The Last Stone

The Last Stone

On March 29, 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyons, age 10 and 12, disappeared during a trip to ashopping mall in suburban Washington, D.C. Three days later, eighteen-year-old Lloyd Welch visited the Montgomery County Police with a tip: he had seen the Lyons girls at the mall that day and had watched them climb into a strange man’s car. Welch’s tip led nowhere, and the...

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Title:The Last Stone
Author:Mark Bowden
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The Last Stone Reviews

  • Dave

    Most true crime books take the reader through the background of the perpetrator and the victims, tracing their lives to that fateful day that changed some lives forever. The Last Stone starts from a far different point. It’s been forty years since the most shocking crime to hit a suburban Maryland county. Two little girls - little as in not even teenagers disappeared from a shopping mall and the trail went cold almost immediately. Forty years later a team of detectives are picking up the dusty f

    Most true crime books take the reader through the background of the perpetrator and the victims, tracing their lives to that fateful day that changed some lives forever. The Last Stone starts from a far different point. It’s been forty years since the most shocking crime to hit a suburban Maryland county. Two little girls - little as in not even teenagers disappeared from a shopping mall and the trail went cold almost immediately. Forty years later a team of detectives are picking up the dusty files and trying to piece together leads in a not just cold, but ice-cold case. There’s no bang bang shoot em up action. No police chases. No confrontations with the killer in the Arizona desert. Just a series of interviews with a prison inmate who may have spotted something four decades earlier. Doggedly, step by step, the detectives try to pierce the veil hanging over the crimes. They are led into hints of a backwards clannish family for whom modernity had not quite hold and of deeds and coverups too horrible to contemplate. The question is whether they will ever really know the truth. What makes this book interesting and different is how it unfolds in these detailed interviews rather than in an action sequence.

  • Lou

    This book touts itself as "a masterpiece of criminal interrogation," and boy is this right on the money. The police investigators featured are truly dedicated to their job, however, it's the cold case team who reopened and pored over the case files from the abduction in 1975 and eventually solved the case; this true crime work follows the journey from the decade it happened right through to justice finally being served. I have heard that it's actually, unbelievably normal for some criminals to i

    This book touts itself as "a masterpiece of criminal interrogation," and boy is this right on the money. The police investigators featured are truly dedicated to their job, however, it's the cold case team who reopened and pored over the case files from the abduction in 1975 and eventually solved the case; this true crime work follows the journey from the decade it happened right through to justice finally being served. I have heard that it's actually, unbelievably normal for some criminals to insert themselves into the investigation of a crime that they indeed committed, and this is exactly what happened here with Lloyd Welch, but at the time he was wrongly deemed a harmless drug addict.

    The kidnapping of Kate and Sheila Lyon was journalist Mr Bowden's first big story and probably due to that it had a lasting impact on him leading to the writing of this book. I guess the title, The Last Stone, is in reference to the painstaking work of the cold case team in which they left no stone unturned to bring a sense of closure and justice to the Lyon family, in particular. It's as gripping and twisty as any thriller on the market; you really have to remind yourself that this is real life. The writing is engaging and immersive, and I found myself feverishly turning the pages to find out what happened.

    Without a doubt, this is one of the best books showing the dedication and labour-intensive work the police force and, in particular, detectives carry out. Those interested in true crime, police investigations, psychology and behaviour profiling will find much to enjoy within these pages.

    Many thanks to Atlantic Monthly Press for an ARC.

  • Murray

    In 1975, when the Lyon sisters were abducted from Wheaton Plaza in Montgomery County, Maryland, I lived about 40 miles north in Baltimore. I was a year older than Sheila Lyon, the older sister, as the mystery and horror of the case made the news in the entire region. It was very scary at the time. How could two young girls, 12 and 10, simply disappear without a trace? Two years later, I remember visiting friends in Montgomery County and we ended up at a mall. They pointed out to me that 'this is

    In 1975, when the Lyon sisters were abducted from Wheaton Plaza in Montgomery County, Maryland, I lived about 40 miles north in Baltimore. I was a year older than Sheila Lyon, the older sister, as the mystery and horror of the case made the news in the entire region. It was very scary at the time. How could two young girls, 12 and 10, simply disappear without a trace? Two years later, I remember visiting friends in Montgomery County and we ended up at a mall. They pointed out to me that 'this is the mall where the Lyon sisters were last seen." I remember feeling a chill as we approached the door at night. So this story has been with me for a long time.

    Ten years after the abduction, I met my future wife. Shortly after we started dating, she revealed to me that Sheila Lyon was in her homeroom class at school and that their lockers were near each other at the time she disappeared. While I knew some of the casual facts of the case, it was a horror story that my wife observed from very close. While we both followed the events surrounding the cold case being solved in 2015, "The Last Stone" was an opportunity for us to learn more about what happened behind the scenes. Even if we didn't want to know.

    "The Last Stone", while extremely sad and tragic, is also a masterful look at the brilliance of four Maryland detectives who brought the perpetrator, Lloyd Lee Welch, to justice forty years after the abduction and murder of the Lyon sisters. The book, comprised largely from interrogation transcripts from the ten interviews with Welch, gives readers an intimate glimpse inside the mind of an evil killer as well as the calculating and patient minds of the detectives who draw out his confession. Bowden juxtaposes the encounters, and the reactions among the detectives, in such a way that the cat and mouse tango truly reads like the game that it was. Welch lying to the detectives to protect himself; detectives lying to Welch to trick him into an admission. As a reader, I held on to every word, eager to see how the manipulation of the interrogators would bring about the desired results from the suspect. You may not ever find a more compelling crime drama novel that compares to this true story.

    In the end, there are still many questions left to both the author, the detectives, and the reader. This book is not for everyone. The accounts of the crimes are gruesome; the intent of the killer is beyond disturbing. But, this is an important book because it speaks for those that can not speak.

  • Valerity (Val)

    This book is a true crime story about the disappearance of two sisters from a Wheaton, Maryland mall way back in March of 1975. Katherine and Sheila Lyons, 10 and 12 were seen with a man and then vanished. It became a cold case that journalist Mark Bowden became interested in and sank his teeth into. It’s a different kind of true crime book, as it pits five bulldog detectives against one of the most determined liars they’ve ever run into, after sifting through other possible leads. It becomes al

    This book is a true crime story about the disappearance of two sisters from a Wheaton, Maryland mall way back in March of 1975. Katherine and Sheila Lyons, 10 and 12 were seen with a man and then vanished. It became a cold case that journalist Mark Bowden became interested in and sank his teeth into. It’s a different kind of true crime book, as it pits five bulldog detectives against one of the most determined liars they’ve ever run into, after sifting through other possible leads. It becomes almost a battle of wills as the interrogations play out, the detectives trying to find the bodies of the girls after decades of others failing. I found this a compelling crime read that really held my interest very well, especially the use of different kinds of interrogation techniques, what is allowed and what is not. My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Mark Bowden, and the publisher for my fair review.

    Full review shown on my BookZone blog:

  • marilyn

    In 1974, I was 18 years old, living at home with my parents, in Fort Worth, Texas, when three teenage girls disappeared from a mall in that city. Those girls have never been found. Then on March 29, 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyons, age 10 and 12, disappeared from a mall in Washington, D.C. As a journalism student in both high school and college, despite not having the easy access to news that we have nowadays with the internet, I followed both stories closely, over the years. So when I

    In 1974, I was 18 years old, living at home with my parents, in Fort Worth, Texas, when three teenage girls disappeared from a mall in that city. Those girls have never been found. Then on March 29, 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyons, age 10 and 12, disappeared from a mall in Washington, D.C. As a journalism student in both high school and college, despite not having the easy access to news that we have nowadays with the internet, I followed both stories closely, over the years. So when I saw that The Last Stone has been written about what had happened to Kate and Sheila I definitely wanted to read it.

    lloyd Welch dominates this book but I don't want to give him credit for anything. Lloyd is truly evil and the only person he cares about his himself. Never have I read about a real person who was more of a compulsive liar than Lloyd. His words are worthless because the man has no comprehension of the meaning of truth.

    Then there are the four detectives (and others) who worked to get the truth of what happened to Kate and Sheila out of Lloyd. I'm amazed that their acting skills, their ability to change tactics instantly in the midst of interviews with Lloyd, and how well they worked together and off of each other to resolve this case to the best of their abilities. The author states that most of the dialogue in this book was recorded and that puts us right there in the interview room with Lloyd and the detectives. Reading this book was difficult because of the subject matter but I'm thankful to know the efforts that were expended to find Kate and Sheila. Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for this ARC.

  • Kemper

    Even though I’m a huge fan of mystery/crime fiction I’ve long known that I never could have been a cop. One of the main reasons is that if I were faced with a suspect I knew was lying to me that I lack the patience to work the truth out of them with long interrogations. Instead I’d immediately shine a bright light in their eyes and grab the nearest phone book. That was never clearer to me then while reading this book when I found myself gritting my teeth and wishing I could reach through the pag

    Even though I’m a huge fan of mystery/crime fiction I’ve long known that I never could have been a cop. One of the main reasons is that if I were faced with a suspect I knew was lying to me that I lack the patience to work the truth out of them with long interrogations. Instead I’d immediately shine a bright light in their eyes and grab the nearest phone book. That was never clearer to me then while reading this book when I found myself gritting my teeth and wishing I could reach through the pages to choke the shit out of this lying asshole.

    In the spring of 1975 two pre-teen sisters, Sheila and Kate Lyon, vanished from a suburban Maryland mall just outside of Washington D.C. Despite a huge police investigation and being covered all over local media the girls were never found.

    Almost 40 years later a cold case detective was going through the file again and came across something new. Days after the girls disappeared, an 18 year old man named Lloyd Welch had given a statement to the police about seeing them talking with a man at the mall and leaving with him in a car. However, Welch’s statement seemed fishy, and he promptly flunked a lie detector test which led to him admitting that it was a combination of things he’d seen in the news and made up. The cops dismissed him as just another attention seeking kook that was wasting their time.

    However, this detective noticed that Welch’s statement about the man he claimed to have seen had a detail that matched his prime suspect, a child molester who had died in prison. Believing Welch may know something after all the cops tracked him down only to find that he was serving a long prison term for molesting a young girl. It also turned out that one composite sketch from a witness in the mall at the time looked a lot like Welch at 18.

    What began there was a series of long interviews with Welch who they quickly learned seem almost allegoric to telling the truth. When caught in a lie Welch would refuse to admit it, blaming any mistakes on faulty memory brought about by age and drug abuse, while eventually shifting to a completely different story that ignored what he previously said. Or he might backtrack and start repeating a story the police had already discredited. When faced with absolute proof of false statements and finally admitting something he’d say he lied because he was scared and trying to protecting himself.

    Pinning Welch down to a story was like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall, and it took a team of detectives working variations on several different tactics for over a year to eventually tease something approaching the truth out of him. This would lead to new directions and other suspects involved in the crime which were mainly members of Welch’s family. They would turn out to be a clan of transplanted hillbillies that seem to be something out of a Rob Zombie movie with child abuse and sexual assault being common place.

    Mark Bowen was a young journalist just starting his career when he reported on the missing Lyon sisters, and as he explains the case haunted him for years afterwards. He’s done some interesting things structurally with this because it doesn’t follow your typical true crime format. The story begins with Lloyd Welch and that’s where most of the focus is. There’s not a lot of time spent on the original abduction which is what you’d usually get in a true crime story. Then there’d be some background on the family, the investigation, and the break with Welch might come in at the halfway point. Bowen gives us that as background and essentially starts very early with the cops going to Welch.

    That’s because this is mainly about the interviews and how the cops managed to tease and cajole information from Welch when he was feeding them mostly bullshit, and then how they kept him talking long past the point where he realizes that he should just shut up. That makes sense because this case hinges on how they eventually learned to read what Welch was telling them and how to work him. In the end the major break comes not from what Lloyd actually said, but instead from a detective following up on one his lies but realizing that the truth was actually in the other details Welch kept putting in his various stories.

    This is an interesting way to do a book like this, and the case is fascinating. However, it can also be frustrating because a great deal of time is spent just reading Welch’s shifting lies and repeated justifications. It also doesn’t end as neatly as an episode of

    . While some justice is done there is still a lot left unanswered and probably some guilty parties will never be charged.

    It’s a solid piece of crime true crime writing, but reading about Welch wore me out. I don’t know how the cops who had to actually deal with him could stand it.

  • Theresa Alan

    This work of nonfiction makes some types of police work look particularly arduous and frustrating, because just reading this was slow moving and repetitive.

    In 1975, two sisters, Katherine and Sheila Lyons, ages 12 and 10, went to the mall together and were never seen again. Three days later, 18-year-old Lloyd Welch comes to the police with a rambling story of seeing the girls go off with a man with a limp, another tip that leads the cops nowhere closer to finding the girls. In 2013, a police of

    This work of nonfiction makes some types of police work look particularly arduous and frustrating, because just reading this was slow moving and repetitive.

    In 1975, two sisters, Katherine and Sheila Lyons, ages 12 and 10, went to the mall together and were never seen again. Three days later, 18-year-old Lloyd Welch comes to the police with a rambling story of seeing the girls go off with a man with a limp, another tip that leads the cops nowhere closer to finding the girls. In 2013, a police officer revisits Lloyd’s file and wonders if he can finally get answers for the parents and for the county that was so devastating by their disappearance, thus starting a new investigation that would involve millions of dollars and manhours of interviewing the entire very screwed up Welch clan. (A scary, terrifying family that embodies every ugly Deliverance stereotype of backwoods folks.)

    Lloyd is a liar who endlessly changes his story. I was frustrated as a reader, so I can’t imagine how exasperating this was for all the cops involved. This book would have been better if it were much shorter. It was so, so slow. The endless interrogations in which Lloyd lies was maddening. I never got to know any of the cops well, so it wasn’t like I was rooting for any of them in particular. I just kept reading to see if there would be any satisfying answers. I would skip this one. I’ve read much better true crime books before.

    Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book, which RELEASES APRIL 2, 2019.

    For more reviews, please visit

  • Emma

    3.5 stars

    It’s 1975 and two sisters aged 10 and 12 go missing from a mall never to be seen or heard from again. A teenage boy comes to the police with a story: he’d seen them get into a car with a stranger. But despite the manhunt, nothing is found. The case goes cold. Forty years later, in an attempt to find out what else the teen might have seen, detectives track him down. Instead of a witness, they find a man in prison for inappropriate sexual relations with an underage girl. And they start t

    3.5 stars

    It’s 1975 and two sisters aged 10 and 12 go missing from a mall never to be seen or heard from again. A teenage boy comes to the police with a story: he’d seen them get into a car with a stranger. But despite the manhunt, nothing is found. The case goes cold. Forty years later, in an attempt to find out what else the teen might have seen, detectives track him down. Instead of a witness, they find a man in prison for inappropriate sexual relations with an underage girl. And they start to wonder… if he’s this kind of man now, what kind of boy was he then? The investigation that follows unlocks a horrifying story of incest, abduction, rape, and murder unlike anything they could have imagined.

    That this is a ‘Masterpiece of Criminal Investigation’ is no exaggeration. The story laid out in these pages is as honest an insight into what a cold case really looks like as could be written. This is no tv style investigation; things aren’t resolved in 50 minutes with a few new leads and a couple of good cop/bad cop interviews. This is a hard slog full of false paths, dead ends, and lies upon lies upon lies. It’s time consuming, expensive, and physically and mentally tiring. The sheer amount of determination and work that it took to get to some kind of resolution is truly incredible. It leaves you with a deep appreciation for the investigators, perhaps even awe.

    Especially when it comes to their interactions with the witness turned suspect.

    He is interviewed exhaustively and a good deal of the transcripts are presented in full. This is both essential and exhausting. It reveals like nothing else could, the kind of lies people tell about and to themselves as much as to others. To some extent, the interviews go exactly as expected. The repetition, backtracking, outright falsehood, denial, sly hinting… it’s all there. The detectives push and prod, threaten and cajole. Sometimes there’s a break-though, sometimes it’s the same old ground retrodden. But each and every sentence drips with some form of dishonesty, deception, or pure invention. So much so that it’s hard to put together a set of basic facts about what happened and why. And this is the problem, because you know he’s lying and the police know he’s lying, but there’s no end to it. Right until the final page and beyond. There are some answers, but questions remain. It’s frustrating and draining as a reader, I cannot imagine the patience and perseverance it must take to deal with it in real time. It’s genuinely hard going getting through what feels like endlessly circular conversations with a man who seems like he’ll never tell the full truth. But that’s the problem with real life, stories don’t come all wrapped up with a bow on top.

    ARC via Netgalley

  • Dawn Michelle

    Nonfiction is really my jam. I enjoy learning about things I don't know and learning why people do the things they do. True Crime is a relatively new addition to the nonfiction love [I read "Helter Skelter" in school and it scared me so much that it was years before I picked up another true crime book] and for the most part, it has been interesting to delve into a world I [thankfully] know nothing about. So when I saw this book at NetGalley and realized I didn't know the story, I jumped at the c

    Nonfiction is really my jam. I enjoy learning about things I don't know and learning why people do the things they do. True Crime is a relatively new addition to the nonfiction love [I read "Helter Skelter" in school and it scared me so much that it was years before I picked up another true crime book] and for the most part, it has been interesting to delve into a world I [thankfully] know nothing about. So when I saw this book at NetGalley and realized I didn't know the story, I jumped at the chance to read it.

    Uh, yeah. This was not the winner I was hoping it to be. And while it grabbed my attention at first, it quickly becomes a lesson in tedium and repetition and frustration. It is basically just the transcripts of TWO years worth of interviews with the inmate [I refuse to say his name and give him more publicity, even in my insignificant review] to figure out just what was truth and what was a lie in regards to the kidnapping and murder of two little girls in 1975 [it took 38 years of it being cold case before they got a break]. What they found was a man who was clearly involved, but is such a pathological liar and a sociopath that it is very, very difficult to differentiate between truth and lies. There is no real story here - I mean, the author tries to tell a story, but for awhile, it just feels like one big run-on sentence. And the frustration of over how this is handled AFTER they start getting confessions from the inmate is beyond frustrating.

    While the case itself is fascinating, and the inner workings of a very twisted and backwards family [incest and abuse and molestation were all part of the norm in this family], the way the book is laid out and the story presented, it becomes absolute tedium to read and finish [though I did finish the book, it was tough]. I only finished because I had to know what happened and then was extremely disappointed in the ending. There was no "happy ending" here for the family and for that I am very, very, sad. I truly feel for the girl's parent; they are the ones that will never, ever recover from this, even over 40 years later.

    Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Jeanette

    I'm quite conflicted in how to rate this book. It's a full 2.5 stars for what the nuance of a liar, sociopath, life long user of other humans, schmoozer and despicable example of homo sapiens- his cognition. How he talks continually and morphs his stories throughout the length of the book. To the same people without apology for changing details 8 or 9 times. In that regard it deserves a 3 star or maybe even a 4 star for the authenticity of reading 300 plus pages of his various "truth" tales too.

    I'm quite conflicted in how to rate this book. It's a full 2.5 stars for what the nuance of a liar, sociopath, life long user of other humans, schmoozer and despicable example of homo sapiens- his cognition. How he talks continually and morphs his stories throughout the length of the book. To the same people without apology for changing details 8 or 9 times. In that regard it deserves a 3 star or maybe even a 4 star for the authenticity of reading 300 plus pages of his various "truth" tales too. Because that just how murderers with his personality habits are.

    But the way the book was organized in its telling will not let me round it up? And the length (page copy count) of the perp's "voice"- how that is chapter after chapter allowed and encouraged? Quite typical? Redundant as any old cold case or "he always takes the central stage attention type psycho" drama of 4 or 5 decades, for sure. But at the same time- it was ridiculous in presentation for a book to stick with that mountain of BS repeated and altered. At one point I think I counted the 6th different "I'm sure" story he told about the day in that Mall when those two girls went missing- where he saw them and what he said to them. Quite beyond the car situations or rides after results of leaving.

    And the suppositions of the ending opinions? I do think that is the first time I've ever come across that sticking their necks out guessing (very wise and savvy guesses for sure though) from that many officers (4) as an "ending". In this genre of non-fiction or any genre in related fields either.

    Not even within forensics highly criteria supported "possibilities".

    This also is the very saddest and most horrific all around that I think I had ever heard in such detail. Because, for sure, it wasn't just the one bastard of 18 years of age. But an entire clan and cabal of horrific evil intents and actions that they endured. And in an era when kids roamed and learned in quite other and wider avenues than they do now, on top of it. With far, far more innocence of physical knowledge to sexual activity. Or to this type of horrendous reality existing.

    Presently this kind of exact scenario is happening at our Southern border (USA) in both individual and organizational varieties. In far greater numbers and it is being tolerated as part of a "compassion" convolution? Trafficking children for sex, porn films and worse (yes WORSE) is more widespread and on going because of dark web customers' access & $$$ too. Children being traded off for "use" and throwaways to sex slave groups to get the "relative" adult into the wider system releases.

    These kids (Katie, Sharon) who were tortured and then killed were just about 5 or 6 years younger than I am. So I know how innocent they most probably were in that Mall. No E.D. commercials or ads that relate that this coil is easier to manage than a 2 year old toddler. (I just heard that one and I nearly upchucked.)

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