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The True Crime Genre

What is a True Crime?

True Crime is a different subgenre than most of the others. It has the pleasure of being non-fiction, which means that the crimes really did occur. As a result, the author is limited to telling the story of the actual crimes which may or may not be baffling and difficult to solve. The True Crime genre sells well both in book form and in articles that tell about the crimes of various notorious criminals.

In almost all of these cases, these books are not published until the criminal is safely behind bars, so the end has been published in the local news for all to see.

True Crime Characteristics

  • Level of Characterization

    Since the True Crime book is looking at the crimes and motivation of the criminal, the characters must be fleshed-out. There can be no question as to why the crimes were committed and why the perpetrator was the logical suspect..

  • Level of Plot

    The plot is limited to the crimes committed by the perpetrator. The story has to stay true to the facts in the case and therefore, the plot is a function of what the criminal did in real life.

  • Level of Mystery

    There may or may not be a real mystery. In some cases, the criminal is easily spotted from the beginning of the case. The spouse is always the first suspect in the eyes of the police, so a crime committed by the spouse is pretty obvious for all to see.

  • Level of Suspense

    In many cases, there is little suspense. If a book regarding the Ted Bundy murders is published, there's not a lot of suspense in figuring out who is the culprit.

  • Level of Thriller

    In the case of mob bosses and international organizations there may be elements of a bigger conspiracy, but the reader also knows that the world is still turning, so the plans did not come to fruition.

  • Level of Strangeness

    The crimes can be as strange as the killer who committed them. Many of the serial killers have bizarre behaviors beyond the crimes and these strange elements make it into the books.

  • Level of Violence

    Most of these crimes are violent in nature. The average crime is fast and brutal, which is depicted in the True Crime book.

  • Level of Action

    There can be a great deal of action. The criminal may hold hostages or have a shootout with the police. The killer can try to escape to another country. The action is as riveting as the criminal would have it.

  • Degree of Thriller, Suspense, Crime, or Mystery in this the True Crime Subgenre

    True Crime falls under the crime genre. There is a crime story to be told. In most cases, it's murder, but it can be embezzlement, fraud, or other crimes. It's unlikely to be overly suspenseful, because the killer is typically revealed up front – and you might have read about the crime in the newspaper. It's not really a mystery, because in the real world, clues are not cleverly planted. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Related MYSTERY Subgenres



  • Police Procedurals. Since the crimes are investigated by police, the stories resemble police procedurals in many ways.

True Crime isn't for you IF...

like your crimes methodically planned and executed. Real world crimes are sloppy and typically easy to solve.

Popular True Crime Books