Lost in the Valley of Death: A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas

HarperAudio. Jan. 2022. 10:41 hrs. ISBN 9780063216495. $26.99. CRIME
Expanding on his 2018 article in Outside magazine, Rustad draws listeners into the restless life and unsolved disappearance of a singular individual. A high school dropout but graduate of two wilderness survival schools, Justin Alexander Shetler initially seems somewhat naive and unaware of the privilege that let him wander off the beaten path into online fame as an adventure traveler. Rustad gradually reveals a different person, acknowledging the generous, charismatic friend whom those closest to him recall, and probing the evidence of his complex motivations for increasingly dangerous, ultimately fatal, boundary-pushing. Though Rustad’s steady narration conflicts with the pace of Alexander’s lifestyle and doesn’t suit the bloodcurdling account of Parvati Valley’s many other lost travelers that moves this biography into the realm of true crime, the author’s clear investment in this case and firsthand experience as a foreign visitor to India add appeal to his reading.
VERDICT This meticulously researched, sympathetically narrated audiobook will appeal to listeners who enjoyed Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods, Jon Billman’s The Cold Vanish, or Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.
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