You may have heard the name ‘Ann Rule’ when listening to true crime podcasts or perhaps she’s been recommended to you by another true crime fan. Maybe you haven’t heard of her at all but you were drawn here by a wild search for true crime books. Or perhaps you’re her biggest fan and you’re here to scrutinise my list! Whether or not you’re a seasoned Ann Rule fan or a newbie, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on my top five books by the queen of True Crime.
5. In the Still of the Night
In the Still of the Night follows the story of Barb Thompson who won’t rest until her daughter’s murder is solved. But the question is: was Ronda’s death actually a suicide?
At first, Ronda’s death was determined as a “suicide”, but her mother won’t accept this. From the start Ronda’s husband, Ron, looks like the prime suspect, but there’s nothing solid. There are also other suspects – Ronda and Ron were on the outs and she was dating – could it have been one of those men?
This makes the list because of Barb – her determination is truly an inspiration and her belief in her daughter keeps the investigation going.
4. Green River, Running Red
If you’re into true crime and you haven’t heard of The Green River Killer then you need to read this book. Rule states that the Green River Killer (GRK) was the first “mass murderer” to be called a serial killer.
The GRK killed 71 (or more) people, largely sex workers, in the 1980s and 1990s. Rule does such an amazing job of telling each and every victim’s story and telling the tale from the perspective of the women who fell into the GRK’s trap. The story didn’t get as much attention at the time, largely due to the fact that most of the women were sex workers – but it deserves to be told.
The killer is slowly revealed as the man who is now behind bars, Gary Ridgeway, and we learn about his life outside of the murders, which makes it all the more chilling.
3. The Stranger Beside Me
Probably Rule’s most famous book, and most famous subject, The Stranger Beside Me tells the story of Ted Bundy and of Ann’s relationship with him.
Rule and Bundy met when they worked together on a suicide hotline. They sat next to each other while working on the hotline and even formed a friendship. When Bundy was accused of being the “Ted” that was killing women, Rule was on his side, at first.
This is Rule’s most personal book, she talks very openly about how she continued her correspondence with Bundy, even when he was in prison. She talks about how she came to see the other side of Bundy and as her life as a single mother and writer. This book is two stories: his and hers.
2. Dead by Sunset
My number two spot is for the 1986 case of the murder of Cheryl Keeton. The mother was found beaten to death inside her van on the Sunset Highway. Her estranged husband, Brad Cunningham is the main suspect, but for years was left unprosecuted.
The reason this book takes this spot is because of how mad the story is and now brazenly Brad goes about his life.
Rule tells the story of Cheryl’s life, her marriage to Brad and his subsequent relationships. She also writes about his relationship with a doctor, who he meets after the death of Cheryl, a wonderful woman who comes to love Cunningham’s sons and wants to help raise them.
Interestingly, Cunningham himself wrote a “book” called Ann Rule Deconstructed in which he claims he was portrayed wrongly. The book received terrible and very few reviews.
1. Small Sacrifices
The story of Diane Downs and what happened to her three children is no less than bat s**t crazy, not to mention tragic.
A woman (Downs) drives into a hospital with her three children in the car, claiming that a crazed man had shot at her children and herself on the highway. Two of the children survived, but with permanent damage and one died. Almost immediately, the actions of Downs seem strange. The wound in her arm is a lot less serious than those of her children and they seem reluctant to see her – and she them.
Rule tells the story of Diane Downs’ life, her love affair with a married man who she became obsessed with having and her subsequent belief that if she didn’t have children, he may leave his wife for her. Her past is both fascinating, tragic and horrifying; it also includes a period when she worked as a surrogate mother, which is truly bizarre.
Another element that earns Small Sacrifices the top spot is the story of the dedicated district attorney who makes it his mission to solve the case and to keep the remaining children safe.