Strange but true – 6 of the best crime novels based on real life

True crime

A run down of some of our favourite crime novels based on real life events. From a hitman turned CIA recruit to an axe murdering daughter, sometimes you just couldn't make it up...

Posted on May 30, 2017 in Best of
Tags: Crime books, crime thriller, sarah schmidt, see what i have done, true crime

Crime novels based on real life events:

1. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done

See What I Have Done is Sarah Schmidt’s re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders. Lizzie was accused but never convicted of the brutal axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1860 in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Perfect for fans of smart true crime like Making a Murderer, Serial, The Jinx etc and historical fiction with a twist – if you enjoyed Burial Rites or The Miniaturist, this is for you!


2. Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn

Acts of Violence

The 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese became infamous partly as a case study of ‘the bystander effect’: the violent attack was apparently witnessed by at least a dozen neighbours, none of whom acted because they assumed somebody else was doing so. It also inspired Ryan David Jahn’s debut novel Acts of Violence, which takes place over three hours and follows the stories of each of the neighbours – pre-occupied with their own very different concerns – whilst the victim (here called Katrina rather than Kitty) is being brutally murdered in the courtyard overlooked by their apartments. Unsurprisingly, it’s dark, intense, and quite terrifying.


3. A Capital Crime by Laura Wilson

The real life events that A Capital Crime is based on may well ring a more recent bell, as the TV drama Rillington Place starring Tim Roth aired in November 2016. A shocking and gripping case in British crime history, the story of serial killer John Christie has been retold in many forms over the years. As the basis for A Capital Crime it results in a novel of guilt, longing, uncertainty, and grotesque horror.


4. How to Get Away With Murder In America by Evan Wright

This excellent eBook original delves into the story of Enrique “Ricky” Prado, an alleged hitman for the mob who is then recruited into the CIA. It explores the murky relationship between the mob and the CIA – both riveting and unsettling, it will make you question all notions you have about government and justice in America.


5. Fred and Edie by Jill DawsonFred & Edie

In December 1922 Edith Thompson, a smart, bright, lower-middle class woman who worked in a milliner’s shop, was tried for conspiring with her young lover Frederick Bywaters to murder her husband, Percy. The sensational trial, which took place in front of heaving crowds at the Old Bailey, unraveled a real life drama as exciting as any blockbuster: an illicit love affair, a back-street abortion, domestic violence, murder and a double execution. Fred and Edie is Jill Dawson’s novel based on the case, largely told through imaginary letters from Edie to Freddie, sweeping you up into the overwhelming romance between them and digging into the criminal trial that ultimately led to their execution.


6. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood based on real life events

We couldn’t possibly do a round up of crime novels based on real life without including In Cold Blood. This seminal work dissects and then reconstructs the events leading to the murder of a family in Kansas in 1959. Interlinking details of the lives of those killed with the terrifyingly amoral minds of killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock In Cold Blood is an unnerving, compelling and extraordinary novel that made Truman Capote’s name.


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