Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan
This chilling true story and “harrowing account of the evil that can lurk around the edges of girlhood” (Carolyn Murnick, author of The Hot One)—reminiscent of Ann Rule’s classic The Stranger Beside Me—follows a little girl longing for love who finds friendship with her charismatic babysitter, unaware that he is a vicious serial killer.
Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck. He bought them popsicles and together, they visited his “secret garden” in the Truro woods. To Liza, he was one of the few kind, understanding, and safe adults in her life.
But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.
Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.
Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal “a suspenseful portrayal of murderous madness in tandem with a child’s growing loneliness, neglect, and despair, a narrative collision that will haunt” (Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita) you long after you finish it.
I am trying to get through my backlist NetGalley books this year (and have been successful so far). One way I am trying to tackle those books is by listening to the nonfiction ones on audio. The Babysitter was one I crossed off the list but was unable to finish.
The Babysitter is marketed as a true crime story from the perspective of someone who actually knew the serial killer at the time of his murders. Or as the publisher notes like Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me. To start, I am not sure that is a fair comparison considering that Liza Rodman was a child when Tony Costa “babysat” her.
In actuality, The Babysitter is part memoir and part true crime, told in alternating chapters. The memoir portion details Liza’s childhood, including her upbringing. The true crime portion chronicle’s Tony’s story, detailing his life from birth to, presumably, his crimes and jail. Unfortunately, neither narrative is particularly interesting or exciting. It seemed that the author’s intent by telling Liza’s story was to establish that her mom was toxic and hated her. While I was intrigued by Tony’s story, I was never given a reason to care about Liza’s, and I did not feel like it added much.
In the beginning, the authors state that Tony Costa was not actually Liza and her sister’s babysitter. So, they negate the title and the expected story early on. After making it through the prologue and the first five chapters, I did not have any desire to finish the book and spend time reading it when there are so many others I can spend my time on. So I ended up moving on and felt that I likely did not miss much. I will probably just read the Tony Costa Wikipedia entry instead.
Did Not Finish
The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer
March 2, 202
Note: I received an e-galley of this book from the publisher, Atria. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.