A keen synthesis of an intricate, decadeslong investigation, a stomach-churning unsolved crime, and a solid grasp of time,...



Riveting true crime from the ever capable author, focused on a heartbreaking 40-year-old cold case.

In his latest, Bowden (Writer-in-Residence/Univ. of Delaware; Hue 1968, 2017, etc.) explores weighty matters of guilt, policing, and truth-telling by returning to a once-notorious unsolved crime he covered as a cub reporter: the 1975 kidnapping of sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyon, 10 and 12, from a suburban Washington, D.C., shopping mall. “To me,” writes the author, “the story was sad and beyond understanding. Like everyone else, I waited for the police to find something and explain the mystery.” The girls were never found, so police periodically reinvestigated. In 2013, with possible cold-case approaches nearly exhausted, detectives found a tantalizing yet overlooked lead in incarcerated pedophile Lloyd Welch, a self-described “acidhead” who’d clumsily accosted authorities in 1975 with a fabricated eyewitness account only to be dismissed. Recorded interviews with Welch provide much of the book’s structure. A remarkable study in mendacity, he continually retold his initial story, gradually revealing his own apparent involvement in the girls’ kidnapping. Bowden writes of these interrogations, “hours of bullshit, then five minutes of half-truth. The pattern was as clear as it was vexing.” Welch also revealed disturbing connections to his scattered, dysfunctional family, whose history of incest, violence, and child abuse was covered up for generations. This led to an intense multistate investigation in the glare of significant media interest. “The detectives imagined the Lyon sisters as the guarded clan’s most deeply buried secret,” writes the author, “running through its shared memory like a subterranean third rail, known to all but too hot to touch.” Although the legal denouement is frustratingly opaque and leaves behind many unanswered questions, Bowden expertly maintains suspense as long as possible, re-creating the detectives’ painstaking efforts via the documentation of their bedeviling focus on Welch.

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.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4730-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will...


A stunningly crafted and unsparing account of the author’s rape as a college freshman and what it took to win her case in court.

In 1981, Sebold was brutally raped on her college campus, at Syracuse University.  Sebold, a New York Times Magazinecontributor, now in her 30s, reconstructs the rape and the year following in which her assailant was brought to trial and found guilty.  When, months after the rape, she confided in her fiction professor, Tobias Wolff, he advised:  “Try, if you can, to remember everything.”  Sebold heeded his words, and the result is a memoir that reads like detective fiction, replete with police jargon, economical characterization, and film-like scene construction.  Part of Sebold’s ironic luck, besides the fact that she wasn’t killed, was that she was a virgin prior to the rape, she was wearing bulky clothing, and her rapist beat her, leaving unmistakable evidence of violence.  Sebold casts a cool eye on these facts:  “The cosmetics of rape are central to proving any case.”  Sebold critiques the sexism and misconceptions surrounding rape with neither rhetoric nor apology; she lets her experience speak for itself.  Her family, her friends, her campus community are all shaken by the brutality she survived, yet Sebold finds herself feeling more affinity with police officers she meets, as it was “in [their] world where this hideous thing had happened to me.  A world of violent crime.”  Just when Sebold believes she might surface from this world, a close friend is raped and the haunting continues.  The last section, “Aftermath,” has an unavoidable tacked-on-at-the-end feel, as Sebold crams over a decade’s worth of coping and healing into a short chapter.

Told with mettle and intelligence, Sebold’s story of fierce determination to wrest back her life from her rapist will inspire and challenge.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85782-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...


A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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