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

Jon Billman. Grand Central, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5387-4757-5

In April 2017, 22-year-old Jacob Gray, whose case forms the heart of this beautifully written chronicle from Billman (When We Were Wolves: Stories), disappeared while cycling in Olympic National Park in Washington State. It would take 18 months before his body was found on a mountainside, and it remains unclear whether his death was suicide or caused by hypothermia. Billman describes how red tape and the lack of National Park staff hampered the search, and how he accompanied Jacob’s father, Randy Gray, to Olympic National Park, and then to other places Jacob might have traveled to. In between accounts of the search for Jacob, Billman reports on the phenomena of people vanishing into the wilderness, covering famous cases, search and rescue dogs, and theories about why people go missing, including serial killers and Bigfoot abductions. Colorful side characters, like psychics and Bigfoot hunters, provide some light moments, but what makes a lasting impression is the story of Randy and his ultimately dashed hopes of finding his son alive. The author’s personal involvement makes this tale all the more affecting. Billman shows himself to be just as adept at nonfiction as at fiction. Agent: Julia Masnik, Watkins Loomis. (July)
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