... 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 ... Bowden is very good at showing how both sides in this protracted interrogation are lying.
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.
On the one hand, the wealth of transcripts and recordings allows Bowden to re-create scenes and conversations in great detail and with (one presumes) near-perfect fidelity. But for a writer perhaps more obsessed with his subject than his readers will be, there is such a thing as too much material to work with. Bowden takes us through endless permutations of Welch’s ever-changing story, leading us down every blind alley of obfuscation and pulling us into every whirlpool of internal contradiction ... This kind of wheel-spinning, combined with the likelihood that some readers will find the Welch clan difficult to stomach even in small doses, can make reading the book an unsavory experience at times ... Even so, this is a story of extraordinary persistence and the grimmest, least romantic kind of heroism there is, and Bowden tells it with the dexterity of an old pro, bringing coherence to a narrative that in other hands may have seemed merely muddled and infuriating.