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The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation Paperback – March 17, 2020
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From “master of narrative journalism” (New York Times) and #1 bestselling author Mark Bowden, comes a gripping true crime story about the disappearance of the two Lyon sisters in 1975, and the extraordinary effort―40 years later―to bring their kidnapper to justice
On March 29, 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyon, age 10 and 12, vanished from a shopping mall in suburban Washington, D.C. As shock spread, then grief, a massive police effort found nothing. The investigation was shelved, and mystery endured. Then, in 2013, a cold case squad detective found something he and a generation of detectives had missed. It pointed them toward a man named Lloyd Welch, then serving time for child molestation in Delaware.
As a cub reporter for a Baltimore newspaper, Mark Bowden covered the frantic first weeks of the story. In The Last Stone, he returns to write its ending. Over months of intense questioning and extensive investigation of Welch’s sprawling, sinister Appalachian clan, five skilled detectives learned to sift truth from determined lies. How do you get a compulsive liar with every reason in the world to lie to tell the truth? The Last Stone recounts a masterpiece of criminal interrogation, and delivers a chilling and unprecedented look inside a disturbing criminal mind.
“With its blistering descriptions of an American special-forces operation gone wrong, Mark Bowden's 1999 nonfiction book Black Hawk Down made for excellent action-movie fare. The story told in his latest work, the deeply unsettling The Last Stone, unfolds more slowly but is no less potent. Bowden displays his tenacity as a reporter in his meticulous documentation of the case.”―Alejandro de la Garza, Time
“The Last Stone is a rigorous documenting of the 40-year journey taken by Montgomery County detectives and the cold-case team that interrogated Lloyd Welch. It's a riveting, serpentine story about the dogged pursuit of the truth, regardless of the outcome or the cost. And it's a useful reminder that in an age of science, forensics, and video and data surveillance, the ability of one human being to coax the truth from another remains the cornerstone of a successful investigation.”―NPR
“In The Last Stone, Bowden focuses on 21 months of questioning by a revolving cast of detectives, telling a stirring, suspenseful, thoughtful story that, miraculously, neither oversimplifies the details nor gets lost in the thicket of a four-decade case file. This is a cat-and-mouse tale, told beautifully. But like all great true crime, The Last Stone finds its power not by leaning into cliché but by resisting it ― pushing for something more realistic, more evocative of a deeper truth. In this case, Bowden shows how even the most exquisitely pulled-off interrogations are a messy business, in which exhaustive strategizing is followed by game-time gut decisions and endless second-guessing and soul-searching.”―Robert Kolker, The New York Times
“Bowden delivers a narrative nonfiction masterpiece in this account of fiercely dedicated police detectives working to close a cold case.. This is an intelligent page-turner likely to appeal even to readers who normally avoid true crime.”―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Riveting…A keen synthesis of an intricate, decadeslong investigation, a stomach-churning unsolved crime, and a solid grasp of time, place, and character results in what is sure to be another bestseller for Bowden.”―Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Mark Bowden:
“A Woodward that outdoes even Woodward.” ―Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker
“Amazing . . . One of the most intense, visceral reading experiences imaginable. . . . The individual stories are woven together in such a compelling and expert fashion, the narrative flows so seamlessly, that it’s hard to imagine that this is not fiction.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer on Black Hawk Down
“The reader can visualize the action, smell the dust and sweat and the reek of explosives, and even enter into the exultation, fear, rage, pain, confusion, and exhaustion of the combatants. . . . Because he was able to interview survivors on both sides relatively soon after the action, Bowden’s story has a vitality and freshness usually lacking in accounts of combat.” ―The New York Review of Books on Black Hawk Down
“A compelling, almost Shakespearean tale.” ―Los Angeles Times on Killing Pablo
“Bowden has emerged as one of our best writers of muscular nonfiction.” ―Edward P. Smith, Denver Post
“Mark Bowden is the reigning champion of narrative non-fiction.” ―Alex Massie, Scotland on Sunday (UK)
“Heart-stopping, and heart-breaking.” ―New York Times Book Review on Guests of the Ayatollah
"Bowden is consistently curious about the anonymous, often invisible operators who power modern warfare–drone operators, intelligence agents, special forces teams . . . Bowden tells a good story.” ―Michael Schulson, Salon on The Three Battles of Wanat
- Publisher : Atlantic Monthly Press; Reprint edition (March 17, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802148913
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802148919
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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The book concerns itself mainly with the battle of wits between 4 detectives and an imprisoned pedophile, a compulsive, canny liar. In the process we meet the prisoner's extended family, a passel of mean-spirited, amoral hillbillies. We also meet briefly the girls' parents, who are everything the prisoner's family aren't: warm, caring, pillars of the community.
Dave Davis is the main detective; he establishes a seemingly warm, empathic relationship with the prisoner. Over a period of 17 months, during painfully long interviews, Dave and his colleagues, who include 2 women (one of whom is a polygraph expert) and another man, endure endlessly repeated tales from the prisoner, each repetition veering a tiny step closer to the facts. And the facts are horrendous. Without a trace of remorse the prisoner reveals the details, of how the girls were not seen as human, but rather as objects for the pleasure and convenience of the several men.
The bare facts were that the girls were drugged, repeatedly raped by several members of the extended family, and finally killed. Unlike fictional police stories, the details remain murky to the end.
The book is mostly concerned with the battle of wits between the police and the prisoner. The principal interrogator, Dave, is brilliant at what he does. Despite inner revulsion he establishes a friendship of sorts with the prisoner, who views him as his advocate and buddy. In essence, he and his colleagues facilitate Lloyd (the prisoner) digging his own hole. We see Lloyd as narcissistic, self-deluding, and completely lacking in empathy. His lone purpose is to maintain a facade of injured, misused innocence. And in this he completely fails.
Despite my revulsion and nausea at the emerging details I was fascinated by the painstaking, thought-out police work. Baldwin sets about his task with a clear, very human writing style. He lets his police reveal their humanness and their errors, and admires their professionalism. We are always aware that we are dealing with human beings, even to the monstrosity of Lloyd.
What I found most fascinating was the interaction between Lloyd and the detectives, and their influence on each other. I could only admire the doggedness of the police, and their willingness to plunge over and over again into the morass that was Lloyd.
For me, this was a page-turner. In reading the previous reviews, I'm aware that some people found the book a slog and a bore. Others, like me, were fascinated. It's a very personal decision.
This book is an in-depth story of interviews on kidnapping, porn, sex, and death by a very dysfunctional and sick family who think nothing of what they do to people even within their own family. I am afraid that half the family got of scot free due to lack of information, lies, time gone by and loss of memory through time. Lying is something the whole family do all the time and fact from fiction does not seem too be in their reality. There is no way Lloyd managed to kidnap two Young girls from a mall on his own but he never would tell the police what he new but enjoyed the cat and mouse game until he got caught enough in his own Web of lies to be convicted.
I spent the last few days thinking of not only the detectives, and the toll this case had on them their family’s and all police who tried to piece this story together from the beginning john and Mary Lyon Shelia and Kate’s parents and the despair they will carry until they die. It is nice to see the author has donated part of the book proceeds to the National Centre fir missing and exploited young children. A very well written book put together from interviews going back over 40 years.
Despite the case being almost 45 years old, Bowden's detail of the disappearance and reconstruction of the immediate aftermath of the disappearance and investigation is focused and clear. When detectives question Lloyd Welch in jail while investigating one of the primary suspects back in 1975, they get a fortuitous break that opens up what had been a cold and frustrating search for justice. The best portions are the narrative about the Welch family as they investigate Lloyd, his lies, red herrings and ability to blame everyone but himself. Sure, he had no role models coming from this awful hillbilly clan, a dysfunctional group of predominantly people.
The aspect of the book that fell down for me is the verbatim interviews with Welch -- not that they don't add context to the story, Lloyd and his personality and the investigation that finally broke the case --- it's just that Bowden could have streamlined the sheer volume of what he contained here. By the end, I felt a bit exhausted (probably how Lloyd felt), but think things could have been shortened a bit and achieved the same desired effect, making for a more compelling read.
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I can understand some of the other reviewers' repulsion at the gruesome evidence that is revealed. There is no getting around it. What happened was dreadful, and it stands in contrast to the calm structured almost academic discussions that the cold case team have with the suspect. You are not reading about an Agatha Christie style drawing room murder-as-entertainment, but you are reading a very worthwhile book about how eventually a small measure of justice was achieved.
The detective named Kate had a lot of experience in child abuse and looked at the possibility that their abduction may have had links to high powered people involved in child trafficking. How strange that the police officers who were digging in the hills where they thought they may find the bodies, found a tooth. They took the tooth to the police station and the next day when they went to get it to do tests on it, it had disappeared. It really all does make you wonder.
The book is badged as a masterpiece of criminal interrogation and while the detectives, especially Dave, did a very good job interviewing Welch, I'd say he still managed to run rings round them for years !! I must say I disagreed with this passage, "Waning hormones or better judgement often overtook even the slowest learners by their mid-thirties, after which they avoid trouble".....I beg to differ. Once a nonce, always a nonce, I would say, and they should never be let out because they ALWAYS reoffend !! I did chuckle at the nicknames the cops gave witnesses !! Highly witty. I loved the remark Katie made to Welch, too, "Well, they didn't come up missing. You guys took them from the mall." Well pointed out to the idiot. It was appalling that they managed to lose a VERY crucial piece of evidence in this case, too......I couldn't believe they could do this. Just appalling. Sad too that there's really no resolution to this case as well.
I must admit I made a note at 43% in that it was getting tiresome to read as the witness told so many lies and each interview we were back to the beginning yet again and started from scratch, so it does tend to get a little repetitive.
There were some random hyphens chucked into the text here and there, like Lock-hart or the-ater or Vir-ginia or Water-gate, yet we needed a hyphen when he wrote thirtyeight. He wrote apprehended instead of appreciated and exluded not excluded as well. Not full of mistakes, though, which was good.
agony. Horrific crime, those little girl's last days were a nightmare.
Instead it becomes repetitive and tedious.