Review: The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy by Ann Rule

cover of The Stranger Beside MeThe Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy by Ann Rule
W.W. Norton & Company (May 2022) 
640 pages; $17.95 paperback 
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

The most unnerving true crime book is unearthed and shocked back to life in W.W. Norton & Company’s newest edition of The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule.

Rule is the undefeated champion of true crime writing, but this particular book will always be her most memorable. Unlike Rule’s other books, such as The I-5 Killer and Lust Killer, which focus heavily on the perpetrator, The Stranger Beside Me feels part investigative journalism, part memoir.

Working the late shift at a Seattle crisis clinic in 1971, Rule met and befriended Ted Bundy. She described Bundy as charming and sensitive. She even goes as far as to say that the now infamous serial killer was so attentive with callers that he probably saved nearly as many lives as he took — not excusing his actions, of course. This line has always stood out to me, not because I think Rule intended to induce some sort of halo effect for the “Campus Killer” as some critique, but because it truly encompasses the dichotomy that was Ted Bundy.

Most, regardless of generation and source, know the Bundy story. A young and seemingly kind, bright-minded magnetic man cloaks an animalistic urge to brutalize and murder young women.

But what makes Rule’s narrative so riveting, so ungodly chilling, is how close she became to Bundy. How she confided in him about her divorce, and above all, the brutal mass murderer, “Ted,” she tracked, and police desperately hunted. Rule reveals that she responded to the police tip about a Volkswagen Beetle linked to the suspect, one she had seen Ted in and even rode in, accompanying him to holiday parties.

Lastly, Rule does a brilliant job characterizing Bundy’s victims, the ones he killed, the ones who barely escaped, and the ones he lied to, like Elizabeth Kloepfer (also known as Liz Kendall), his longtime girlfriend. Kloepfer also admitted to calling the tip hotline on multiple occasions about Bundy.

Rule seeded the idea that somewhere, a woman knows and has tried to speak. What results in women’s immediate shut-down or mislabeling of rightful freight as hysteria is prolonged catastrophe.

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