‘Serial’ Addiction: 5 Chilling Tales for the Criminally Inclined

Serial-esque crime books, both fiction and fact, to tide you and your grisly addiction over.


Adnan, Adnan, Adnan. So sweet, so thoughtful, so smart. And yet, if you really didn’t kill your high school girlfriend, why can’t you tell us where you were the afternoon she went missing back in 1999? As fans of the wildly popular (five million listeners and counting) podcast “Serial” can attest, trying to determine if Adnan Syed is guilty of murder or is serving a life-sentence for a crime he didn’t commit is tantalizing, frustrating, and totally addictive.

We won’t know Adnan’s fate until the end of the season (if we learn it at all — so far, the more information that comes to light, the more confusing the case becomes) but, if the success of the podcast is any indicator, his story is sure to hit a screen large or small in the near future. Is it too early to start speculating about who will play Adnan, the mysterious Asia, and that duplicitous schemer, Jay? Maybe, but in the meantime, here are some Serial-esque crime books, both fiction and fact, that made the jump from page to screen.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

In John Berendt’s tale of murder and intrigue in the julep-soaked, moss-strewn, voodoo-haunted South, there are no minor characters, no simple motives, and no unembellished stories. Based on a shooting in a Savannah mansion that turned into a case involving everyone in town, from the most righteous society matron to the sneakiest con, the book was made into a film starring John Cusack as the reporter who comes to write what he thinks will be an easy story and finds himself hopelessly ensnared.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

This is the book that made Capote famous and revolutionized the true-crime genre. Capote called his work, a lyric investigation into the motive-less murder of a Kansas family and the background of the two feckless killers, a nonfiction novel — but fans simply consider it a masterpiece. It’s been dramatized several times, including in the Oscar-winning bopic Capote, starring the unlikely yet utterly credible Philip Seymour Hoffman as the diminutive writer.

The Corner by David Simon

Before he made “The Wire,” David Simon wrote this book, about a drug-infested intersection in Baltimore where dealers, customers, cops, and civilians mix and clash in the endless war on drugs. The book was made into an HBO miniseries in 2000, giving audiences an early look at some of the actors they would come to love and revile in “The Wire,” an extended, operatic take on the same sad subject.

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

If you’re up to date on your “Serial” listening, you’ll have heard Adnan’s description of his daily life in prison, which is both more harrowing and more banal than you might expect. His time as a cook, and his pride at his breakfast creations, sound like something torn from the pages of this very different memoir by Piper Kerman, who served time in prison for her involvement in a drug smuggling scheme. Like Adnan, she found an unlikely community in jail — a group of women who are colorfully dramatized in the Netflix series based on the book.

Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn

Spoiler alert: The most devious, coldblooded fictional killer of recent memory didn’t, in fact, kill anyone. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie starring Ben Affleck, you know the rest of the story about a missing wife, a suspicious husband, and the dark side of “for as long as you both shall live.” For the two percent of people out there who don’t know how the story ends, let’s just say the book and movie prove that in love and death, nothing is as it seems.

This piece originally appeared on Word & Film.