Tag Archive | serial killer

Book Review: The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, by Ann Rule

I wasn’t even born yet when Ted Bundy started killing women in Western Washington.  I still wasn’t born when he moved on to other states and continued to kill women.  I was only a toddler when he was finally caught for his murders in Florida.  Yet somehow the story of Ted Bundy was frequently told while I was growing up, a cautionary tale told among friends.  It didn’t help that I also grew up in a time when the Green River Killer was murdering south of Seattle, and that Ted Bundy was executed when I was in middle school.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story

Author Ann Rule knew Bundy, spending a few years in the 1970s working with him for, of all places, a Rape Crisis Hotline.  Once a week she worked a volunteer shift with him, answering calls and talking during the quiet hours.  She described him as kind, attentive, sweet, intelligent, and not someone she ever suspected of murdering multiple women in his spare time.  Except there was enough of a nagging doubt that she did turn his name into investigators when eyewitnesses described a young man named “Ted”, who drove a Volkswagen Beetle, talking to one of the murder victims.  She wasn’t the only one who had doubts.

Rule was writing crime stories for a local magazine, and trying to break into writing a book.  So she knew she had her subject when her friend Ted was arrested in Utah for kidnapping and murder, but he swore he was innocent.  She continued to correspond with Bundy while he was awaiting trial, always being honest and letting him know that she would use their correspondence in whatever she wrote.  Of course, he insisted that the book would be clearing his name.

The Stranger Beside me details almost 20 years of history between the author and the murderer, detailing his murders in six different states, his arrests, his escapes, his trials, and ultimately his execution in 1989.  She writes candidly about the conflict of coming to a gradual realization that the man she saw as kind and gentle, was really a sadistic, violent, psychopath.  The book goes into detail on the nature of his crimes, juxtaposed with his assertions of innocence, his frustrations with law enforcement and his public defenders, and a system he believed was unfairly portraying him as a monster.

Now, of course, it is clear that Bundy was a monster.  But as Rule shows, that wasn’t always so indisputable.  Bundy was probably one of the very worst, but unfortunately after reading, you can’t help but realize that there truly is evil walking among us.

4 stars. 

Book Review: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, is the story about the search for a serial killer. 

The East Area Rapist, as he was originally known, was a prolific rapist targeting the Sacramento, California area in the 1970s.  They didn’t know it until many years later, but at some point, the rapist became a murderer.  When his spree was finally completed ten years later (at least as best we know), the East Area Rapist had raped over 50 women and murdered at least ten men and women, between 1976 and 1986, in three different California counties.

Michelle McNamara, the author of the book, was a true crime writer who became obsessed with this long cold case.  She built connections with detectives, victims’ family members and amateur sleuths, and compiled a massive amount of data on the East Area Rapist’s crimes.  Of course, once he was tied to the murders, his nickname was no longer appropriate.  McNamara renamed him the Golden State Killer – and it stuck.

Her book details her research into the crimes and the search for the killer.  She details the crimes thoroughly; so it is not for the faint of heart.  She talks about her visits to detectives, and her visits to the crime scenes.  Interestingly, she also shares information about her own life; I enjoyed hearing about the impact that the case had on her own life.  The book also goes into extensive detail on DNA technology and the scientific advances that have been made over the last 35 years.  She also writes about how DNA was used in the case; DNA was responsible for linking the rapes in Sacramento to the murders in the Los Angeles area.

Unfortunately, McNamara died before the book was completed; an autopsy revealed her death at age 46 was a result of an accidental overdose of Adderall, Xanax, and Fentanyl.  Her husband hired two researchers to complete the book.

If you don’t know what the outcome of the case was, I won’t give it away.  It is really interesting (and really disturbing).  The book was fascinating, and true crime readers will enjoy it.  But like I said, you might not want to read it before bed, especially if you sleep alone in a one-story home.



Book Review: The Man from the Train

What happens when a sports writer tries to solve a series of unsolved murders that occurred over 100 years ago, all across the country? This book.

Between the 1890s and the 1930s, there were numerous ax murders of families occurring across the United States. Not that many, but perhaps more than could be explained by mere coincidence. The Man from the Train details author Bill James’ theory that many, if not most, of these murders were committed by the same man.


The book details the facts that are known about each murder, which is often very little after so much time has elapsed. Then he explores the commonalities among the murders, and then determines whether these commonalities fit the pattern. If so, they were part of the series of murders all committed by one man.  Neatly wrapped up – case closed.

Never mind that these murders occurred hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles away from each other, in a time when most people didn’t travel far from their homes. Never mind that he had absolutely no evidence to tie the murders to the man he accuses, who was only suspected, and never prosecuted, for one ax murder.

Never mind that his murderer would have had to have been murdering families for decades without ever being caught. Or that traveling around the country would have been expensive and time-consuming, and these murders didn’t have money stolen from the scene of the crime.

The book was interesting because it detailed what is known about many of the ax murders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, I don’t agree with his theory about a freight training hopping serial killer who eluded capture for 30 years. Just because the crimes were similar is intriguing, but not necessarily a smoking gun (or bloody ax). I just couldn’t get there…

2 stars.