The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Former policewoman Ann Rule was a freelance writer pursuing a serial killer. Unbeknown to her the killer was a friend and former colleague, a young man she considered to be caring, charismatic, charming, compassionate and destined for a high-flying career in law. His name was Ted Bundy.
The story follows the manhunt for the elusive and deeply disturbed Bundy, one of America’s most prolific serial killers, whose modus operandi entailed bludgeoning, sexually assaulting and strangling attractive longhaired young women. Eventually Bundy is detained, only for him to escape from custody on two separate occasions, the second time fleeing to Tallahassee, Florida, where a savage attack leaves two female students dead. In a separate incident twelve-year-old Kimberley Leach is abducted and murdered.
When Bundy is captured he denies any involvement in the killings. The ensuing court case sees Bundy relishing the media limelight, firing his lawyers, being found guilty and receiving the death sentence. There is a further trial for the abduction and murder of Kimberley Leach, which also results in a guilty verdict. After nearly ten years on death row and numerous stays of execution, Bundy is sent to the electric chair, having finally confessed to thirty murders in an interview shortly before his demise.
Though The Stranger Beside Me provides a detailed outline of the events surrounding Ted Bundy’s crimes and subsequent trials, it offers little insight into the mind of this infamous psychopath, in part because of its glaring omissions, such as his numerous acts of necrophilia.
The book’s subject matter is fascinating and disturbing, but the prose is unimaginative and the pace slow. As Ms Rule never saw Bundy in later years, and was not invited to interview him, this reader was left suspecting that the close friendship she claimed to have had with the killer was tenuous at best.