I think one of the reasons that the true crime genre is so appealing to me is that I love the feeling when a case is solved. There is so much gratification in seeing a mystery tied up and (hopefully) justice being carried out. So, there’s something that feels a tad unsatisfying when there isn’t a clear answer to a true crime puzzle. Alas, with “Trailed,” as fascinating as the case is, the lack of a distinct resolution is both frustrating and saddening.
The book follows the horrifying 1996 murders of hikers Lollie Winans and Julie Williams in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and the country’s attempts to solve the case over the years. At one time, it was heralded as one of the first times our government pursued hate crime charges (because Winans and Williams were a couple). But at the end of the day, because the missteps of many, the case has never been completely solved. Kathryn Miles has worked the case for years as a fellow wilderness lover who became intrigued (or maybe obsessed is the better word) with the two women’s gruesome deaths. Normally I’m not a fan of writers who insert themselves into their stories, but Miles’ connection to the events ended up lending itself to an insightful and deeply personal look into the case.
I was completely drawn into this book because Miles did so much incredible research into who these two women really were (aside from their tragic ends). The background that went into creating a fully crafted story of both their lives and their deaths was really admirable. One small downside to this book is that there was so much information that sometimes I would forget about key pieces later on. For example, there were several assaults and murders that took place in the surrounding Shenandoah area over the same time period as the deaths of Williams and Winans. When these events became more important at the end of the book, I had already forgotten a lot of the names, details, etc. So many different grisly acts took place that it became a little tough to remember each one and its significance.
This book was almost a five-star read for me because you can tell Miles poured every ounce of herself into writing it and because the case is one that has so many haunting aspects. It just lost me a little bit with the amount of detail at times and the lack of a true resolution (which felt a tad disappointing). Definitely not for people who feel squeamish when reading about violence or forensics, but true-crime fans will enjoy trying to solve the case on their own (even if we’ll never know for certain what happened in that park).
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