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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Stranger Beside Me
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244 of 251 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2001
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I had heard of this book, of course; had wanted to read it for years, so when this 20th anniversary edition came out, I decided to give it a go. I had a pre-conceived notion: OK, this is going to be a really interesting biography of Ted Bundy, with the added attraction of having been written by a former dear friend. Fast, easy crime reading, I thought.
I was wrong. This story is so chilling, so frightening, it grips you in the gut. Ann Rule has simply stated the facts. No sensationalism, no gratuitous gore, no psychobabble. Just the facts. As they happend. And even though the reader might think of Ted Bundy as "old news," and even though he was executed in 1989, this book makes one check to see that the doors and windows are locked.
There are actually two stories here: one describes the gradual disintegration of a seemingly normal, affable, brilliant man into a sexual psychopath so evil, so methodical in his vicious killings, that one wonders if he was at all human. The other story is that of Ann Rule herself, a decent, hard-working, middle-aged mother of four who meets and befriends a nice young man working beside her in a crisis clinic. A man she regards as a younger brother; a man she views as a close and trusted friend. The slow but inexorable realization on Rule's part that this man is in fact an unspeakably violent serial killer is as painful to read as it was for her to experience.
Each victim is described in terms of such respect and such anguish that even a family member, I think, can feel that his or her daughter has been given a chance to shine, a chance to be more than a victim, more than a nameless number (8th girl killed, and so forth). The poignancy of these girls' very human preoccupations and lives serves to outline the contrasting horror in even more detail. That is why Rule does not have to defile the victims with intricate detail. The contrast between their young lives and their terrible deaths is enough in itself.
Rule's new Afterward, written in 2000, is fascinating. She has not "recovered and moved on"; there is no real "closure." She has come to accept that the incomprehensible contrast between Ted the Dear Friend and Ted the Monster will never leave her, and will never be fully explained, no matter how many facts she sifts, no matter how much progress has been made in understanding the sexual psychopath. It is her fate to have known Bundy in all his skins; it is our privilege to read her account of it.
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83 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is an excellent true crime book. It has an unusual twist in that the author and the subject of the book, serial killer Ted Bundy, had a platonic relationship that arose from the time they were co-workers for a Seattle, Washington crisis center. Quite frankly, the author initially had no idea that Ted Bundy was anything other than what he appeared to be: a handsome, intelligent, charismatic, and articulate young man, who was, at the time, involved in local politics and later became a law student.

When he became the suspect in the disappearance and murders of a number of very young, pretty women, the author was in total disbelief. As the evidence mounted against her friend, the author, who is a former police officer, could not shut her eyes to the reality that Ted Bundy was actually a very disturbed individual who was guilty of all of which he was accused and probably guilty of other such crimes for which he was not accused for evidentiary reasons. Consequently, the author would suffer some angst for many years, as she struggled to reconcile the Ted Bundy that she thought she knew with the fiend who was compelled to commit so many vicious abductions, assaults, and murders. It is believed that at least thirty-five young women, and probably a good number more, died at the hands of Ted Bundy.

The author details the abductions, assaults, and murders of his victims from coast to coast, which crimes were ultimately to make Ted Bundy a nationwide household name, and an entity to be feared. The investigative efforts of law enforcement officers in the states of Washington, Utah, Colorado, and Florida are revealed, as are Ted Bundy's arrests and his trials. She also details his two escapes from custody in Colorado, the last of which would find him heading to the sunshine state of Florida.

Florida was an interesting choice of state for Ted Bundy, as it is a death penalty state in which convicted felons, who have been given the death penalty, are actually executed. Notwithstanding Florida's stance on capital crime, Ted Bundy went on to commit a slew of shocking assaults and murders in Florida for which he was ultimately arrested, tried, and convicted. Considering the fact that Ted Bundy could have chosen to relocate to a state other than Florida after his last escape from custody in Colorado, it almost appears as if he had a death wish by going to Florida and continuing to give in to his sick compulsion. Unfortunately for him, Florida was quite happy to make his wish come true, and on January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy was executed, and his reign of terror was finally over.

Those who like the true crime genre will enjoy this well-written and well-researched book. It is highly detailed and contains a great deal of information, some of it quite personal due to the author's relationship with Ted Bundy. She paints a very intriguing, intimate portrait of him, one that is three dimensional and complex. He was definitely a man whose benign and compelling external visage was at odds with his many internal demons, as he was a prolific serial killer. Externally, Ted Bundy was the sort of man towards whom women gravitated, and there was no dearth of Ted Bundy groupies once he made headlines.

In the updates at the end of the book, the author theorizes as to why Ted Bundy, a young man of so much promise, would end up the way that he did, and she provides some interesting and personal familial information from which the reader may draw his or her own conclusion. All in all, aficionados of the true crime genre will find much of interest in this book.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Without a doubt, the coincidence that found Ann Rule already acquainted with the prime suspect in a series of brutal murders is one that would be hard to believe if this were fiction. But it's not -- Rule, contracted to write the story of the elusive "Ted," discovers that her former colleague, Ted Bundy, curiously resembles the profile of the killer. Rule's later career as one of the most spectacularly successful true crime writers was significantly enhanced by the publication of this book. She writes with a surprising candor of the intimacy between herself and the Republican Party aspirant and law student who was eventually put to death after committing an unknown number of killings in an unknown number of states. Bundy's episodic rampages through the states of Utah, Washington and Florida are well known, and he is, in many ways, the most "famous" of modern serial killers. On the constitution of the serial killer as a modern identity, there's probably nothing better than Mark Selzer's book Serial Killers, a fascinating study of this modern pathology which traces the identity assumed by Bundy and other back to Jack the Ripper. The Ripper, as the first elusive, anonymous, random killer to gain notoriety in popular culture, offered an "identikit" profile for the serial killer which Bundy, as "Ted," fits perfectly.
Rule's book reads like a curious amalgam of true crime and romance fiction, and, in many ways, this is a love story of sorts. Rule's fascination with Bundy reminds us of the charismatic powers of the sociopathic personality, and its plaint, adaptable face in this competitive culture we find ourselves in. Some might find her portrait of Bundy disturbing: she remains, through most of the book, reluctant to acknowledge the severity and hideousness of his crimes. But she acknowledges them, finally, in her graphic retelling of courtroom testimony, and in her humble incomprehension of the pain that Bundy brought to the lives of many. If you're looking for a book about this iconic figure, it's hard to go past The Stranger Beside Me. One way or another, it's become a classic true crime narrative. Rule taps into the rule of contingency that dogs serial killings: everything takes place merely because of opportunity, coincidence, random fate. And everything seems to have a moral, though Rule is properly reticent about what the moral here might be. My only hesitation concerns the way in which Rule introduces the victims: in some ways, it's more like a roster call than the poignant series of vignettes she intends. There are facts here that have been better discussed elsewhere, perhaps, but because of the strange coincidence that drew Rule and Bundy together, it's a powerful book.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read this book several times since it was first released. It is very hard for me to read or watch anything about Ted Bundy since my cousin was his last victim. I would recommend this book to anyone that has ever heard of Ted Bundy. It is scary to think that this kind of thing can happen anywhere, anytime. Ann Rule shows you how you think you know someone but really not know them at all. Even though Bundy finally met his match, it's sad to think we will never know how many victims there really were and what kind of pain and horror they might have suffered. Too bad Bundy's life ended so quickly!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"THE STRANGER BESIDE ME" is undoubtedly one of Ann's best books. It is a cautionary tale of how someone who appears to have everything going for him, as Bundy did, can have another, hidden and dark side altogether. Bundy appeared to be the all-American "golden boy" but in reality, he was a sexual sadist, sexual predator and necrophiliac dominated by dark and unmentionable compulsions which he felt compelled to act upon.

Rule's book is chilling because it shows that anyone can be "taken in" by these psychopathic (now called anti-social) personalities. In reality, Ted Bundy was nothing but a black hole. The appearance he made to all he came in contact with, including Ann Rule, was meant to fool people. His outward appearance was carefully thought out to reassure others and impress them that he was really "going places" in life and had everything going for him.

Rule's book is eerie because she shows that much of what Bundy did, while maintaining this "perfect" image to the outside world, was carefully thought out, especially the disappearance of Lynda Ann Healy, who has still never been found. The only earthly remnant of Lynda was part of her skull, which detectives found on Taylor Mountain. Bundy was a devious, cunning, and wicked man. Ann is lucky because she could easily have become one of his victims. She worked with him alone at nights and the realization of this must still haunt her today. She worked beside him and truly thought she knew him, but she didn't. Thus, the title "the stranger beside me" truly is an apt one. I think this should serve as a cautionary tale to many women who think they have met "Mr. Right." Perhaps women should heed the old adage "the jury is still out" when meeting someone new, especially after reading this book!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is one of the most definitive books on serial killer Ted Bundy, and for good reason: author Ann Rule actually knew and worked with him at a Seattle-based suicide & crisis hotline. Bundy seemed an unlikely murderer; friends knew him as a smart law student, a man with an interest in state politics, and a man with a longtime girlfriend. Like most people, Rule wasn't sure what to believe when Bundy was first arrested on kidnapping charges in Utah in 1975. She stayed neutral and wrote this book, and the result was a fascinating account that manages to walk the fine line between good taste and opportunism.
The Stranger Beside Me covers a lot of ground in its attempts to paint a clear picture of Ted Bundy. Countless acquaintances of Bundy are quoted or mentioned, and Ann Rule's past experience as a police officer gave her inside access to the investigations that most people could only dream about. She also manages to describe her strange relationship with Bundy without making herself sound overly important, thereby keeping her credibility above reproach. Bundy is revealed to be a hollow, warped, sadistic predator, not at all the cassanova that the press sometimes made him out to be. This book is fascinating on many levels, and Rule's careful research also shows.
For all these reasons, I couldn't give this book any less than five stars. The only real complaint that I have is that the book often has a wandering feel. The book isn't just about Bundy; it's also about Ann Rule and how she followed the case and later the trial, even sometimes speaking with Bundy or writing him letters in jail. As a result, the focus of this book often seems to waver. But it is hard to blame Rule for any of this because Bundy himself was a wanderer, committing his crimes in several western states (that we know of) before finally ending his criminal career in Florida. His crimes were numerous and terrible and his personality was very abnormal, resulting in a very complex and tragic story. Rule glosses over some of the worst details, but it's just as well; there is no way for anyone to fail to appreciate how awful Bundy was. True crime doesn't get much scarier than this.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a true crime fan, I have read many books by countless authors. Ann Rule is the only author who has completely explained the proper definition of a serial killer.
This book is a fascinating look into the human mind and a man, Ted Bundy. I would like to thank Ann for finally describing and telling this story.
This is a must read for any psychology student and true crime lover.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ann Rule was Ted Bundy's friend..indeed she might have seen him for a time as little brother, replacing the one who tragically killed himself. I've read many a book on crime, but never has the author known the subject so well. It lends a fascinating and spooky feel to the narrative. The book is a bit long and can be a bit slow at points, but that is bound to happen when the last 100 pages or so are updates (from '86, '89, and '00). Nevertheless, the Bundy shown is the whole man. I think that is incredibly important. Some will argue that Bundy is strictly a monster and should not be humanized. I disagree. What makes Bundy (and those like him) so terrifying is their very humanity. And their ability to so easily destroy the humanity of others.
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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I know many are going to disagree with me, but this book about Ted Bundy wasn't all that great. There's a good deal of Bundy's biography here, but the relationship touted in the book regarding Ann Rule's friendship with Bundy seems, to me, to be stretching it for what she can. So she worked with the guy for a bit and then stayed in contact with him over the years... so what. That's like any of us writing a book about someone you worked with at a job you had in college. Rule seemed to be straining to show that she knew Bundy and were dear friends. I just didn't pick that up in this book. She seemed to be grasping to show she knew him. Otherwise, the book is a very good biography of a twisted man and his demented actions.

Another thing that bothered me about this book is the softness of it. Let me explain; in I-5 Killer, Want-Ad Killer, and Lust Killer, the author lays out the crime scene and actions as you go along in those books, giving details of what happened in the various assaults and crimes. The author avoided doing that this time, simply noting that so-and-so disappeared on this date or was found in this condition. Rather than giving the scenario and actions of the crimes, Rule glazes over them until the Chi Omega house assault, almost as if she were trying to convince herself that Bundy didn't do these crimes.

Overall, its a good book to biograph Bundy, but the author dwells on what seems to be a self-convincing thought process that her and Bundy were best buddies or childhood friends and spent dozens of years together rather than one time coworkers that stayed in touch. The whole court scenes are drawn out and appear to be space fillers but none-the-less it was certainly readable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ann Rule's 1980 true crime memoir is the gold standard for the last three decades of crime non-fiction. Rule holds a unique position as a renowned crime journalist and first-person participant in the life of prolific serial murderer Ted Bundy. The pair were co-workers and confidantes at a Seattle crisis hotline in 1971, just years before Bundy's killing and mutilation of young women ramped up in multi-state sprees. Rule was older than her friend, in the process of a divorce in 1971, and served as a motherly figure to the handsome man who charmed so many others around the nation (even after his conviction). Throughout his jailings on suspicion of burglary, kidnapping, attempted murder, and murder, Bundy reached out to his old friend via phone calls and letters. She was upfront with him about her book contract negotiates and her desire to transition from a magazine journalist to book author with a story about Bundy.

The story is as much an exploration of Bundy's childhood, troubled life, complex relations with women, and crime as it is a meditation on friendship. Detectives in the first cases against Bundy asked to see his letters to Ann, and she sought psychiatric help to sort out her feelings on the matter. She was friends with the police, who trusted her not to prematurely reveal crime details and to whom she pointed out interstate connections between various crimes (both Bundy- and non Bundy-related), but she also felt a loyalty to her friend. She wondered if she was exploiting Bundy to advance her own career and secure a financial future for her children. After careful contemplation, Rule determined that regardless of Bundy's guilt, she would keep writing to him, she would provide a friendly ear, and therefore she was not using him. In fact, she realized she might be one of his few true friends, and the only female not under his manipulative spell (Bundy maintained several simultaneous long-term girlfriends while he was imprisoned).

No one knows how many murders Bundy committed (he made a dozen deathbed confessions but refused to comment on any child murders). In her book, Rule, who long wrestled with Bundy's claims of innocence in the face of overwhelming circumstantial evidence, enumerates exactly which crimes she thinks Bundy is guilty of. She also describes her theory that Bundy's murders stemmed from the rejection he felt from a socialite college sweetheart (his victims all bore a striking resemblance to his one-time fiancée). Rule is in a unique position to describe Bundy both objectively and subjectively, and her book is an absolute must-read. The twentieth anniversary edition contains both 1989 and 2000 updated on the evidence against Bundy and the culture of true crime and justice in America.
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