Crime Fiction Based on Fact

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Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott 

Based on the story of Winnie Judd, also known as the “Trunk Murderess” in 1931 Arizona.

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Wicked City by Ace Atkins

Atkins brings readers back to a nearly real, very corrupted Phenix City, Alabama in the 1950s.

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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Years after the trial and conviction of Grace Marks in 1843, a doctor seeks to study her.

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Crippen: a Novel of Murder 

by John Boyne

Boyne draws on the murder of Cora Crippen by her husband in 1910.  

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True History of the Kelly Gang 

by Peter Carey

Ned Kelly was an outlaw in 19th century Australia.

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 The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Although the serial killer in this book is fictional, Carr’s 1890s feature real political, criminal, and financial figures.  
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Murder on the Orient Express 

by Agatha Christie

Christie traveled multiple times on the actual Orient Express, and loosely based this book on two events: the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s infant son and a blizzard that delayed the train for six days in Turkey (information from
Cover image for All that remains :

All That Remains 

by Patricia D. Cornwell

Inspiration for this book comes from the Colonial Parkway Killer, a murderer in 1980s Virginia.

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The Yard by Alex Crecian

Crecian writes a story set in late Victorian England, just after Jack the Ripper.

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Girl A by Abigail Dean 

The protagonist of this story grew up in a House of Horrors, which was the name used to refer to the home of the Turpins.

Cover image for Room :

Room by Emma Donoghue

Donoghue’s writing was inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl.

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A Season in Purgatory 

by Dominick Dunne

This is a fictionalized version of the murder of Martha Moxley by Michael Skakel.

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The Silence of the Lambs 

by Thomas Harris

In creating the serial killer in his book, Harris drew on multiple actual murderers.

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Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton

Based on an unsolved murder case from 1969. Because of this book, the case was re-opened.  

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The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy

The real Black Dahlia was Elizabeth Short, who was found murdered in Los Angeles in 1947.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent 

Kent writes about the life of Agnes Magnusdottir, an Icelandic woman executed in 1830 for murder.

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The Executioner’s Song 

by Norman Mailer 

Mailer tells the story of criminal Gary Gilmore.

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The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer

This book was inspired by the murder of Mitchell Siegel, which remains unsolved.

Cover image for The long drop :

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

Based on a true 1957 crime in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Sutton by J.R. Moehringer

This is a fictionalized biography of Willie Sutton, who repeatedly robbed banks and broke out of prisons in the first half of the 20th century.

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Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates

The story of the Chappaquiddick incident.

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The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

Half of the story was inspired by the Smuttynose Island murders in 1873.

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The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Loosely based on the murders of the Krim children in 2012.

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The Daughter of Time 

by Josephine Tey

Tey goes back to the 1480s in this fictionalized investigation of Richard III and the Princess in the Tower murder.

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Dream of Ding Village by Lianke Yan 

Based on unregulated blood-selling in Eastern China.