I find true crime stories fascinating for many reasons, and there are enough screwed up people in the world to have produced loads stories to find out about. I will preface this now by saying that I do not enjoy death, murder and crime but there is a lot of fascination and curiosity to be found in the how and why. I want to know how and why the criminal could do such a heinous thing in the first place, then how they managed to hide their tracks and confuse everyone and then finally to see how the detectives solve the case, catch the killer and make them face the consequences whilst providing closure for the victims. I’ve always been interested and intrigued in trying to understand other people and psychology in general, so when criminals do things I could never imagine doing, it’s the biggest puzzle to understand. I think a lot of people who consider themselves true crime fans could agree with these reasons.
But even the average person who does not seek out these stories can feel this urge. As humans we naturally want to solve puzzles and when the mystery is true and fuelled by the sympathy you feel for the victims and their families, it creates a big sense of importance and concern. Think about the amount of attention that has been paid to the Madeleine McCann disappearance (parental conspiracy theories aside), or even more recently to Netflix’s Making a Murderer and you’ll get what I mean. These stories are only the tip of the iceberg on thousands on complicated and still unsolved cases that are out there.
The thing that gets me the most is when you have long running cold cases that finally get solved. The story is obviously complicated enough that it hasn’t been possible to solve it for a long time and then the solution found is hard-won and subsequently very impressive. One of my most recent obsessions and the most amazing true crime story I can think of is the Golden State Killer, a guy who committed over 45 rapes and 12 murders in California in the 70’s and 80’s was finally caught this year after DNA identification!! This case is so vast, with so much information and such a long period of fruitless investigation despite having the guy’s DNA (the quality of analysis in the 70s sucked) so most people probably thought it would never be solved but then they did it! So freaking cool. This was huge true crime news last year and I actually read two books about it, the first I’ll Be Gone In The Dark but amateur sleuth Michelle McNamara which was written before he was caught, unfortunately Michelle passed away before seeing that happen. Her book outlines the entire case of what was happening including her personal experience from researching for the book, her tone makes it such an enjoyable, conversational read and definitely does not feel like a cold non-fictional list of facts about murder. She had a real talent for setting it all out in an informative and captivating way. The second book I listened to actually on Audible, Evil Has A Name, was written by Paul Holes, the lead detective on the GSK case and features his experience trying to solve this decades-old cold case. It features interviews from victims and their relatives which feel very personal but informative and also talks about the confirmation, and arrest of the GSK. It’s an epic story so I would recommend dipping in to either of these books! Big respect to all the detectives out there who investigate these stories and find the conclusions to relieve these mysteries.
Other recommendations are podcasts Serial and Up & Vanished (both incredible), and also S Town, Dirty John, Atlanta Monster (if you fancy a one story-series to listen to). For less serious discussions, The Last Podcast on the Left and My Favourite Murder bring a lighter-hearted, more comical approach to discussing true crime. If you’re after watching something that’s longer form there are a whole bunch of things on Netflix including Mindhunter, The People V OJ Simpson, The Staircase, and 3096 Days.