Kate Rice

I’ve never read true crime author Ron Franscell, but since he’ll be in town for a book signing May 5, I picked up “Shadowman: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling.”

I was immediately drawn into the world of how investigations proceeded “back in the day,” specifically the ’60s and early ’70s. The book is a whodunit and a “how to” (find out whodunit), woven together with meticulous research and narrative reflecting the mindset of each of the major players in this compelling story.

In 1973, a Michigan family was traveling through the Western United States. One night, while staying in a Montana campground, one of their children — 7-year-old Suzie Jaeger — was snatched from their tent. A few months later, a 19-year-old woman went missing from the same area. Was this the work of the same person? And if so, who was this person, and what could local law enforcement and the FBI do to find them? Were there other victims, too?

Franscell’s book covers not only the “boots on the ground” investigation, but it also details the first time the FBI’s newly created Behavioral Science Unit utilized Criminal Profiling to help uncover their “UnSub” (a term that, now familiar to “Criminal Minds” and “Mindhunter” fans and the like, had yet to be discovered).

Franscell writes with a broad emotional palette, shading this story with frustration, grief, opposition, disgust, satisfaction — and yet, despite the vivid descriptions, I was always aware that these are people, not characters. I don’t know if reading a story this intense can be called enjoyable, but it was a mesmerizing, satisfying experience. 

If true crime’s your thing — or if you just wanna read a story so well told that it’s hard to put down — stop into Wind City Books and grab a copy. Don’t forget, New York Times Best-Selling Author Ron Franscell will be in Casper on Thursday, May 5. Join Franscell in the Crawford Room of the Natrona County Library from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. as he speaks about “Shadowman: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling.” BYOB (that’s BOOK, folks) or purchase a copy from Wind City Books during the event. For more info, visit windcitybooks.com.