The Last Stone
January 16, 2021 6:54 PM - by Bowden, Mark - Subscribe

On the morning of March 25, 1975, sisters Sheila and Kate Lyon left their home in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. to visit the local mall. Their mother Mary gave them firm instructions to be home by 4:00pm. When they weren't home by 7:00, the sisters' parents called the police. A massive search was launched. But after weeks and months of effort, there was no trace of them: the girls had disappeared into thin air.

Well-known author Mark Bowden was a rookie journalist for a Baltimore paper when the Lyon sisters went missing. One of the first reporters to break the story that would become regionally infamous, he returns in this book to cover its ending. Thirty-eight years after the girls went missing, Montgomery County Police detectives went to visit imprisoned child molester Lloyd Welch. According to a newly discovered report, he had been at the mall that day back in 1975; a week later he had gone to the police saying he had seen the girls being taken away. He hadn't been believed at the time, but decades later, the cold case detectives were running down every lead, no matter how tenuous and he was their last. But as the detectives talked to him and caught him lying, they began to suspect Welch of being more than just a possible witness. But: “How do you get a compulsive liar, one with every reason to lie, to tell the truth?”

NPR: The art of the law enforcement interrogation has been diminished over the past several years. In media reports, the noun is usually accompanied by adjectives like botched, brutal, forced or enhanced. The Last Stone, Mark Bowden's account of the interrogation of a suspect in a nearly 40-year-old missing persons case, goes some way to rehabilitating the questioner's craft.

NYT: 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.

WaPo: On the one hand, the wealth of transcripts and recordings allows Bowden to re-create scenes and conversations in great detail and with (one presumes) near-perfect fidelity. But for a writer perhaps more obsessed with his subject than his readers will be, there is such a thing as too much material to work with. [...] This kind of wheel-spinning, combined with the likelihood that some readers will find the Welch clan difficult to stomach even in small doses, can make reading the book an unsavory experience at times. [...] Even so, this is a story of extraordinary persistence and the grimmest, least romantic kind of heroism there is, and Bowden tells it with the dexterity of an old pro, bringing coherence to a narrative that in other hands may have seemed merely muddled and infuriating.
posted by Fukiyama (1 comment total)
I wanted to thank you, belatedly, for posting this. I regularly check FanFare to see what folks think about books or films I might not consider on my own; the detail and links in this post really made it stand out. Especially as I'm not a crime/true crime fan. I was able to order a book on hold through my library, so I might be able to comment on the book itself sometime soon. Thanks again for all the information.
posted by winesong at 12:35 PM on February 4, 2021

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