The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation by Mark Bowden

I can hear the grainy echos and the high screech of the shifting chairs on the cement floor. The claustrophobic walls of the interview room closing in on the prisoner, yet his lies and manipulations always trying to pick their way out…

The Last Stone tells the story of a forty year old disappearance of two girls from a mall just outside of Washington DC. Bowden was a cub reporter on the morning crime beat at that time. He remembers the first several weeks of the investigation. The fieldwork, the interviews, the anonymous tips, and even when a psychic was consulted. Unfortunately, the leads ran dry. The case remained open and several cold case detectives tried their hand at finding the truth, but it wasn’t until one piece of evidence came bubbling back up to the surface that investigators had something to go on.

Now enters a man already serving a long sentence for child molestation, Lloyd Welch. As a young man he came forward with information about a possible abduction. He said he saw the girls in the mall that day, and maybe he even could identify the car they were taken in. Yet, when he is reinterviewed over the course of many months, his story starts to change. They name him as a “person of interest,” and his life in prison starts to get a little less comfortable. Detectives investigate his family, an insular Appalachian clan, and a pincher strategy comes into play. Welch’s lies and manipulations are not as strong as they use to be. His hold on his innocence may be slipping.

Three quarters of this story is told through dialogue within the investigation room. The waves of questions that hit him, worded twelve different ways by 5 different investigators, and sweetened by bags of junk food.. Yes, going over the evidence over and over again did become repetitive, but it is only in the telling of the questioning many times verbatim does the reader get a true sense for the tireless work the team did on this case.  The only thing I would have liked was a little about the psychology of lying, maybe a bit of some expert opinion on the ways of the sociopath.

With a chilling cast, a backwoods setting, and shifting truths, The Last Stone reads like a season of True Detective. It is a truly dark, yet an immersive read that gets to the real evil of people’s souls

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Will be released on April 2nd.

Thank you to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic, and the author for the advanced copy for review.

5 thoughts on “The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation by Mark Bowden

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  1. Fantastic review! I think I liked this book even more now that I’m considering it through your eyes, if that makes sense. This was such a creepy story and even with so much of it told through dialogue, the author’s talent at shaping the narrative was extraordinary, I thought. I’ve loved other longreads I’ve read of his but haven’t read any other of his books, have you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read Killing Pablo and Black Hawk Down. I liked the more personal connection to this one. And I did find some of the content repetitive, but I think it just gave me more of an idea of what those interrogations are like. Creepy and exhausting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant review! This looks just like the kind of crime fiction that I enjoy and the fact that it’s a real life story makes it even more chilling. Glad to see that you enjoyed it and I may just add it to my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, just hard to read, but I found the work by the cold case investigators really engaging. I can’t believe that got a confession after how many years. Amazing detective work.


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