Most of the adult population remembers the Ted Bundy case, many remember the chilling trial, and more than a few have watched the television documentaries about Bundy that have appeared from time to time. Ann Rule's story, THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, has been one of her most popular true crime books to date, with at least three updated editions being printed since the initial release.
For those who haven't read it, you're in for a chilling narrative on Ted Bundy --- the handsome, intelligent, well-liked young man who was one of the most heinous serial killers of all time. What began as two disturbingly similar homicides in the state of Washington would evolve into a nationwide hunt for the man responsible for a killing spree in at least 5 states. When he was finally caught, many people were in shock. How could this well mannered, charismatic young man be responsible for the deaths of so many young women? Although he was ultimately only convicted for 3 murders, police are certain he was responsible for at least 30 more. And, sadly, there's reason to believe the actual body count may have been well over 100. Ann Rule, who was a crime reporter when they met, had no clue that the biggest break in her career and the biggest story of her life would involve her friend, Ted Bundy, who worked by her side on the night shift at a local crisis clinic.
One of the remarkable assets of Rule's writing style is her ability to organize a complex set of events, enhanced by interviews, police reports, and a boatload of biographical detail, into a well-structured, easily digestible book. Even though she may frequently slide up and down the chronological line, the material is knitted together smoothly, seldom requiring the reader to flip back to refresh their memory. Her narratives are honest, straightforward accounts of events as she knows them --- no sensational embellishments to cloud the waters. In THE STRANGER BESIDE ME in particular, her own personal story intertwines with that of the criminal, giving readers an unsettling perspective of the toll these cases can take on those dedicated to exposing these crimes and enlightening an all too naive public to the evil that can lurk in anyone's back yard.
Despite the fact that her last update to THE STRANGER BESIDE ME in 1989 included an epilogue entitled "Final Chapter," as it turns out, it wasn't. More than any other case, more than any other serial killer she's reported about, Ted Bundy lives on in the minds of the American public --- and in the troubled memories of Ann Rule. Whether she's lecturing at a police seminar, touring for a book release, or just grocery shopping, people continue to ask her about Ted Bundy. To this day, she still receives mail from women all over the country who are convinced they encountered him and were lucky enough to live and tell about it.
With the 20th Anniversary Edition, Ann Rule has added yet another epilogue to bring readers current with the status of the victims that survived, the families of those who didn't, and a tragic reminder of the one disappearance that Bundy was suspected of but denied to his death. Eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr vanished from her home in 1961. At the time, Ted Bundy was a 14-year-old boy, living on the same block, delivering the Burr's newspaper each morning. She's never been found.
Reviewed by Ann Bruns (BkPageWC@aol.com) on September 1, 2000
The Stranger Beside Me: The Twentieth Anniversary Edition