In 1971 Ann Rule was a writer struggling to get by on articles for detective magazines. During her free time she volunteered at a Seattle Crisis Clinic, helping callers through their personal issues. Her partner during this time was Ted Bundy. Ann liked him immediately.
They saw each other a little and were in contact some after leaving the crisis centre, and Ann would offer advice on his romantic life with his lost love, Stephanie. In 1974 there were attacks against young women and disappearances. With Ann’s background in law enforcement and her writing expertise she was the perfect person to write about the killer, and she landed a book deal to write about the case – a book that would only see the light of day should he be caught. Little did she know that the murderer would be someone she knew.
This is a thoroughly researched, mostly engaging telling of the Ted Bundy story. Rule is an excellent writer and her personal observations of Bundy – as well as her relationship to him, make it especially compelling. As Rule notes, if she were writing this in a work of fiction it would seem far fetched.
However, after about 450 pages or so I grew tired of reading about Ted Bundy. His histrionics at trial. His life in jail. His continued manipulation of those around him. I was ready for it to be done. It also frustrates me that this book is over 600 pages long, and there are probably many more about the man, and yet I doubt his victims get the same attention. This isn’t Ann Rule’s fault and I’m certainly part of the problem, but it’s still maddening. It seems to be part of our society that we focus on those who do harm rather than those who are harmed, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.
Throughout the main body of the book (there are afterwords and epilogues added over the years that continue the tale up to 2008), Rule displays a lot of sympathy for Bundy. And while that is somewhat understandable – in the beginning she doesn’t believe it’s him and is trying to explain things away, he’s a friend after all – as time goes on that sympathy doesn’t really lessen, and it starts to grate. She also did suspect him enough to give his name to police, so there were doubts early on. And while she does reckon with this later in her additions, it’s not really there in the main text.
I don’t know if this is the definitive telling of Bundy, or if there ever can be one, but it’s another terrifying true crime tale, of a man who chose to kill over thirty women, and maybe many more.