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The Hillside Stranglers

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  3,299 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
For weeks in the fall of 1977, as the body count of sexually violated, brutally murdered young women escalated, the Los Angeles newspapers headlined the increasingly alarming deeds of a serial killer they named the Hillside Strangler. But it would take more than another year and the mysterious disappearance of two young women in Seattle before the police would arrest one m ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published May 15th 2003 by Running Press (first published 1985)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Christian Engler
Sep 21, 2013 Christian Engler rated it it was amazing
I was always aware of Darcy O'Brien as an impeccable fiction writer, especially for his book, A Way of Life, Like Any Other, which won the prestigious Ernest Hemingway Award. However, I did not know that he was equally adept at writing true crime, and The Hillside Stranglers is indeed his pièce de résistance. O'Brien gets into the nitty gritty of the underbelly of the deviant Los Angeles sex scene where booze, violence and pimping all went hand in hand. Added to that is the depictions of the gru ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Aug 20, 2016 Rebecca McNutt rated it really liked it
Disturbing beyond belief yet definitely well researched, The Hillside Stranglers is like reading a criminology file, and it's one of the most extensive and suspenseful books I've ever read.
Oct 09, 2014 Helga rated it liked it
I read this book due to a strong sense of curiosity. I lived in Glendale at the time of these murders and well remember the fear we all lived under. I was in junior high at the time. As I read, I could picture all the places mentioned. I remember that after we all found out of Buono's guilt, we were especially horrified when we realized that we had used his shop! He did auto upholstery and he had done one of our cars. Then as I read the book, I also discovered that one of the teachers at my scho ...more
Kimberly Pilya
Jun 16, 2012 Kimberly Pilya rated it really liked it
Very disturbing but a graphic and grotesque wake up call to the kind of evil present in our society.
Adrian Phoenix
Jan 10, 2010 Adrian Phoenix rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime, own
Again, as with most true crime, fascinating, but horrifying.
Nov 22, 2016 Nat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I think firstly, I'll get what I didn't enjoy about this book, out of the way. I wasn't a fan of the 'fictional' feeling I got from the writing. There were times when it felt more like a fictional story, than a non-fiction book. I'm quite picky when it comes to authors reading transcripts and interviews, and the likes, and then constructing a reenactment of sorts. I feel like there's a little too much room for dramatisation in that respect and it has me wondering if that really happened the way ...more
Mystic Faerie
Feb 19, 2017 Mystic Faerie rated it really liked it
read this as part of the curriculum for a criminology class.
Jennifer Giles Hinojosa
Sep 14, 2016 Jennifer Giles Hinojosa rated it really liked it
Although I had some issues with the first part of the book I thought the rest of the book was very well-written and researched. The first chapters of the book came across as a fiction writer writing true crime (exactly what it is). I didn't like the supposed conversations between the killers that had no basis in fact. Once I got through all that though things were well researched and kept me interested in the material. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in true crime or the ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive and thorough investigation into the crimes and trials of the Hillside Stranglers

Mr. O'Brien has written the quintessential account of the murder spree perpetrated by Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi and done so in a manner that reads like a novel. The nearly 450 pages are filled with facts that are so bizarre the story probably wouldn't have been accepted it offered in the form of a novel. While these murders occurred nearly forty years ago, the crimes were so horrendous and the tw
Jason Gusman
This is a good book about the Hillside Stranglers. It takes you through a background profile of each person up to the scare they put the city of Los Angeles into with their killing spree, and through the court process of Angelo Buono. There are some very interesting perspectives brought into this book. For example, the manipulative ways that pushed the duo to the point of killing. Also, there were some interesting aspects of how Bianchi played some mind games on a lot of people before, during, a ...more
I'm not a huge true crime fan, and I read this because it cost me $1.00 to buy it on my Nook. I can remember this case, although it didn't get a ton of play in the Midwest because, well, California. The author does a decent enough job, but falls into the usual true-crime trap of inserting too many of his own opinions, in this case decidedly pro law and order. (Understandable, since these would have been two of the toughest criminals to side with that I could imagine.) The graphic detail the auth ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Paul rated it did not like it
Gleeful in its depravity, "The Hillside Stranglers" is targeted for the sort of people who get their jollies googling crime scene photos. Granted, rare is the book about serial killers that ranks very high on the taste-o-meter, but O'Brien aims for the lowest common denominator and barely manages to hit the ground it stands on. When one picks up a book about two cousins who strangle women, the misogyny is a given; you don't need it enthusiastically spelled out at every opportunity. It's just the ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Lynn rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I was interested in the story of the Hillside Stranglers, but although this is well written and detailed, it is too detailed for me. The introduction of Buono and Bianchi, their actions, conversations, degradation of women and so on are so specific, it can't be all real and it is beyond disgusting. I made it to 30% and can go no farther. I am sure they were disgusting men and said things much like that and worse, but I can't just keep reading it.

Many great true crime writers do take these liber
Bill Gray
The true crime genre often draws the wrong sort of writers. This isn't, in my opinion, an instance of that. I notice that a lot of reviewers accuse O'Brien of having an eye to the lurid here. It's the story that's lurid, not O'Brien. For heaven's sake, if you have in your hand the story of two guys who strangled, tortured,and were convicted of murdering ten women, do you really have any business being shocked by what you read?

I've read a fair amount in this area, and think this is one of the mor
library goddess
Jul 25, 2013 library goddess rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish it. It's rare for me to stop a book without finishing it but I had to put this one down. It got so bogged down about 2/3 of the way through with Bianchi's attempted manipulation of the legal system that I found I just didn't care. The crimes were horrific and the murderers such scum! I could not believe that any woman would be attracted to either guy and yet the author contends that they had quite a harem. I did feel compassion for the effect that the crimes had on the investigat ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Paul rated it it was ok
This author's style could be described as competent at best. The book reads as if he spent most of his time pouring through his thesaurus in a hunt for "fresh" adjectives.
But the real flaw is the lack of understanding and insight. The author is unable to give us any sense of what made these men tick. We never learn what led them to progress, with apparent ease, from a lifestyle of misogynistic promiscuity to a spree of serial murder.
There is an abundance of factual information here -- names, dat
Valerie the bookworm
This book took me awhile but not because it wasn't good. It was amazing and incredibly disturbing. This is the first true crime I have read in awhile and the author was great at starting by getting into the minds of the killers, and that is what was creepy and disturbing. Excellent writing!

The last part about the trial and all the players therein was also amazing. I would highly recommend this one. I learned a lot that I did not know. I was a child when this was going on and I do remember it ma
Jul 25, 2008 Kelli rated it liked it
I have always been intrigued by serial killers and thought I would read something about one I knew nothing about. This is a true story about two men who in the '70's would find prostitutes and kill them. I was deeply disturbed by some of the details and mistakenly would read this before bed, which meant a few scary dreams! But, overall if you like non-fictional stories about rape and murder, then you'd enjoy this. In all seriousness, it was interesting to enter the worlds of serial killers.
Rebecca Martin
Sep 16, 2013 Rebecca Martin rated it really liked it
I really appreciate Darcy O'Brien's approach to true crime. This book is pretty hard to take though. I had no idea of the details of these crimes, though I remember the period when they were occurring. I still like O'Brien's Murder in Little Egypt (5 stars) for its meticulous picture of a relatively isolated part of the country and a way of life. In contrast, The Hillside Stranglers is only enlightening about the murders themselves and the relationship between the criminals.
Mr Stewart
Jun 27, 2015 Mr Stewart rated it did not like it
Crass. Absurd fictional liberties are taken with dialogue and sequence of events, the evidence for which is nonexistent in most cases. If you are going to put words and actions to the mouths of real people in real events, you had better have a solid basis for it; testimony after the fact that refers directly to the exchanges made. O'Brien more or less makes it up as he goes along here. It is unacceptable for a true-crime writer to pull fictional exchanges from thin air in this way.
Dec 18, 2013 Shawna rated it really liked it
I read this book when I was quite young, maybe 12? (The reason I was aware of them was because of the made-for-TV movie that aired in 1989. It had a profound impact on me. I particularly liked O'Brien's conversational style, and how he added dialogue to the scenes that was likely imagined but "in the spirit" of truth. Amazing to think that if Bianchi had had a little more self-control up in Bellingham the two would likely have gotten away with it.
Carrie Bray
Sep 10, 2013 Carrie Bray rated it really liked it
Well written kindle has a few errors that drives me crazy. Now the content there was a few places that I was gulping thought too much might be revealed (and I'm an ER RN , Paramedic , and Deputy Coroner ) so I have seen a lot don't get me wrong this isn't for the faint at heart but it wasn't grotesque... To me. This was well researched and I send prayers to all involved as it torn many lives apart.
Sep 24, 2014 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: serial-killers
The story of the Hillside Stranglers is both sick and twisted. The method employed to attract and kill women seem out of a movie. To think that this is a true story is truly frightening. I am most interested in the legal part of the book as the trial was like none other I've read about recently. From PTSD to multiple personality disorder, these men were able to fool (at least some of) the experts. They almost got away with it!
Jun 02, 2016 Gwen rated it it was amazing
I read this book forever ago, this book will scare the living daylights out of you, I was scared to go to sleep, and it takes a lot to scare me. I until this day (and I'm 50) am very cautious with "strangers." Even though this book is pretty graphic with torture, rape etc... it is a must read for younger girls. You WILL lock your doors at all times.
Karen Bullock
Apr 04, 2015 Karen Bullock rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Bizarre crimes for the era it took place in & it is obvious that both Angelo Bueno & Kenneth Bianchi had a strong hatred for females.

Obviously the crime/punishment took place a long time ago but was interesting to read about the events, how they unfolded and how much the law has changed since it happened.
The Loopy Librarian
Sep 24, 2014 The Loopy Librarian rated it really liked it
The first few chapters are difficult to stomach but necessary I suppose to understand the sheer evil that these men perpetrated and just how callous and cold they were. But, I liked the book best when the author delved deeper into the case with the detectives and the trial. Fascinating and heart-breaking read. Well-researched and respectfully handled by the author.
Dec 16, 2008 Aysha rated it liked it
Once in a while I have to read something to keep me from being a fairy princess about everything. It was hard to read in the beginning because it described the crimes. It made me sick to read but like a car wreck I couldn't resist craning my head toward the pages of the book. I have to say it was well written and researched.
Apr 20, 2008 Nicola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i love true crime...and this book was well written...but i guess now that i'm a mom i can't stomache as much...i just couldn't finish it, the crimes detailed in this book and the monsters that carried them out were too much for me to take in...
Aug 18, 2012 Vicki rated it really liked it
I LOVED this book. I couldn't read it at night, but that's just me. I couldn't put it down and couldn't wait to get back to it. Amazing the details Darcy put in his writing of this and all of his books. I haven't read one of his books I didn't like.
Nov 17, 2010 SmarterLilac rated it did not like it
Ugh. Grotesque, badly written trash. Not even good by the standards of the '80s True Crime genre, which were low. If you're offended by crap that turns misogynist psychopathology into entertainment, steer clear of this one.
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Darcy O'Brien was born in Los Angeles, the son of Hollywood silent film actor George O’Brien and actress Marguerite Churchill.

O'Brien attended Princeton University and University of Cambridge, and received a master's degree and doctorate from the University of California, Berkely. From 1965 to 1978 he was a professor of English at Pomona College. In 1978 he moved to Tulsa, and taught at the Unives
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“He then, again by way of reference to legal precedent and authority, reminded the District Attorney’s Office that it was charged with grave responsibilities which demanded integrity, zeal, and conscientious effort in the gathering and presentation of evidence. He quoted the American Bar Association’s standards for prosecutors: “In making the decision to prosecute, the prosecutor should give no weight to the personal or political advantages or disadvantages which might be involved or to a desire to enhance his or her record of convictions.” 1 likes
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