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True Crime Vibes: Brilliant Fiction Books That Capture the Thrill

Satisfy Your True Crime Craving With These Titles

By Total Apex Entertainment & SportsPublished 13 days ago 5 min read
True Crime Vibes: Brilliant Fiction Books That Capture the Thrill
Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

True Crime culture has permeated society in unexpected ways. If you’re into this genre, you might spend hours upon hours reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, or watching documentaries. But have you ever read a fiction novel that feels like a true crime book? Today we’re looking at the genre-blend of true crime and fiction, as well as several novels that fit this category.

An Introduction to the Genre Blend

True crime as a book genre is classified as real accounts of past crimes often covered by investigative journalists or people who were close to the crime or investigation – meaning that true crime is non-fiction. What makes true crime a unique subgenre is that it is often accompanied by multimedia accents such as newspaper clippings, interviews, court transcripts, or even case files. While not every true crime book includes these things, some of the most impactful ones do.

True crime lovers are often captivated by the morbid details and puzzle solving aspect of the novels they read. So, when blending the genre of true crime with fiction, the result must be a novel that stands out and offers a similar experience to that of reading a crime nonfiction novel or listening to a podcast that details the account of a crime. The result of this genre blend is brutal and chilling novels that will make your skin crawl, but intrigue you, nonetheless.

The Appeal of True Crime & Crime Novels

True Crime enthusiasts are drawn to the genre for a variety of reasons including but not limited to puzzle solving interests, a drive to understand human nature, and even escapism. When seeking a fiction novel that fills the craving for a crime novel, readers look for certain characteristics within the novel.

A good crime novel that feels like a crime nonfiction book will try to answer the “big questions”. Why do humans commit brutal crimes worthy of entire books? What drives them to do such a thing? Readers are often fascinated by the psychological profiles of those who commit heinous acts and what “makes them tick”.

Another characteristic of a good crime novel is the puzzle or mystery that is involved – this is not to say that crime novels are just mysteries under a different name though. A mystery novel focuses on a character solving the mystery – a crime novel focuses on the crime as it is being solved, or after the fact. Mysteries and crime novels often blend though, so don’t be surprised if you find a crime novel being advertised or classified as a mystery sometimes.

Authors Must Craft a Believable Story

Unlike the mystery genre which can often bend reality to fit its needs, crime novels that feel like true crime must feel real. The story must be believable, but the character motivations don’t necessarily have to be understandable. Crime novels don’t always wrap things up in a pretty little bow at the end of the book like mysteries do. They often leave the reader with more questions than answers, just like true crime nonfiction. The idea of fiction that blends with true crime is to craft a story that has the characteristics of true crime but is not real.

Now that we have a basic idea of what kind of books blend these genres and defy the basic mystery characteristics, here are some book recommendations.

Penance by Eliza Clark

If there is one book in this article that you absolutely must read, it is Penance. Written in the style of a true crime novel from the point of view of a journalist, Penance follows the story of a group of girls who decide to kill their classmate basically just for kicks. It is brutal and chilling and evokes questions regarding parasocial relationships, social media, and peer pressure. Penance is not a novel for the lighthearted, but if you love true crime, you will most likely enjoy this book.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie is a novel that defies genre norms by being told in a mixed media format that primarily looks like a podcast transcript. The book follows podcast creator West McCray as he follows a trail of clues that Sadie leaves on her journey to discover who killed her sister and bring that person to justice. If you listen to the audiobook, which is highly recommended, you will find yourself listening to the podcast as the clues are uncovered. This book, while a young adult novel, is still very thought provoking and creepy, as are many true crime books.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

A book with some mixed reviews, Night Film is one of those novels that you either love or hate as a true crime enthusiast. It follows the investigative journey of a man looking into a woman’s death which was previously ruled a suicide. In the process of investigating, the man uncovers many secrets surrounding her father and must decide if pursuing the answers he seeks is worth it in the end. Night Film is one of my favorite novels, though it is quite long, so be prepared for that.

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

Inspired by the real life sorority that was targeted by America’s first serial killer, Bright Young Women is a novel that follows two women in their pursuit of truth when it comes to the death and disappearances of people they know. While at first, the disappearance of one woman seems unconnected to the murder of others, as the story goes on the women realize that there might be some connections after all. This novel is more on the mystery side of crime novels, but it is highly inspired by true crime, which is why it’s included in this list.


True Crime is a genre that has an almost “cult-like” following. From nonfiction books to podcasts and documentaries, lovers of true crime invest significant amounts of time in pursuing the answers that they seek from consuming material from the genre. While there is benefit in reading exclusively true crime, some of the questions that true crime lovers seek answers to can also be explored through fiction that is of the same nature as true crime. Whether you read or listen to these books, there is something to consume for everyone.

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