Hello my fellow book lovers! Today, I want to try something different. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with true crime. I started listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder last month and it’s absolutely amazing! I am definitely a Murderino and because of that podcast, I decided I want to read more non-fiction crime books.
There are many great documentaries out there (such as The Keepers, The Staircase and Making a Murderer), but because of my anxiety and the fact that I get scared very easily, I tend to prefer reading about crimes rather than seeing with my own two eyes what happened. Additionally, there are a lot of true crime shows that incorporate re-enactments and I detest those!
I, however, realise many of you won’t find these true crime reviews as interesting as those of e.g. new Young Adult releases, so I thought it would be nice to make these reviews more personal and discuss certain aspects that truly shocked, disgusted… me. So beware, unlike my other reviews, this will contain spoilers. Though I personally don’t really think they’re spoilers, considering I’m talking about real people and real events.
The first Chelsea’s Crime Corner – I got the ‘corner’ idea from My Favorite Murder, lol – is dedicated to The Stranger Beside Me, Ann Rule‘s first book. She was a former policewoman and true crime writer. What makes The Stranger Beside Me so extraordinary is the fact that Rule personally knew serial killer Ted Bundy! They worked together and for years she couldn’t believe he was capable of such horrifying acts.
The book was first published in 1980. The audiobook I listened to was an updated version and ends with Ted Bundy’s execution in 1989. I found it very well written. It didn’t contain a huge amount of convoluted details and I liked that it was primarily written in chronological order. The victims are respected; we don’t find out gruesome details we absolutely do not need to know.
Besides reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara earlier this month, The Stranger Beside Me is the first true crime book I have read. I chose to read about Bundy because 1) I was so keen to learn more about Rule’s relationship with him and 2) he is so infamous. That said, besides what I learnt from My Favorite Murder, I didn’t know anything about him.
How could Ann Rule, a woman who was so passionate about true crime, not realise her friend was a murderer? When people found out more about the killer in Washington, Rule called a detective and said “it’s definitely nothing, but I know a guy named Ted Bundy…”. Despite the similarities between the killer and her friend, she was convinced she was overreacting. Throughout this book, you come to understand why she didn’t suspect him. Bundy studied to become a psychologist and lawyer, was very charming and polite, took care of the elderly and children, wanted to do an investigation about rape victims and hitch-hiking… When we watch films about “psychopaths”, they look creepy, behave in incriminating ways, but Bundy – and many other serial killers – wasn’t like that. Even during his trial, I had a little bit of doubts: the majority of the evidence is circumstantial after all, and Bundy firmly proclaimed he was innocent. And that’s exactly the reason why people need to believe survivors: no matter how respectable someone might seem, you have no idea what they might be capable of.
One of the most surprising things I learnt, is the fact that Bundy thought he could be compassionate. He couldn’t steal something someone couldn’t afford to replace, such as a car that looked beloved, yet he was fine with rape and murder.
“Meg Anders”, his fiancé, was the one who made the connection between the Washington and Utah murders and called the police to inform them about Bundy. Isn’t that shocking?! I felt so bad for her. She stayed with him for a long time – even when he was first accused of kidnapping and murder – but in my opinion, she was one of his victims as well. One night, she woke up to find him inspecting her body with a flash-light!
Sadly, that capture was not the end of this serial killer. He managed to escape not once, but twice! When a prisoner escapes, it’s a tiny bit admirable because it must be so difficult to do. Escaping for a second time, however, just sounds as if the guards had no idea what they were doing: they knew he had done it once before!
Once Bundy is imprisonment, we start to see a different side to him, especially through Ann Rule’s letters. He wasn’t exactly unhinged, but he certainly behaved like a spoiled child. Furthermore, everything was about him. Ne never talked about the victims, but he would go on and on about his privileges in jail, how unfair the police was, etc.
I loved reading about the murder trials. It must be so hard to be in a courtroom, but as a reader, they’re captivating. Something absurd always ends up happening, and evidence is such a tricky matter. I absolutely hate character assassination in court; as awful as a person can be, it isn’t compelling evidence in my opinion. Anyway, it’s unsettling that Bundy in court cross-examined witnesses about the murder HE was accused of committing. Being capable of rape and murder is one thing, but then to proclaim your innocence and question the victims and experts is absolutely heartless.
Did you know that Bundy got legally married while his fiancé was testifying as a character witness during one of his murder trials? What the f*ck is wrong with him?! He’s accused of abducting and killing a twelve-year-old girl and they think that’s the appropriate time to get married!
As I have said before, Bundy was a very charming individual and the fact that he so vehemently maintained his innocence, influenced me a tiny bit. I was still 99.99 percent convinced he committed those horrifying crimes, but I thought it was so unlikely for a serial killer to keep that up. I’ve heard many times before that they brag about their crimes, so I was confused. That said, I really need to come to terms with the fact that people will lie and lie and lie, because right before he was about to be executed, Bundy started talking.
That was probably the most shocking moment for me throughout the entire book, so I am glad I picked up the updated edition. Finally, he confessed. What’s more, he even indicated he had committed more murders than the ones he was accused of. While reading, I had assumed that Lynda Ann Healy was his first murder victim. Many investigators and Ann Rule, however, believe he made his first victim at the age of fifteen! Sadly, we will never know how many deaths he was responsible for; many parents will never know what happened to their daughters.
The audiobook of The Stranger Beside Me is eighteen hours long, but it only took me two days to read the entire thing! If you love true crime as much as I do, I highly recommend picking it up! Keep in mind that it was written many decades ago, so it contains dated and offensive language such as the r-slur and “the blacks” instead of Black people. As far as the chapters about the crimes themselves go, Rule did a wonderful job in respecting the victims and not going into unnecessary details. I wasn’t scared while reading, I was primarily interested to learn the full story.
trigger and content warnings for mentions of suicide, “oriental” (not-challenged), r-slur (not-challenged), mentions of child abuse, decomposition, murder, strangulation, rape, sodomy, kidnapping, bludgeoning, breaking-and-entering
Please buy me a coffee if you like my content. I am a Book Depository and Wordery affiliate. If you are interested in buying any books, please purchase from these links. you get free shipping and I get a small commission!