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Summary

For fans of Jon Krakauer and Douglas Preston, the critically acclaimed author and journalist Jon Billman's fascinating, in-depth look at people who vanish in the wilderness without a trace and those eccentric, determined characters who try to find them.

These are the stories that defy conventional logic. The proverbial vanished-without-a-trace incidences, which happen a lot more (and a lot closer to your backyard) than almost anyone thinks. These are the missing whose situations are the hardest on loved ones left behind. The cases that are an embarrassment for park superintendents, rangers, and law enforcement charged with search and rescue. The ones that baffle the volunteers who comb the mountains, woods, and badlands. The stories that should give you pause every time you venture outdoors.

Through Jacob Gray's disappearance in Olympic National Park, and his father, Randy Gray, who left his life to search for him, we will learn about what happens when someone goes missing. Braided around the core will be the stories of the characters who fill the vacuum created by a vanished human being. We'll meet eccentric bloodhound-handler Duff and R.C., his flagship purebred, who began trailing with the family dog after his brother vanished in the San Gabriel Mountains. And there's Michael Neiger North America's foremost backcountry search-and-rescue expert and self-described "bushman" obsessed with missing persons. And top researcher of persons missing on public wildlands ex-San Jose, California detective David Paulides, who is also one of the world's foremost Bigfoot researchers. 

It's a tricky thing to write about missing persons because the story is the absence of someone. A void. The person at the heart of the story is thinner than a smoke ring, invisible as someone else's memory. The bones you dig up are most often metaphorical. While much of the book will embrace memory and faulty memory - history - The Cold Vanish is at its core a story of now and tomorrow. Someone will vanish in the wild tomorrow. These are the people who will go looking.

©2020 Jon Billman (P)2020 Hachette Audio

Critic reviews

"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." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

"Required reading for anyone concerned about the missing, Billman's authentic and encyclopedic book leads us across the landscapes of the vanished with a journalist's acumen and a searcher's sympathy. It's both true and useful, a storytelling textbook I wish I'd read before my own son went missing." (Roman Dial, author of The Adventurer's Son)

"The Cold Vanish is part mystery, part glance into a world of heroes and charlatans, death, and loss that most of us, fortunately, do not know, and don't want to know, but perhaps should. The Cold Vanish is informative, and in a sad way, captivating and well worth a read." (National Parks Traveler)

What listeners say about The Cold Vanish

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Intriguing listen

I couldn’t get enough of this. I’m very familiar with Missing 411 and David Paulides, and this really fed into that interest, albeit coming at things from a slightly different angle. The Cold Vanish is more concerned with the journey towards searching for missing people, and the background to particular cases, rather than speculating on general causes or lingering on any mysterious elements behind a particular disappearance. There is obviously some tension between the writer and Paulides, but I appreciate both approaches personally. I really enjoyed this.

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A sad but uplifting quest

A wonderful story of a dad's quest to find his beloved lost son who vanished unexplicably whilst on an adventure.
You find out the real soul of father and son, their love of the outdoors, the surf, the mountains and adventure. The story is interspersed with other stories of other lost souls and raises more questions than answers in the search for understanding the last moments of these mysteries.
A stunning, riveting story, brilliantly narrated. I will and you will, listen to this more than once.

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  • Jason
  • 09-07-20

Sad but interesting finished a little confused

Anyone who has read or knows anything about people missing in national parks probably knows the name David Paulides he has taken the issue of missing people in the parks and put it out in the mainstream or at least he has made this issue a lot more well known. The author of this book Jon Billman takes a similar approach people mysteriously just disappear in our parks and their is no data base keeping up with these missing people and they disappear in very strange circumstances, it's often beyond belief how easily people just disappear. He follows one father on his quest to find his lost son and writes about many other strange disappearances, the father's quest to find his son is a tough thing and I'm sure it was tough on the author and thank you for helping the family, however...

The beginning of the book the author admits his favorite late night talk show Coast to Coast AM guest is David Paulides, then confusingly throughout the book he takes snarky jabs at David apparently for making money off his research and books and even shames David for not actually helping search for the missing. I don't have anything to do with David Paulides except I know his work and he has done a lot for bringing the issue of missing people in our national parks to more and more people's attention I would say he has done a lot of good so the put downs seem so out of place in this book.

The author tells many stories of the missing and sometimes the story is a little confusing or end abruptly. Also the narration is good but the sound effects at the beginning of each chapter is very annoying, loud sounds of river flowing and birds chirping while I'm trying to comprehend what just happen is the previous chapter well it's abrupt and takes the listener out of the story..bad production choice. I'm sorry I could not rate this one higher but the jabs thrown at David Paulides and writing style overall it's just how I feel, as for helping the father and family great job.

I would suggest a book titled The Adventurers Son by Roman Dial for a more focused story on a missing son and heroic journey by an father to find his son.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Ant.Lazrovich
  • 01-10-20

Great Read

I was fairly astonished to find such a week written piece of work by chance. The author has a mature style that appeals to my writers ears but also writes in a way so as to be accessible to the average reader. I would have given 5 stars if it weren't for the author's jealous jabs at Dave Paulides. It just came across as very petty and childish the way he tried to cut him down. For those of us who follow Paulides' work, it's easy to see the rants for what they are. Still, it was a great read aside from those spots.

13 people found this helpful

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  • K. Gilray
  • 09-08-20

A Good Book

Overall it was a well written telling of a father on a mission to find his son with other missing stories intermingled. I really felt for their family. As a father myself I sometimes worry about the days when my sons are old enough to go out into the world and make life changing/ending mistakes...or just become lost...
My only grievance was the author’s occasional soft berating of another author/investigator David Paulides. It seemed unnecessary for this book and didn’t add to the recounting of events. The author certainly appears to have some issues with Paulides.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Sarahbel
  • 18-08-20

Title is a Bit Misleading

Overall I thought this was a great book with an excellent narrator, but I was disappointed that the author chose not to include cases from the East Coast. The Appalachian Trail has a storied history and captivating tales of missing hikers as well, and Billman would have done well to acknowledge them.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Robin
  • 16-12-20

Needs more polishing to smooth out the roughness

This was interesting to listen to. The issue I have was that this seems to be a cobbled together book from someone’s massive of notes resulting from lengthy investigation. Oh wait, it was. Still the author needed to cut out a bit more unnecessary stuffing, and focus on the main aspects of the subject matter.
I did appreciate the authors descriptions of personal emotional attachments to the main character, his son, new friends made along the journey and various weird encounters with conspiracy theorists. That made it more interesting. What I got out of this book was that this author was willing to travel on the hunt with a grieving parent who’s son disappeared in the wild; wherever that path took them for good or bad.
This seemed to document a fathers intense grief, and seemly decent into a bit of mental instability from the pain of loss. I get it. I also get why this author spend far more time on that one tragic story because of his personal friendship to the father.
I’m just not sure if two books would have been better, one about this friend, and separate book about the subject of people who disappear, the how, when, why and with a little coverage of the emotional impact on the families.
I finished the book because I do care about this subject matter and it seemed respectful to do it.

4 people found this helpful

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  • shane richard
  • 11-12-20

Spoilers ahead

I can identify with several characters in this book. I love the outdoors and although I am from the East coast I have spent a lot of time in the Pacific Northwest both at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. As an outdoors men I enjoyed this story very much, as the father of a 13yo boy it was heartbreaking. Randy Gray handled the disappearance and subsequent death of his son with a grace that I will never know. I am thankful that he allowed his journey to be shared with the world.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-10-20

Pretty good, but not accurate

The family of Jacob Gray have spoken openly about the inaccuracies and tall-tales in this work. I'm not sure how to take that, but overall the story and thesis were pretty good.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cait C
  • 30-07-20

A story of a fathers love...

This was an incredible listen. I thought it was very well written and extremely captivating.
There are some parts that are a bit hard to follow with a lot of jumping between stories, but overall excellent.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-07-20

Page turner

Hard to put down
You just want to know what happens next
Learn so much about missing persons and how devastating it is for families
Riveting

2 people found this helpful

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  • Krystal de Alva
  • 07-11-20

Sad but very interesting read

It's a sad thought that so many families suffer not knowing what happened to their loved ones, even if the bodies are found.

1 person found this helpful