7 fascinating new true crime books you won't be able to put down in 2020.

While we love nothing more than a true-crime Netflix binge (try Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer or I Am a Killer) or listening to a true-crime podcast, sometimes, the best feeling is just curling up on the couch with a good book and some wine.

And if you’re like us, your taste in books generally leans toward the thriller variety – YOU,  The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl all started out as books, and while these are terrific works of fiction, perhaps you’re ready to (or have already) forayed into true crime territory.

We’ve rounded up a selection of true crime books to be released (or are in-stores already) in 2020 to add to your to-read list, from The Third Rainbow Girl to American Sherlock.

A cautionary warning: Perhaps don’t read these before bed, yeah?

Listen to Mamamia’s True Crime Conversations, which features interviews with experts on the world’s most fascinating, terrifying and mysterious crimes. Post continues below. 

1. The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, Updated and Expanded Edition, $17.50

Okay, this is technically an updated edition and is not ‘new’ new, but it is still marvellous and worth a mention. The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, an update of Elizabeth Kendall’s 1981 memoir, was released in early January and has predominantly received five-star ratings.

According to Amazon, where the book sits at number two in the true-crime space, the novel details Kendall’s “six-year relationship with serial killer Ted Bundy, includes a new introduction and a new afterword by the author, never-before-seen photos, and a startling new chapter from the author’s daughter, Molly, who has not previously shared her story”.

You likely already know the story of one of America’s most prolific serial killers, Ted Bundy, but perhaps a perspective from a former partner of his is the fresh angle you need.

You can devour The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy now.

True Crime book, The Phantom Prince, about Ted Bundy. Image: Amazon.
You will be captivated. Image: Amazon.

2.  The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia, $17.79

Emma Copley Eisenberg investigates the murder of two young hitchhikers in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, in 1980.

26-year-old Vicki Durian and 19-year-old Nancy Santomero were making their way to a peace festival called Rainbow Gathering, but were murdered on the way - no one was prosecuted for the "Rainbow Murders", as they were called.

Without giving away too much, a local was convicted and sentenced to life but was later released when Joseph Paul Franklin, a serial killer and diagnosed schizophrenic, claimed responsibility for the crime.

The crime deeply impacted the community, and Eisenberg explores this in addition to the victims and killer.

The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia is available now.

True crime book, rainbow girl. Image: Amazon
Image: Amazon

3. The House of Kennedy, $31

While James Patterson is largely known for his fiction work, including Zoo and Along Came a Spider, Patterson has written a number of non-fiction books. His latest offering, The House of Kennedy, is the latter.


Patterson covers the famous American family who had the two mottos: "To whom much is given, much is expected" and "Win at all costs".

The family were not without their controversies, and of course, Patterson is sure to cover the controversial assassination of US President, JFK.

While there are few reviews available just yet (the book is available April 13), we're willing to bet this is a real page-turner.

James Patterson's latest offering is an account of one of the most famous American families. Image: Amazon.
James Patterson's latest offering is an account of one of the most famous American families. Image: Amazon.

 4. Murders in California: The Unforgettable True Stories of Compulsive Serial Killers On the West Coast, $9.97

Murders in California covers, well... murders in California. While it's a shorter book (perfect if you're not feeling up to transporting a heavy book on your daily train commute into work), it's received a number of rave reviews on Amazon.

“The cases are told in a way that states facts without putting you to sleep. I rather enjoyed it!” one said.

“Though the book is short, you will get your chills as you read each chapter,” said another.

The book covers a number of prominent and lesser-known murderers on America's west coast and explains the cases with grisly detail.

Murders in California will have you hooked. Image: Amazon.
Murders in California will have you hooked. Image: Amazon.

5. American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI, $24.30

Attention: Kate Winkler Dawson, who wrote the critically-acclaimed book Death in the Air, has a new masterpiece arriving February 11 (but you can pre-order now).

Dawson's new book has received positive reviews from just about everyone, so we're just going to let the reviews speak for themselves on this one:

“Heinrich changed criminal investigations forever, and anyone fascinated by the myriad detective series and television shows about forensics will want to read it.” – The Washington Post.

"At last a book about the pioneering scientist, Edward Oscar Heinrich, whose early 20th-century work helped launch modern criminal investigation. Part suspenseful detective story, part compelling character study, American Sherlock does full justice to Heinrich's starts, stumbles, and his startling brilliance." — Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

"Edward Oscar Heinrich was one of America's earliest criminologists. He was also a meticulous record keeper, allowing Dawson to recreate his fascinating life story... Those interested in the development of modern forensics will be enthralled." — Publishers Weekly.

"A fascinating book worthy of being associated with the title's literary sleuth. Readers will want a follow-up so they can discover more of Heinrich's cases as told through Dawson's great storytelling. For fans of Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark and other true crime works."

*Adds to cart immediately.*

American Sherlock is a must-read. Image: Amazon.
American Sherlock is a must-read. Image: Amazon.

6. Relentless Pursuit: My Fight For the Victims of Jeffrey Epstein, $26.11

Although it's not out until the end of March, we're keen for Bradley J. Edwards and Brittany Henderson's new book about American financier and convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.

Edwards is a Florida-based victims’ rights attorney and has spent years defending the victims of Jeffrey Epstein, beginning with Courtney Wild.

Wild approached Edwards about Epstein and explained what had happened, and from there Edwards went on to track down and represent more than 20 of Epstein’s victims.

Now, he's detailing how he went about getting justice for Epstein's victims.

Relentless Pursuit. Image: Amazon.
Relentless Pursuit is a fascinating firsthand account of events. Image: Amazon.

7. The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage, $17.97

Where to start with this gem?

The Scientist and the Spy, available now, is written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Mara Hvistendahl and details a true story of industrial espionage.

Without giving too much away, the book follows a Chinese scientist who is hunted by the U.S. government for trying to steal trade secrets.


As if we needed more convincing to add the book to our reading list, Booklist compared Hvistendahl's work to an Alfred Hitchcock movie (so you know it's going to be great).

Of her book, they said, “Not since Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest has a cornfield produced so much excitement. . . . Hvistendahl makes industrial espionage both understandable and riveting. . . . This is a complex story, but it's presented clearly and vividly, thanks to Hvistendahl’s background as a science journalist here and in China; to her exquisite pacing; and to her narrative skills . . . Hard to put down and harder to stop thinking about.”

The Scientist and the Spy has been called "a non-fiction thriller". Image: Amazon.
The Scientist and the Spy has been called "a non-fiction thriller". Image: Amazon.

Have you got a must-read recommendation? Tell us in the comments below.

Feature image: Getty.