, by Susan J. Eischeid (2023)

Mistress of Life and Death is for you if you love history and are more inclined to the period of the Nazi regime. This book is astonishing as it tells how a seemingly young girl became a full-blown monster. It is educational and shows some of the worst things ordinary and likable people are capable of.

This is the account of Maria Mandl’s life. Maria was responsible for some of the most horrific war crimes during the Nazi era. She was executed at thirty-six, a time by which she had achieved a high rank as head supervisor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau women’s camp.

Locally and during her young age, she was regarded as a nice girl from a respectable and loving family. When she grew up, she rose through the Nazi system. At the camp, she “adopted” children, her interest in them waned, and when the war ended, the law caught up with her and hanged her for crimes against humanity.

This read contains tough-to-read content, but I loved how Susan put the details in several small chapters. This format was beneficial, and I appreciated how it allowed me to take frequent breaks between topics that were difficult to read.

This biography contains brilliant research and is a valuable inclusion to Holocaust literature. It will make you a more robust social justice advocate, parent, friend, or teacher, propelling you to your best self.

Final Thoughts

These true crime memoirs and biographies are testaments and victim voice amplifiers, but they also stand up for change. Through the author’s narratives, you will surely gain insights into the intricacies of resilience, victimhood, and the pursuit of justice.

Check out our favorite memoirs of all time.

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