I’ll be the first to admit I was (and am still) on the Serial band wagon. I got so swept up in the first season of Serial, I immediately started looking for tons of books and podcasts in the same vein. Lucky for me, it’s the month of Ellen Hopkins here at Riveted, so I’ve been able to find my fill of thrilling stories. If you, like me, are completely enthralled in true crime, here are some stories I’ve found that are definitely worth checking out. Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments!
These books and podcasts take place entirely within the realm of possibility. The podcasts are all non-fiction. The books are fiction, but are told in a very realistic way.
If you’re interested in stories about abduction:
Listen to In the Dark
I just started listening to this one after seeing Sarah Dessen mention it on twitter, and she was completely right. It’s absolutely enthralling. This podcast follows the abduction of eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling from the road near his house in 1987. The case remained unsolved until the week the podcast aired. At first I thought knowing what actually happened so early on in the podcast might make it a little anticlimactic, but the story really focuses on the investigation, and why it took twenty-seven years to solve the case.
Ellen Hopkins’s newest book tells the story of Arielle, a high school student who wants nothing more than to be able to stay put. But that’s not what her father has in mind, as he moves from job to job, and they move from house to house every year. With her mother abandoning the family when Arielle was young, she has no choice but to do what her father says. Until her mother suddenly comes back into the picture and tells Arielle that she didn’t abandon the family at all. Her father kidnapped her. What would you do if you found out your whole life was built on a lie?
Read an extended excerpt here starting January 26th.
If you’re interested in stories about murder:
Listen to The Trail Went Cold
This podcast explores lesser-known unsolved murder mysteries and speculates about what may have happened. Because the creator typically only spends one episode per case, they’re not as detailed as season-long arcs such as Serial or In The Dark. Still, the cases are interesting and well-chosen, and the creator’s speculation is usually spot-on.
A group of friends goes to a cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway (always an amazing start to a psychological thriller). What they find, however, is a little romance and a lot of terror as things aren’t quite what they seem. This book is essentially In a Dark, Dark Wood for the YA lover, and I absolutely could not get enough of it.
If you’re interested in stories about drug abuse or prostitution:
Listen to Embedded
Embedded is an NPR podcast that chooses one story in the headlines and does a deep dive. It’s not just about drug abuse, but that certainly seems to come up a fair bit. If you’re interested in current events (and trust me, you absolutely don’t have to be in order to enjoy this podcast), definitely give it a listen. The third episode (The Capital), and sixth (We Found Joy) are two particularly strong ones, but each is fascinating in its own way. The podcast is currently on hiatus, but will (hopefully) return soon.
I love a good book with interconnecting storylines. That’s what Ellen Hopkins has expertly created with Tricks, a story told in verse that follows the lives of five teenagers, separately at first, then eventually together. Each teen finds him or herself in Las Vegas for a different reason, though their destination is, tragically, the same. Whether it’s to finance an addiction or because they’re forced into it, these five teens become embroiled in the sex trade. It’s a heartbreaking, realistic, and crushing read, which was inspired by the author’s proximity to Las Vegas, where she saw how heartbreaking the teen prostitution scene really is.
Read the full book for free here starting on January 9th.
(Not So) True Crime
These ones are every bit as riveting as the true crime podcasts, but instead discuss paranormal happenings. What I love about these stories is that they really make you stop and question what you believe to be possible.
If you’re interested in urban legends:
Listen to Lore
This bi-weekly podcast tells one or several unique stories each episode. They stand alone, so no need to go back to the beginning and listen to them in order. Some episodes dive into the history of a particular fable such as the Jersey Devil, while others go into serial killers and mysterious deaths. Lore is great at delivering the completely true historical facts around a story, while also providing the creepy maybe-not-so-true tales that have emerged around them.
Read Just Kill Me by Adam Selzer
As an unashamed fan of ghost tours, I absolutely love this book. Written by Adam Selzer, a former ghost tour guide in Chicago, this book is full of the fascinating and creepy, dark history of Chicago’s murderers, gangs, massive fires, and more. The book is fictional, but so much of what informs it is historically accurate tales of lore coming from early 20th century Chicago.
If you’re interested in demons:
Listen to The Black Tapes
This podcast launched in 2015, and is now on hiatus between Seasons 2 and 3. It’s impossibly easy to binge listen to, so take time now before Season 3 comes out to catch up. The story follows one subject, Dr. Strand, who has made it his life’s mission to disprove so-called paranormal activity. He’s so sure of himself, in fact, that he’s offered a million dollar prize to anyone who can provide indisputable evidence of the paranormal. Each episode is a continuation of the same story, told in a Serial-style format. Everything about it seems realistic and the line between fiction and reality is constantly and intentionally blurred by the creators. It’s terrifying, fascinating, and one of the best stories I’ve listened to on my morning commute.
This book isn’t so much about demons, per say, at least not the kind Dr. Strand investigates in The Black Tapes. This book is about a girl raised in an ultra-religious (and abusive) family, who wants nothing more than to be able to experience life on her own terms–not her parents’. When she starts making decisions for herself that go against her family’s wishes, will she be at risk of eternal damnation like they say?
Read the full book for free here until January 16th.