LAW & CRIME

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands

Grand Central. Jul. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781538747575. $28. CRIME
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Delving into the stories of individuals who have gone missing while venturing into the wilderness, Billman (When We Were Wolves) centers the bulk of his narrative on the disappearance of 22-year-old Jacob Gray. In 2017, Gray went for a bike ride in Washington State’s Olympic National Park and vanished. His father, Randy, was devastated but determined to find him. Billman joined Randy on many of his searches and also spoke to the park’s employees and local law enforcement. The author interweaves the accounts of other missing persons; even when bodies were recovered, as in some cases, the reasons for the deaths are still open to speculation. It is hard to square the sincere heartbreak of family members searching for loved ones with Billman’s frequent diversions into the world of Sasquatch obsessives convinced that Bigfoot could be responsible for some of these disappearances. Billman also refers to the work of David Paulides, a conspiracy theorist who has made a career of implying nebulous or supernatural reasons for these missing persons, which he peddles in his “Missing 411” series. Readers may find Roman Dial’s account of his own search for his missing son, The Adventurer’s Son, more coherent and less distracting.
VERDICT For fans of true crime, this book will likely reinforce the admonition of My Favorite Murder podcast hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark to “stay out of the forest.”

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