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Review: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

The Stranger Beside MeLike many, I’ve had a renewed fascination with convicted serial killer Ted Bundy thank to Netflix. With not one but two new offerings on the infamous murder, one a four-part documentary and the other the feature film with Zac Effron taking on the role of Bundy, it’s hard to look away. And while I appreciate what both Netflix offerings gave us, I still think Ann Rule’s first real-crime book recalling her friendship with Ted Bundy is one of the more definitive works on the subject.

Part of it this stems from Rule never losing sight of the fact that the real tragedy of the Bundy story is the lives of his victims that were cut short. While Rule does relate conversations and letters shared with Bundy, she never allows the reader to forget the toll in human lives that Bundy exacted.
In fact in a new forward, Rule says that while this book helped launch her career to a different level, she’d trade all of that if it meant those Bundy killed had been allowed to live their lives instead of seeing them cut short.

Rule met Bundy while working on a crisis hotline in Seattle. It’s fascinating to read how a real-crime reporter could have such conflicting emotions about Bundy and whether or not he was guilty of the horrible crimes associated with him. One of the most riveting moments of the book is when Rule realizes in a Florida court room that there is no way Bundy isn’t guilty of all the horrible things he’s being charged with.

The book paints a chilling portrait of Bundy and his crimes. But Rule stays away from trying to determine more about what motivated Bundy or getting inside his head.

It’s a compelling, chilling true-crime read that may be one of the definitive works on Ted Bundy. But it’s one that, at times, you may want to read with the lights on.


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