Book Review: The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule

March 26, 2007

A couple of months ago, my boyfriend David and I decided to start our own little book club of sorts and recommend books we had read to each other. We would then read them and discuss. The book I recommended to him was The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, the true story of a near-outbreak of an ebola-type virus in the U.S. When I suggested it, I forgot that he’s one of those types of people who take on or become paranoid about all of the symptoms that he reads about or comes into contact with. For example, the other day I had some side-effects from the bird flu vaccine and when I described them to him the first thing he said to me was, “I guarantee that I will have every one of those symptoms within the next ten minutes!” and then, “Seriously, is there any chance at all that I may have the bird flu right now?” Anyway, the point is that although The Hot Zone is an excellent book, it may not have been the best choice for him.

In a similar vein, David recommended that I read The Stranger Beside Me. This is a unique book about Ted Bundy, a serial killer who committed most of his murders in the late 1970’s. The author of the book was friends with Ted Bundy before the murders were committed. She got the contract to write about them before Ted was even a suspect. She stayed in touch with him in one way or another until the end of his life. Her inside knowledge of him makes the book especially interesting.

I didn’t know much about Ted Bundy before I read this book because it all happened either before I was born or when I was a little girl. Basically, he was a charming, handsome young man who no one would have suspected. He eventually confessed to around 30 murders, although it is believed that he killed many more. All of his victims were pretty, young women with similar characteristics. He would pretend to be vulnerable, for example by putting his arm in a sling, and ask for help carrying something. The girl would then be led to his car, bludgeoned in the head, and taken away with him.

After he was eventually arrested (over something trivial in comparison), Bundy escaped from prison twice. The first time he was caught a few days later, but the second time he was free for 6 1/2 weeks. He could have made a clean break, but he was obviously caught in the grip of something that he couldn’t control. It was during this time that he broke into a sorority house and murdered two more girls and severely injured two. He also broke into another nearby house on the same night and attempted another murder.

He was caught soon afterwards, and after years and years of trials and appeals (during which he managed to get married and impregnate his new wife!), he was finally executed via electric chair in January of 1989.

Just like I did to him, David picked a book for me to read that could easily have freaked me out (what are we doing to each other?). I clearly fit the profile of Ted Bundy’s victims. If I saw a stranger with crutches or a sling on his arm needing help, I would surely be inclined to help him. But after reading this, I can confidently say that I will probably now be a paranoid freak. Just because I’m 25 years old doesn’t mean I can stop watching out for strangers. And no more solitary evening walks to Food Town! Doors will always be locked. In fact, I wouldn’t mind moving to a safer part of town.

The book is an interesting read, especially if you like true crime. It made me think, and it made me aware. Maybe that’s why David wanted me to read it after all!

Posted in: books & reading, book reviews, books & reading

Comments on Book Review: The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule

  1. 1

    From David:

    Two things:

    1) You need to clarify your Davids. (Done!)
    2) You should read Fast Food Nation. Don’t bother with Dave Eggers’ new book (although it was alright, I’m just positive you hate everything Dave Eggers now).

  2. 2

    From Katy:

    Blech on Dave Eggars (though I’m sure Dave will fiercely disagree and not be happy with me for talking bad about his boyfriend). Bombastica! That’s what I say about Dave Eggars.

    I really want to read that book about Ted Bundy. It will probably make me insanely paranoid, but I’m fascinated by people who have done weird things in their lives. Not just crime, though. For example, I’d really like to read a biography of Hugh Hefner, though I’m sure Uncle Hef would not be pleased to be in the same blog comment as Ted Bundy. Basically I’m fascinated by weirdos and playboys.

    This comment is ridiculous. I apologize.

  3. 3

    From Katy:

    Heheh, that’s what I remember hearing back in my AA days.

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