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Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

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For almost all of my life, I have considered “true crime” books to be my least favorites. Why infuse my life with stories of horrible crimes? But, this book got me hooked right away. Why? In the first place, the author, Kathryn Miles, is a very sympathetic character. She loves to explore wilderness and woods. She chose to teach at Unity College in Unity, Maine, an innovative environmental college. While she was there, the FBI announced that they had a suspect – six years later – in the 1996 murders of Lollie Winans and her lesbian lover, Julie Williams, in Shenandoah National Park. This resulted in multiple campus-wide tributes to a well-loved former student and townie. In turn, this led Kathryn Miles first to a deeply researched magazine article, and then this book. The suspect, who was never prosecuted, was a predator convicted of the attempted abduction of another young woman there in the Park. This book is about the author’s quest both to learn more about the victims and to try to figure out who killed them. In the process, so much more is illuminated: the vulnerability of young women in the woods, the victimization of gay women; the law enforcement efforts and policies in National Parks, the work of the FBI, the relationships between law enforcement entities, and the existence of predators. Sadly, all her research leads Kathryn Miles to conclude that Lollie and Julie were killed by a different predator, a serial rapist and killer who also preyed upon young women in Virginia recreation areas. “​A beautifully written account of a great American tragedy—the unsolved murders of an undetermined number of young women, all by the same serial killer, who got away. The truth is still buried. I couldn’t put it down.”—John Grisham. “A tragic story of young lovers, gone too soon. A #metoo reckoning, long overdue. A study of trauma’s ripple effects, extending for decades. Trailed is meticulously investigated, achingly intimate, and doggedly persistent in the pursuit of justice."—Robert Kolker. “A beautiful story about a female journalist seeking clarity and life for two women she never knew, and looking to restore the wilderness as a place of healing and safety for all women in the process. An established backcountry hiker herself, Miles follows a serpentine trail of misogyny and the resilience and joy of women in spite of it. Trailed is also a love story. You will turn pages as fast as you can.”—Lacy Crawford. 

Chapel Hill,  North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 2022. 320 pages with Notes, maps, and photos. Hardback in dust jacket.