Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
When Kathryn Miles was a student at Unity College in 2002, the murders of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams were fresh, and the connection Miles felt to these women never left her. In 2016, she began the four years of research that would lead to Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders.
The research component is important to consider when tackling this book. Miles is relentless in getting all of her details right, so there are times when the book feels bogged down. Do we really need to know about the relationships the women had before they were together? Is Lollie’s fostering of a young man with her former partner Ken integral to the story?
There are arguments to be made that these pieces aren’t necessary, but Miles isn’t just telling the story of her quest: she’s telling readers who Julie and Lollie were. She’s creating a character study so developed that the effect is personal: reading this book, you feel like people you knew and liked, truly cared for, had been murdered, and you are just as irate as Miles when the system seems to let Lollie and Julie down.
The book is a testament to one journalist’s dogged determination to find the truth, but Miles also uses the text to comment on the targeting of women in wild areas, specifically in National Parks, and the lack of safety many women feel enjoying those spaces due to the violent acts that disproportionately target them there.
Miles doesn’t offer easy solutions and there is no happy ending here, but Trailed is worth the time if only to make us examine more closely who is accused of violent crime and targeted for it, and what—if anything—we can do about it.
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