I grew up reading the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators series. When I’d exhausted the books on hand, my aunt would let me read her Nancy Drew, Dana Girls, and Trixie Belden books.
I still love a good mystery, especially in audiobook form, and there are some truly engrossing true crime books in this list.
Vincent Bugliosi – True Crime
Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson, and his Helter Skelter is a classic. But And the Sea Will Tell still haunts me.
- Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders – A classic of true crime, this details the infamous Manson family exploits and Bugliosi’s successful prosecution of Charlie and his “family”.
- And the Sea Will Tell – This is not only a fascinating murder case, but also an interesting tale of people seeking a carefree life on an isolated Pacific island. Bugliosi is the defender, not the prosecutor, this time around.
Agatha Christie – Mystery
Truly the queen of mystery, Christie’s plots are ingenious. Unlike Conan Doyle, whose formulaic Sherlock Holmes stories can grow tiresome, Christie likes to play around with the reader’s expectations. I read all of the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple novels, but in audiobook form since Audible’s narrators make the stories come alive and show her mastery of dialog.
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery – An early Poirot tale which broke the rules for mysteries of its time and is still a fantastic read.
- And Then There Were None – The bodies pile up quick and you are left wondering if you can ever figure out the culprit. This one does not feature Poirot or Miss Marple, and doesn’t need them.
Erik Larson – True Crime
Larson has penned a few other splendid histories dealing with disaster and invention.
- The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America – This book transports you back to the World’s Fair of 1893 and the sinister murderer who preyed there.
Elizabeth Peters – Mystery
I stumbled across this author, whose real name is Barbara Mertz, because her pseudonym puts her on shelves next to Ellis Peters. She is best known for a lengthy series about Amelia Peabody, an Egyptologist in the late 1800s. But I much prefer two of her other series.
- Vicky Bliss mysteries – Vicky is an art historian working in Munich who falls in with an art thief. Her boss, Schmidt, is a great comic character. I highly recommend the first four books in the series, but the final two seemed to lack direction.
- Jacqueline Kirby mysteries – A librarian with a big purse and a penchant for mysteries. Great spoofs of mystery authors included.
Ellis Peters – Mystery
Edith Mary Pargeter chose to use a pseudonym for her mysteries, which are enchanting. She wrote several tales of Inspector Felse, but is best known for creation of Brother Cadfael, the medieval monk who solves the many murders afflicting Shrewsbury, England.
- City of Gold and Shadows – I greatly enjoyed the characters in this tale about a Welsh archaeological site, which features Detective Inspector Felse.
- Brother Cadfael Mysteries – This series gives a fascinating glimpse into medieval life in England. If you read enough of them, the plots become formulaic, but Brother Cadfael is always a welcome companion.
Ann Rule – True Crime
A former policewoman, Ann brings empathy and compassion to her work, which is a mix of detailed book-length cases and collections of shorter articles she once wrote for crime magazines. Many of the cases are from the Pacific Northwest. I’ve read all of her work, but the two below are standouts.
- The Stranger Beside Me – While working at a Seattle crisis clinic in the early 1970s, Ann befriended a fellow worker who helped answer the suicide hotline. His name was Ted Bundy. Yes, the infamous serial killer.
- The I-5 Killer: Revised Edition – Another story of a serial killer who haunted Interstate 5 on the west coast, eventually killing at least 44 people.