The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer
by: Liza Rodman and 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 FD 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.
The Babysitter is one of the most disturbing and shocking true crime stories I’ve ever read.
(The following may contain mild spoilers)
Let’s begin with Liza Rodman. She’s experiencing frightening dreams in her adulthood. They involve a strange man—one she can’t identify. What’s causing these dreams? Over time it dawns on her, and she makes a connection back to her 1960s childhood with a young man who spontaneously came into her life. Liza is compelled to take a look at her past, reflect on her lonely, psychologically abusive childhood, and research the life of one of the evilest men on earth: Tony Costa.
Tony Costa’s childhood experience is sad. On the outside, he appears normal, but he suffers violent abuse from a young boy. Abandoned by his father, he is exposed to things no child should ever have to experience. As he grows into young adulthood, he’s introduced to the world of drugs and becomes obsessed with sex. Eventually, something causes him to snap.
Tony’s battery of heinous crimes on others is like something out of a horror movie, and the reader isn’t spared the details. It was painful to read about Liza’s abusive mother too. How could a mother treat her child like that? Why do people defend others when they know they’re wrong? What finally made Tony snap? Why do people remain in abusive relationships? These are some of the questions I pondered while reading this book.
Even though I’ve read plenty of gruesome true crimes, The Babysitter was a frightening read. The nonfiction narrative form of writing is what kept me reading, with the chapters seamlessly alternating between Liza and Tony. Tony’s development into a serial murderer was intriguing. His demeanor implies that he’s a kind person, which is alarming. He’s a handsome man who knows how to talk to people–wooing them into capitulation. In a short amount of time, Tony succeeds in charming Liza. She looks up to him as if he’s safe. What’s going on behind the scenes remains elusive.
When I was in college, I studied John Wayne Gacy’s story for a course on serial murder. Tony Costa’s behavior reminds me so much of him. There were definite similarities. With each case, the question remains: What exactly is it that makes a serial murderer?
Overall, the authors did an incredible job with the research and the storytelling, making this a highly compelling read. It’s thought-provoking and will leave you speechless. If you enjoy true crime and would like an in-depth look into a serial murderer’s life, then you may want to grab this book.
For the most part, I read the physical book. I also subbed in the audio over the weekend (Scribd). This is an audiobook I recommend to those who enjoy audio. It was an easy transition to and from the physical book.
- Publisher : Atria Books (March 2, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1982129476
- ISBN-13 : 978-1982129477
Thanks for reading my review of The Babysitter. Have you read this book? Do you enjoy reading true crime stories? Do books ever become too hard for you to read due to content? Let’s chat!