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5 Books to Read If You’re Obsessed with the Golden State Killer Case

by | July 8

Between über-popular podcasts like My Favorite Murder and Serial and binge-worthy television documentaries like Making a Murderer and The Jinx, chilling true crime stories have never been hotter. And yes, I am 100% aware of how disturbing that sounds. Yet it’s undeniable: We Americans, and we millennial women in particular, seem to have an insatiable appetite for real-life murder mysteries right now. Why? Maybe My Favorite Murder hosts Karen and Georgia are onto something when they speculate it’s a way of coping with the stress and anxiety of today’s uncertain world, maybe they’re not. Either way, when news broke in April that the infamous Golden State Killer had finally, finally been caught, I. Was. Riveted. And if you’re reading this article, I bet you were too.

The Golden State Killer—also known as the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (abbreviated as EAR/ONS) and as the Visalia Ransacker—terrorized Californians up and down the West Coast from the 1970s through the 1980s by breaking into couples’ homes to commit horrendous crimes. His reign of terror ended abruptly, but police and amateur detectives alike never stopped working to uncover his identity, convinced he was still alive and free. Then, a mere two months after the publication of Michelle McNamara’s highly anticipated, electrifying book about the case, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, an arrest was made. Now, prime suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old ex-cop, stands accused of at least 12 counts of first-degree murder and will face trial.

Mystery solved? Sure looks that way. But if you, like me, can’t stop refreshing your browser for any new development, allow me to recommend a few true-crime accounts to distract you…

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

by Michelle McNamara

If you’ve been following the EAR/ONS case for any length of time, you’ve likely already devoured this brilliant book, but if you’ve put off reading it, now’s the time. The late true-crime author Michelle McNamara, who died in her sleep while working on the book, coined the term “Golden State Killer” to help generate more public interest in seeing the culprit brought to justice. She also predicted what it would be like the day the notorious rapist and murderer was arrestedand turned out to be almost scarily prophetic, as you’ll see in the final pages...

The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me

by Ann Rule

How could you not know you were friends with a serial killer? In her classic first book, the now legendary true-crime author Ann Rule grapples with that very question. Sharing pieces of her own personal life, Rule reveals how she came to know a young, handsome, ambitious Ted Bundy and why she had such a hard time accepting his guilt even as the evidence against him mounted. You may think you know the story of Ted Bundy, but the snippets of his letters from prison and the insights into his endless manipulation of women must be read to be believed.

Mindhunter

Mindhunter

by John E. Douglas

The inspiration for the Netflix TV series by the same name, Mindhunter is the real-life story of FBI profiler John E. Douglas’s 25-year career in the Investigative Support Unit, where he hunted and studied the Atlanta child murderer, Seattle’s Green River Killer, and many, many other brutal offenders. In case you need one more reason to check this one out, I’ll leave you with this tidbit: Douglas was also the inspiration for the character of Jack Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs.

Unholy Messenger

Unholy Messenger

by Stephen Singular

For creepy parallels to the Golden State Killer case, look no further than this biography of the BTK serial killer, Dennis Rader, who escaped detection for years by living as a seemingly normal husband and father in Park City, Kansas, even as he terrorized residents in nearby Wichita from 1974 to 1991. His double life eventually crumbled, but only because he resurfaced in 2004 and couldn’t resist taunting the police with letters that ended up leading to his capture. Oops.

Devil's Knot

Devil's Knot

by Mara Leveritt

Three teenage boys, the so-called West Memphis Three, were convicted of murdering three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas in 1993 as part of a satanic ritual. Despite growing public doubt and a lack of physical evidence, their guilty verdicts were upheld on appeal. They remained in prison for 18 years. Until, in 2011, they were suddenly freed in an unprecedented manner. Trust me when I say that you’ll be hooked on this book, which is now a film starring Reese Witherspoon, and on the case, which also sparked a fascinating HBO documentary trilogy called Paradise Lost. 

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