Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Last Stone

A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation

by Mark Bowden

From “master of narrative journalism” (New York Times) and #1 bestselling author Mark Bowden, comes a gripping true crime story about the disappearance of two girls in 1975, and the extraordinary effort—40 years later—to bring their kidnapper to justice

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date March 17, 2020
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4891-9
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date April 02, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4730-1
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date April 02, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4731-8
  • US List Price $27.00

About the Book

On March 29, 1975, sisters Katherine and Sheila Lyon, age 10 and 12, vanished from a shopping mall in suburban Washington, D.C. As shock spread, then grief, a massive police effort found nothing. The investigation was shelved, and mystery endured. Then, in 2013, a cold case squad detective found something he and a generation of detectives had missed. It pointed them toward a man named Lloyd Welch, then serving time for child molestation in Delaware.

As a cub reporter for a Baltimore newspaper, Mark Bowden covered the frantic first weeks of the story. In The Last Stone, he returns to write its ending. Over months of intense questioning and extensive investigation of Welch’s sprawling, sinister Appalachian clan, five skilled detectives learned to sift truth from determined lies. How do you get a compulsive liar with every reason in the world to lie to tell the truth? The Last Stone recounts a masterpiece of criminal interrogation, and delivers a chilling and unprecedented look inside a disturbing criminal mind.

Praise for The Last Stone:

“With its blistering descriptions of an American special-forces operation gone wrong, Mark Bowden’s 1999 nonfiction book Black Hawk Down made for excellent action-movie fare. The story told in his latest work, the deeply unsettling The Last Stone, unfolds more slowly but is no less potent. Bowden displays his tenacity as a reporter in his meticulous documentation of the case.”—Alejandro de la Garza, Time

“The Last Stone is a rigorous documenting of the 40-year journey taken by Montgomery County detectives and the cold-case team that interrogated Lloyd Welch. It’s a riveting, serpentine story about the dogged pursuit of the truth, regardless of the outcome or the cost. And it’s a useful reminder that in an age of science, forensics, and video and data surveillance, the ability of one human being to coax the truth from another remains the cornerstone of a successful investigation.”—NPR

“In The Last Stone, Bowden focuses on 21 months of questioning by a revolving cast of detectives, telling a stirring, suspenseful, thoughtful story that, miraculously, neither oversimplifies the details nor gets lost in the thicket of a four-decade case file. This is a cat-and-mouse tale, told beautifully. 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.”—Robert Kolker, New York Times

“Riveting true crime from the ever-capable author, focused on a heartbreaking 40-year-old cold case. 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, decades long 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.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Bowden delivers a narrative nonfiction masterpiece in this account of fiercely dedicated police detectives working to close a cold case… This is an intelligent page-turner likely to appeal even to readers who normally avoid true crime.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Praise for Mark Bowden:

“A Woodward that outdoes even Woodward.” Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker

“Amazing . . . One of the most intense, visceral reading experiences imaginable. . . . The individual stories are woven together in such a compelling and expert fashion, the narrative flows so seamlessly, that it’s hard to imagine that this is not fiction.” Philadelphia Inquirer on Black Hawk Down

“The reader can visualize the action, smell the dust and sweat and the reek of explosives, and even enter into the exultation, fear, rage, pain, confusion, and exhaustion of the combatants. . . . Because he was able to interview survivors on both sides relatively soon after the action, Bowden’s story has a vitality and freshness usually lacking in accounts of combat.” —New York Review of Books on Black Hawk Down

“A compelling, almost Shakespearean tale.” Los Angeles Times on Killing Pablo

“Bowden has emerged as one of our best writers of muscular nonfiction.” —Edward P. Smith, Denver Post

“Mark Bowden is the reigning champion of narrative non-fiction.” —Alex Massie, Scotland on Sunday (UK)

“Heart-stopping, and heart-breaking.” —New York Times Book Review on Guests of the Ayatollah

“Bowden is consistently curious about the anonymous, often invisible operators who power modern warfare–drone operators, intelligence agents, special forces teams . . . Bowden tells a good story.” —Michael Schulson, Salon on The Three Battles of Wanat

Bookseller praise for The Last Stone:

“Every parents’ worst nightmare is laid bare in this true crime story about the abduction of two little girls, sisters, from a suburban Maryland mall. An unsolved cold case for nearly forty years, a new investigation pointed to an imprisoned pedophile, Lloyd Welch. Detailed accounts of police interviews going toe-to-toe with the obfuscating Welch are both horrifying and heartbreaking and ultimately, illustrative of never-ending tragedy. True crime fans won’t want to miss one.”—Lori Hench, Baltimore County Public Library

“This is a tense, often creepy true-crime thriller. Detectives try to crack the cold case of two lost girls and their confrontations with the suspected killer become elaborate strategic games as they try to get a twisted liar to tell the truth.”—Kerry Barringer, Little City Books (Hoboken, NJ)

“I’m a big fan of Law & Order, so I was intrigued by the case documented in great detail here. What happened and who really made the two sisters disappear? At times I wanted to have this case all wrapped up like they do on my favorite show but as I read what the detectives went through to pull the truth out of someone who made a living of lying to everyone (including himself), I gained a new perspective on what it really takes to solve a crime.” —Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, MI)

“Brace yourself. This is real. 1975. Katherine and Sheila Lyons (10 and 12 years old) were abducted from a mall in suburban DC. Fast forward 40 years. Lloyd Lee Welch, an incarcerated child molester, is somehow linked with the sisters’ disappearance. The 40-year mystery is painstakingly unraveled in nearly 3 years of interrogations, conversations, and confrontations. The dialogue is that of Welch and the detectives determined to reveal the past and path of a monster. A monster both cunning and incredibly naive. And ultimately, incapable of empathy or regret. Welch’s story changed by the day, by the hour, and sometimes mid-sentence. Equally appalling is the morally corrupt family and clan which was bound to create at least one murderer. Drugs, incest, rape, and violence were the norm. They were hell-bent on satisfying their own needs and protecting each other’s hide. There are so many layers to this story. So many implications and terrible lessons. I simply could not look away.” —Robin Templin, Watermark Books (Wichita, KS)