True Crime The State of Serial Killers Washington

True Crime: The State of Serial Killers, Washington

Liberty Hardy | October 20, 2019

Washington is a gorgeous state, with a lot of mountainous regions, rivers, forests, and even volcanoes. But all that secluded outdoor space can prove problematic...

If you’ve ever watched Twin Peaks, you’ve seen how the state is almost a character itself. All those tall trees and fog add an extra layer of eeriness as the police search for a killer. Washington has seen more than its fair share of killers in real life. The state has the dubious honor of having the eighth-highest number of serial killers on record. (Surprising no one, California holds the top spot.) For starters, Washington was home to arguably the most famous of all American serial killers: Ted Bundy. But the state counts other famous serial killers—including the Green River Killer, Robert Lee Yates, and Westley Allan Dodd—as natives too. And even if their crimes didn't actually occur in Washington, the state sure seems to breed them. (Why didn’t Frasier Crane discuss that on his radio show?)

01. The Stranger Beside Me

We seem to be living in a new golden age of true-crime entertainment. But while I'll Be Gone in the Dark and My Favorite Murder have recently captured the true-crime community by storm, 30 years ago the most famous author discussing the dark subject of serial killers was Ann Rule. Her true-crime origin story started at the University of Washington, where she befriended a kind, empathetic co-worker…who would later be unveiled as one of the most notorious criminals in history. Rule’s account of her friendship with Ted Bundy, as well as his horrific crimes and eventual capture, is detailed in her first book, The Stranger Beside Me.

02. Chasing the Devil: My Twenty-Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer

Rule went on to write many, many more true crime chronicles, including one about the Green River Killer, Green River, Running Red. But there's an account by someone with a more intimate knowledge of the case: Chasing the Devil: My Twenty-Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer by Sheriff David Reichert. Reichert was the first detective assigned to the case in 1982; 20 years—and 49 bodies—later, he captured the killer, a truck painter named Gary Ridgway. As if this story isn’t fascinating enough, the audiobook is magnificently narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris, who has received five Audie Awards and seven Golden Earphone Awards for his work on more than 100 audiobooks.

03. Son

For seasoned true-crime listeners or newbies to the subject, these are two audiobooks that can’t be missed! And for another wild Washington true-crime story to put in your ears, check out Son by Jack Olsen, about a mother in Spokane who hired a hitman to murder a judge and prosecutor—after her son was convicted of murder! If it sounds too wild to be true, remember: in the Evergreen State, just about anything can happen.

Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor,
co-host of All the Books, and a Book of the Month judge.

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