The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule


I re-read The Stranger Beside Me by true crime queen Ann Rule, last week. I hadn’t read it for almost 20 years and it was like I was reading it for the first time.

The Stranger Beside Me is about serial killer Ted Bundy. What makes this book stand out from the rest is that Ann Rule actually knew Bundy. She worked with him on a suicide prevention line in the 1970s and she got to know him quite well. Rule injects the story of Bundy’s life and crimes with the fascinating insights and experiences she shared with the psychology graduate and aspiring lawyer. Little did she know Bundy was a mass murderer.

Bundy is infamous for his intelligence, good looks and charm. This is how he lured so many young, smart, beautiful young women to their deaths.

Re-reading about Bundy’s crimes has left me thinking so much about personal safety and how a criminally intelligent and sexually psychopathic Bundy was able to kill women so easily. So many of his victims went missing literally hundreds of metres from their destinations. One victim, who was vacationing at an Aspen lodge with her boyfriend and his children, simply walked from the lodge’s communal lounge to her room to fetch a magazine and she was never seen again.

Bundy lured many of his victims with the ruse of being a police officer or wearing a fake leg cast or arm sling. He asked women to help him carry things to his car. Bundy seemed “normal” and polite and he picked his victims carefully.

Bundy was put to death in 1989. In his last interview, the day before his execution, Bundy told interviewer Dr James Dobson (Dobson a psychologist and founder of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family) that he blamed his crimes on exposure to hardcore pornography. The interview is available to watch on YouTube and well worth a look.

In my mind he is one of the most chilling serial killers ever (I mean all serial killers are disturbing in the extreme) because he was able to fit into society so easily. I constantly asked myself whether I would have gone to help Bundy had he asked me? The women and girls he murdered were smart, caring women who had the world at their feet. It also made me ponder how I will balance teaching my daughters to be safe and wary of potentially dangerous situations but also letting them enjoy life.

I love Ann Rule’s work. She is one of my true crime favourites and deserves her reputation as a queen of true crime writing.

This is a true crime classic. An absolute must-read if you are into true crime. It has sold more than two million copies.

  1. You’re right that Rule is absolutely the true crime queen. An interview with her that I read talked about how and why she got into the genre in the first place, and her reasoning was that she was just very curious about social psychology – why people do what they do.

    My reasons for doing so are similar. One, I like to read true crime; two, I would above all love to be able to answer the question: Why do people kill?

    Thanks for the great review of Rule’s work!

  2. […] reading her crime case compilations and have been completely engrossed by her longer titles like The Stranger Beside Me and Small […]

  3. Love this book! Best True Crime book I have ever read! I love Rule’s early work, as opposed to her collections of short stories. I love how she makes the books about the victims but she lost be at the Green River Killer because most of the victims lived similar lifestyles before hand which made for a boring read after awhile. But loved The Stranger Beside Me. Great made-for-TV movie as well. I won’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it : )

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