Books Read in 2015 – 10. The Anniversary Man – R. J. Ellory


Genre: American Crime, Serial Killer

Narrative Style: Third person

Rating 4/5Unknown

Published: 2009

Format: Paperback

Reading Challenges: TBR Challenge 2015

Time on shelf: About four years. I bought it at the same time as A Quiet Vendetta which I read straightaway and really enjoyed. I had no real reason for not reading it except other books got in the way.

Synopsis: John Costello survives an attack by a serial killer which kills his girlfriend. Now, twenty years later, he is the only one in New York to realise that a new spate of murders are in fact linked. They are all copies of old murders, committed on the anniversary of the original. However, contact with the police only brings John into the firing line of the killer. 

I wasn’t entirely sure about the premise of this book at first. I had visions of the film Copycat which I considered to be the definitive narrative of the copycat killer idea. I wasn’t sure what could possibly be added to the idea. However, I was wrong. This a completely different take on the tale.

The novel begins with the attack on John Costello back in 1984 and charts his difficulty with getting on with his life and his obsession with serial killers. He is damaged, not just physically but mentally by the attack and there is certainly something odd about him. Odd enough that when, later in the novel, the police believe he is the killer you begin to doubt yourself as to whether or not he is the guilty party.

The narrative then moves on to a series of murders in different areas of New York which have no stylistic similarities so no one links them until the Chief of Police gets wind of a possible article linking the murders together. This is the work of John Costello and he has realised the link between the deaths and the killer gets his name – The Anniversary Man.

It is at this point that the narrative really takes off and we really get to know the cop in charge of the investigation Ray Irving. He is suitably cynical and completely deprived of resources and time. He and Costello form an interesting team, both lonely and difficult men although in different ways. They face a race against time, trying to work out which murder will be the next enacted and I found that I couldn’t put the book down.

I have to say that I did work out how this would end. However, that is not to say that that it wasn’t enjoyable or that I wasn’t surprised by any of it. The ending was sad but also realistic and I wasn’t at all disappointed.

Books read in 2014 – 14. The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy, The Shocking Inside Story – Ann Rule



Genre: True Crime, Serial Killers
narrative style: first person, largely chronological Rating:3/5

format: Kindle

Published: 1980

Synopsis: Rule describes Bundy’s murders and also her reaction to them. She decribes their friendship and the difficulties she faced in accepting his guilt.

Challenges: Eclectic Reader Challenge 2014 – genre True Crime.

I first came across Ted Bundy when I was writing my MPhil. I was writing a section comparing Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho with Helen Zahavi’s Dirty Weekend and my research led me to read a lot about serial killers. Bundy stood out as one of the stranger cases. There was such a disparity between the persona he used to snare his victims (he liked to pretend to be helpless in some way, sometimes having his arm in a sling or using crutches) and the violence and depravity of his attacks. It stuck with me over the years and when I realised that I had to read a true crime book for this years challenge, I knew it would be about Bundy.ann rule

It is this disparity that is at the heart of Rule’s book. She knew Bundy, worked with him in fact, and was already writing a book about the series of violent murders when he became the prime suspect. She knew a charming and polite Ted, a man who worked the phones at a crisis centre, persuading people not to take their own lives. It is little wonder that she did not want to believe that he was the killer the police had searched for. Indeed, it didn’t seem possible that two such different personas could exist in the one person.

It surprised me how long Rule continued to be supportive of Bundy, even when she started to believe in his guilt. Perhaps it is easy to say when you are not emotionally attached to the person involved but I’m not sure I could have kept corresponding with him, sending him cheques and money as well. It maybe that she realised that this would help with her writing career – having the inside line on an infamous killer – and indeed this book did put her on the map. However, I think that the hold that Bundy had on her was a lot simpler. He knew exactly how to manipulate people and bend them to his will. Rule seems taken in by his need for her and at times seems almost awestruck. She claims not to have been in love with him and this may be true but there is something in the way that she writes about him that goes beyond mere friendship.

The details of Bundy’s crimes are horrendous and I had no idea how many women he had killed and how many murders he has been linked to that cannot be proved. Also his escapes from prison and many last minute reprieves from the electric chair made for interesting reading. However, I did get bogged down in what I felt was extraneous detail. Rule, undoubtedly, is very observant and thorough but there was no need to detail the weather or the background of every bit player. Also, I felt that the expression was clumsy at times and felt that who ever edited this work should have had a sharper red pencil. It was a shame because by the time I got to the end and Ted was finally going to be executed, I didn’t really care. I just wanted the book to be over.