STARRED REVIEW
April 2019

The Last Stone

By Mark Bowden
Review by

A group of indefatigable detectives tries to unearth the carefully concealed, unspeakable truths behind a decades-old tragedy.

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For 38 years, an unimaginable crime remained a complete mystery: On March 29, 1975, Katherine and Sheila Lyon, ages 10 and 12, disappeared from a shopping plaza in Wheaton, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The sisters were never seen again. 

Fast forward to 2013, when Chris Homrock, the last remaining investigator of a cold case squad, turned his attention to a six-page transcript from April 1, 1975: the testimony of Lloyd Welch, who as a teenager claimed to have seen a man lead the Lyon girls out of the mall. 

What unfolded next is the subject of Mark Bowden’s mesmerizing The Last Stone. The bestselling author of Black Hawk Down had been haunted by the girls’ disappearance ever since reporting on it as a 23-year-old for the Baltimore News American. Relying on videos and transcripts, Bowden takes readers ringside as Homrock and three other savvy investigators spend 10 long interview sessions trying to squeeze as much of the slippery truth as possible out of Welch, a compulsive liar finishing up a prison sentence in Delaware for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl. Words pour out of Welch’s mouth like a poisonous water fountain, his ever-changing statements about his involvement with the Lyon sisters always framed to make himself seem as innocent as possible. 

Like any true crime book, especially one involving children, this isn’t for the faint of heart, but rest assured, it’s an in-depth master study of criminal psychology and interrogation. As one investigator explained, “We knew we were dealing with a monster, but we had to entertain him in a fashion. . . . We had to endure the ‘friendship’ and go through the crap to get as many of the answers as we could.”

In the tradition of the “Making a Murderer” Netflix series and the “Serial” podcast, The Last Stone will leave readers on the edge of their seats as a group of indefatigable detectives tries to unearth the carefully concealed, unspeakable truths behind a decades-old tragedy. 

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The Last Stone

The Last Stone

By Mark Bowden
Atlantic Monthly
ISBN 9780802147301

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