by Ann Rule
He called his victims "litter," and for two decades the Green River Killer scattered the bodies of at least 48 young women along river-banks and byways near Seattle. That's the hometown of Rule, a cop turned true-crime writer who once worked with Ted Bundy at a suicide hotline and made him the subject of her 1980 bestseller The Stranger Beside Me. As it happens, Rule crossed paths with the Green River Killer as well. Chillingly, when Gary Ridgway, a 52-year-old truck painter, was finally arrested for the string of murders in 2001, she learned that he had attended her book signings. For Rule, the murders hit close to home. She often drove the busy highway near Seattle's airport where the killer hunted his prostitute victims, sometimes dumping their bodies just a mile from her house. Rule infuses her case study with a personally felt sense of urgency. Without it, this exhaustive procedural would collapse from the sheer weight of the material she amassed over 20-plus years. Though her profiles of dozens of investigators tend to blur, she sketches the uniformly short, sad lives of the victims with poignance. But her most riveting portrait is of Ridgway, whom she describes as "a harmless-looking little man" who brutalized his victims because, he said, "I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them for sex." Evil doesn't get any more banal.