It's hard reviewing and rating nonfiction books, especially True Crime. I feel like I say this with every True Crime book I read, but I have yet to be proven wrong about it, so here we are. I’m not rating the crimes themselves, the severity or even how the cases played out in court. I’m simply rating how the author chose to relay the information to the reader. Ann Rule is in a unique position as a True Crime author, as she used to be a police officer, so her books always bring an interesting level of detail to them that’s garnered through first hand experience. Perhaps her most famous book is “The Stranger Beside Me” where she herself was blind to the fact that her friend was Ted Bundy—yes, that Ted. But the “I-5 Killer” is just as tense and intriguing, even when Rule does not have the same personal connection that she did with Bundy. And while the book started off strong—full of tension and horror, it did get bogged down with a type of dry repetition before long.
Randall Woodfield is the 1-5 Killer, he is currently still serving his multiple life sentences in Oregon for the crimes he committed in the early 80’s where he traveled from Washington, to Oregon, and even California sexually assaulting dozens of women, and is convicted of killing at least five (it’s more, but he wasn’t ever extradited to California to stand trial for the crimes he’s accused of killing there). Rule uses an almost clinical detachment that she’s developed for describing what the victims underwent, and also what the killer was thinking, or why certain actions became their MO across all their crimes, and even what the police and detectives were doing in order to build their case. If you are squeamish when it comes to sexually based crimes, this may be a hard read for you as Rule does not skim over those details, and in fact, perhaps gets a bit too redundant in detailing the crimes against these women. The crimes remain the same, but the victims change, and while those victims deserve to have their stories told, it can be hard to read those scenarios multiple times. When Rule first began detailing how Woodfield always seemed to be a step ahead of the police who were not looking at crimes committed outside their own counties, it was full of tension around “when will they catch this guy? How could they not put that on his record?” But even that started to repeat itself so much that the tension was lost and the clinical nature of Rule’s writing style made me feel like I was reading police notes rather than a kind of investigative journalism that some of these True Crime authors have mastered. Even though this book was very short all things considered, it still could have been cut down, or could have focused more on the trials afterward. I get that Rule wrote this not long after the crimes were committed and the trial ended, but even so.
Woodfield is one of those killers that people haven’t heard much about, as his crimes were so similar to Bundy’s—very sexually motivated against pretty women that he’d often pick while driving—and both operated in the same general area around the same time. It was fascinating to see the similarities these two men shared and it just makes me really want to find or do some sort of case study on WTF was happening in the Pacific Northwest during the 70’s-80’s where there were all these insane serial killers just running around. I also really appreciated that Rule kept the victims front and center so they were never forgotten in favor of sensationalizing this terrible human. Still, given the clinical repetition, the book became a bit too dry for my personal tastes, which is why I’m giving it 3.5 stars, but will definitely be reading more of Ann Rule’s books!
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