For a modern-day horror story, particularly one that claims an insider's peephole, this is singularly unaffecting and...

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THE STRANGER BESIDE ME

For a modern-day horror story, particularly one that claims an insider's peephole, this is singularly unaffecting and tedious. It's the tale of highly publicized mass murderer Ted Bundy, reputed to have battered and/or strangled at least 36 women and finally sentenced to die--for three of the killings--in the Florida haven to which he had escaped after a kidnapping conviction in Utah and a murder indictment in Colorado. It's also, by extension, the story of author Ann Rule--True Detective's Northwestern correspondent, a police confidante who participated in the investigations of the so-called ""Ted"" murders in Washington and Colorado. Unknowingly--and amazingly--she had been Bundy's friend since both manned ""Crisis Center"" hotlines in Seattle in 1971. The irony does not end there, but much of the excitement does. Rule never succeeds in eliciting new or titillating information from Bundy; and though he turned to her in times of trouble, it was mostly to complain about prison conditions or gloat over police stupidity. In the end, he comes across as three parts enigma, one part classic sociopath. Even Rule, constantly agonizing over ethics (she had a contract to do a book even before Bundy was unmasked), has to admit that she believes he was the culprit: taken together, the circumstantial evidence is just too staggering. But the man himself--ex-law student, purportedly ""brilliant,"" magnetic to women but enraged by the rejection of a college sweetheart (whom all the victims resembled)--escapes definition; and Rule, trying to comprehend him, is reduced to platitudes about tragedy and waste. Even the manhunt falters--it's dry, businesslike, a sequence of names without faces. To be fair, Rule tries to present the full set of facts objectively and dispassionately; but such extremes of human behavior cry out for something more than a nuts-and-bolts treatment.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 1980

ISBN: 0393050297

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1980