I want a Wedonknowwhodunnit.
August 17, 2010 5:20 AM   Subscribe

[Bookfilter] Please suggest books where the killer was never caught, or the missing person was never found. Bonus: Non-fiction.
posted by Buffaload to Media & Arts (32 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:24 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

somehow I'm not sure it's what you're looking for but, A Place Between the Tides has a very sparse subtext of a missing boy that runs throughout, it's non-fiction, and it's one of the most charming books I've ever read.
hmm, I buried the lead.
posted by segatakai at 5:32 AM on August 17, 2010

Lord Lucan: My Story

Note: Lord Lucan didn't write this. He disappeared in 1974, at the same time his children's nanny was found murdered.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:40 AM on August 17, 2010

Tana French's In the Woods. (One of the mysteries is solved, one is not.)
posted by shamash at 5:41 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

My Dark Places by James Ellroy (non-fiction.)

There are numerous books about Elizabeth Short's murder. Even the ones which try to build a case to pin the crime on a specific person, like Black Dahlia Avenger, remain inconclusive because without a signed confession or incontrovertible DNA evidence there's no way to really know.

Other favorite subjects along these lines are Jack the Ripper and D.B. Cooper.
posted by usonian at 5:48 AM on August 17, 2010

In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland's Torso Murders by James Jessen Badal
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:52 AM on August 17, 2010

A few cases in Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon (of The Wire fame) were unsolved, if I remember correctly (many other were though).
posted by rpn at 5:58 AM on August 17, 2010

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. (caveat: it's comix!)
posted by joelhunt at 6:01 AM on August 17, 2010

I read John Grisham's "The Innocent Man" a couple years back and really enjoyed it. It's a true story but written like a Grisham novel, so I forgot a few times that it was non-fiction. Really good, and sad too. The murder was "solved" incorrectly, so technically, unsolved.
posted by slyboots421 at 6:06 AM on August 17, 2010

FBI profiler John Douglas'The Cases That Haunt Us.
posted by Elmore at 6:23 AM on August 17, 2010

Sudden Terror - a recounting of the EAR/ONS rapes and murders by a detective that was involved in the investigation (workmanlike, but very readable.)

The best account of the Torso Murders is still John Bartlow Martin's 1949 "Butcher's Dozen" (it's included in the recent Library of America true crime anthology.) Martin's book with the same title is long out of print, but worth tracking down.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:28 AM on August 17, 2010

One last one: George Pelecanos' The Night Gardener was inspired by the unsolved Freeway Phantom murders.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:36 AM on August 17, 2010

The Girl in the Box. Fiction, but the absence of resolution in this story has haunted me for about fifteen years.
posted by motsque at 6:37 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not a book but the Tamam Shud Case is interesting, though it may not have been a murder.

Who killed John Clayton?

Murder on the White Sands

The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III is the story that the ridiculous film Mazes and Monsters was (very, very loosely) based upon (extremely early appearance of Tom Hanks, before he was Big)

And you're probably not looking for children's books but Who Killed Cock Robin?
posted by XMLicious at 7:12 AM on August 17, 2010

The Reaper by Peter Lovesey. I didn't love this one as much as I normally like Lovesey, but it fits your criteria.
posted by OmieWise at 7:41 AM on August 17, 2010

Fiction: The Lovely Bones. Neither body nor killer were found, tho the audience does know both.
posted by Sufi at 7:53 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Who Killed Daniel Pearl? by Bernard-Henri Levy. Might not be exactly what you're looking for since there is a conviction, but the intrigue is...expansive.
posted by sk932 at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2010

The Lost City of Z. The story of British explorer Percival Fawcett and his journey into the Amazon jungle to find El Dorado ... and the numerous people who went in after him ... including, eventually, the author.
posted by lpsguy at 9:29 AM on August 17, 2010

The true story of Sam Sheppard is a meaty one. His case inspired the original "The Fugitive" TV series; there is still no definitive word on who the killer really was.
posted by Melismata at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2010

Non-fiction, which I'm presently reading and enjoying: The Monster of Florence.
posted by scody at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2010

I haven't read The Boy in The Box, but it did receive many positive customer reviews. It's the story of a true case of a young boy whose body was found in a cardboard box alongside the road in Philadelphia in 1957. The identity of the boy and his killer are still unknown today.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2010

I guess you could say that Special Topics in Calamity Physics (fiction) falls into this category. I enjoyed it quite a bit, despite the (imho) insufferable narrator and her even-more-annoying father. YMMV.
posted by chalkbored at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2010

South Korean Memories of Murder (2003), although a movie, tells the story of a (very incompetent) police investigation into a series of murders in Seoul in the mid 80's. Unsolved to this day I believe. There might be a book behind it.
posted by subajestad at 11:44 AM on August 17, 2010

Michael Connelly's The Poet might fit the bill.

(Connelly did tie up loose ends from The Poet with The Narrows several years later, but if you wanted the outcome to remain a mystery you wouldn't have to read that one.)
posted by meggan at 12:20 PM on August 17, 2010

No Country for Old Men
posted by dunadan17 at 12:26 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you.
posted by Buffaload at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2010

Headhunter and a number of other titles by Michael Slade fit the bill.

The POV description of decapitation in that book still echoes in my head. *shudders*
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2010

The Little Friend, the end of which I found annoying, but which I'd been given by a friend who loved it and with whose taste in books I usually agreed.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:30 PM on August 17, 2010

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. It's a collection of short stories, all of which are true. Some of them are "solved," but the whole series plays with how real life doesn't come with certainty. And some of the stories are just downright unsolved.
posted by meese at 2:08 PM on August 17, 2010

Picnic at Hanging Rock
posted by kjs4 at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2010

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien seems to be the kind of thing you're looking for. (I hated it)
posted by neca at 10:49 AM on August 18, 2010

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