Everyone looks at you funny when you say you’re a “fan of serial killers”. It doesn’t quite sound right, but unless you’re of the few who throw themselves at serial killers when they are behind bars, declaring their undying love for them, then that’s not really what you mean. It’s an interest in the dark side of life, but it’s still one that makes you feel guilty. Or rather, it does when it’s real, but with fiction books on serial killers, you don’t need to worry about feeling guilty.
This is our list of the best books on serial killers, focusing on fiction that has either created its own notorious killers or have been based on real ones. There are many great nonfiction books out there that focus on this subject, but we have saved that subject for another article.
This is How you Die – David Jester
An underrated writer who writes both comedy and horror, one of the things we love most about David Jester is the fact that he always brings those comic elements into his horror books. It’s not slapstick, but rather black comedy that makes these stories all the more engrossing.
This is How You Die is one of his very best and one of the best books on serial killers we have ever read. It’s written from the perspective of the serial killer who, upon learning that his recently deceased dad was a serial killer, decides to take over the role himself. He was a loner, a bullied child with clear traits of psychopathy and sociopathy. He admired a serial killer more than anyone else and when he discovers his dad was that serial killer, he decides to read his notes, learn his ways, and then assume them for himself.
The book is split into several parts, including those initial years where he tries to learn how to become a serial killer, right up until his adult life when the narrative is joined by a detective (who has some issues of his own) that tries to track him down. A truly brilliant book that is written in a masterful way.
My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf
This is a little different to the other books on serial killers in this list. At the time of writing it has just been made into a film. It’s a low budget one, but one that the critics seem to be enjoying and one that is finding viewers elsewhere as well. Also, unlike the rest of these books on serial killers, which are novels, My Friend Dahmer is a graphic novel.
It puts notorious Wisconsin serial killer Jeffrey Dammer into the spotlight, mainly focusing on his school days, before he developed into one of the worst serial killers in the US. Like this is How You Die, it is an insight into how a serial killer grows up, how they come the thing that everyone fears. The picture painted of Dahmer is of a curious, lost and lonely child.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Patrick Suskind
This was also made into a film and that film, like the book that follows on this list of best books on serial killers, was a brilliant adaptation. It is very unique, following the actions of a fictional serial killer who is obsessed with scent and kills in order to trap the female fragrance.
It’s not a slasher story. It’s not a typical book about serial killers or even a typical horror book. It’s dark, it’s disturbing, it’s touching and it will stay with you for months after you read it. So, if you haven’t read it yet then make sure you do. If not, then at least watch the film, because the story told in both is just as hard-hitting and unforgettable.
American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis
The story that became one of the best movies on serial killers is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the best books on serial killers. Written in Easton Ellis’s inimitable style, American Psycho follows the life of a yuppie serial killer in 1980s America. There are elements of satire and as Ellis takes a stab at the yuppy culture of the time.
If you’re expecting something that is a carbon copy of the film and something that is written in a plain and easy-to-follow style, then prepare to be disappointed. However, if you want something different and something with a style unique and special enough to match the content, then this is it.
Intensity – Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz is often labelled as one of those authors that you either love or hate, an author that has fans who buy all of his books, but rarely has a breakthrough novel. That’s an unfair description though because while there are a few generic titles here, there are also some brilliant ones that deserve to be recognized as some of the best in the genre. Intensity is one of those.
This book has parallels to some shocking stories that have come out of Europe and the US in the last decade, which is even more poignant when you consider that it was written way back in 1995. It has a brutal, explosive beginning and from there it takes you on a rollercoaster suspense ride as a traumatized woman tracks a serial killer. She follows him home and realizes that he hides even more secrets there.
Brilliant from the first page to the last, this is truly one of the best books on serial killers we have ever read.