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on March 11, 2017
The Darkest Night is one of those rare books that you never forget. I've found myself thinking about the events in the book long after I finished reading.

The author set the scene to take you into the time era in which this horrific crime took place. Ron Franscell did an amazing job at recounting the events that affected so many lives.

Yet, there was one part of the book that I couldn't bear to read. The author included one of the killers 'manuscripts' or 'autobiography'. I call it complete and utter fantasy on the killer's part. I had to skip those pages. His delusions of life as he supposedly lived it, read like a dime store novel, and a bad one at that. I won't deduct a star because it's included in the book as some people might be interested in reading it. I wasn't one of them, but that isn't the authors fault.

I still highly recommend this book. It was the best true crime book I've ever read.
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on November 20, 2017
Haunting, chilling tale of two innocent girls who sadly experienced an unimaginable nightmare. Ron Franscell painted a vivid picture of my childhood growing up on Casper's Glendale Avenue in windy, wild Wyoming....kick the can and all. Ten years old at the time and still fresh in my mind, is the memory of a walk home from school with spunky, energetic little Amy about a week before that dark night.

I also clearly remember crossing the eerie, creepy Fremont Canyon Bridge as a child even before the tragic night. Ron's experiences of a night spent in the Fremont Canyon classify him as a true journalist. The symbolism of the two stones added an element of poetic mysticism. My husband's unexplainable recent account of crossing the Fremont Canyon Bridge on a recent Wyoming fishing trip (He had no idea what had occurred there but saw the bench.) once again stirred up the memories, curiosity of that night, and led me to Ron's book. Agreed, that terrible dark night doused fear in the minds of Casper's parents and children, and forever changed the climate of Casper.

On a final note, Becky's admirable courageous will to survive no doubt saved other Casper children from those two evil monsters. Thank you, Ron for revealing the story of these two never forgotten sisters, even though it must have been a difficult painful memory for you as well.
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on December 13, 2015
I am not sure how I feel about the writing of THE DARKEST NIGHT: basically I feel the execution kind of wobbles and wanders. But this much is clear: read it. The story is heartbreaking and unforgettable, and certainly what author Franscell does is paint intimate portraits of four people on a devastating collision course. Not quite sure how effective the fifth person...the author himself is to this effort. Also felt at times that the writing was strained and reaching. But when he trusts this devastating story and allows it simply to tell itself, it is wrenching. I found Michael Carr's artwork especially moving. Bottom line, a powerful tale one wishes never had to be told. God bless and keep Amy and Becky.
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on December 5, 2016
This is one of the best true crime books I have read. The description of how the older sister survived the night of the incident is chilling and incredibly described by the author. It was a gripping introduction that pulled me in and made me want to know everything about this tragedy. I also thought the author knowing the girls added a lot to the story. It's the kind of book that is so well written you want to read it again...but that's difficult to do because the story is so heartbreaking.
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on January 22, 2015
This is an excellent true crime story about the abduction of two half sisters in Casper, Wyoming in 1973 and the aftermath of the crimes involved as it applied to the victims, their families, the perpetrators and the people of Casper. At the time of the heinous crime the author was a high school aged next door neighbor and friend of the girls involved and the book seems to be a labor of love, thoroughly researched and very skillfully written. After starting it, I found it very difficult to put down.

I read this on my Kindle and I was disappointed by the lack of maps and photos. As it turns out, there were twelve photos in the original publication that were not transferred to the Kindle version. The author graciously emailed them to me after I contacted him via his Facebook page and expressed my disappointment. There were no maps but I went to Google maps and used the satellite mode to get a feeling for Casper, Wyoming and vicinity, including multiple photos of the Fremont Canyon Bridge.

This is a great read and I highly recommend it.
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on May 7, 2018
I totally agree with other reviewers who said this is a horribly tragic and sad story. My heart just bleeds still for the girls and families. The parts about the actual event was told well, but in my humble opinion it had too much background information about too many minor characters. Just as I was getting interested in the story another character was introduced with back story. I found myself finally finding out who the person was to the case then skipping several pages of their personal backstory (that had nothing to do with the case) to get on with the actual telling of the story I was interested in reading! The book is slim, it would probably be booklet sized if all the needless information was deleted. Just my opinion.
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on December 14, 2014
Completely heartwrenching. I have read many true crime books but this one surpasses any I've read before.
Everything was described in such vivid detail that this book will stay with the reader for a very long time.
I'm surprised that more readers haven't found this gem.
You will not be disappointed one bit. I literally could not put this one down.
A haunting account of a most cruel and inhumane crime. Absolutely haunting.
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on January 22, 2010
(Originally published at Basil & Spice online)

By Wyoming standards, the horrifying 1973 murder of 11-year-old Amy Burridge and the rape of her older half-sister still looms as a contender for crime of the century. As a subject for traditional, in-depth true-crime treatment, however, the case pales beside more complex and gruesome events. It remained a mysterious "who-dunnit?" for just eight hours and the resulting trial unfolded as a slam-dunk conviction complicated only by a half-baked, desperate attempt at an insanity plea in which the defense doctors even failed to declare the defendant insane.

In the hands of Texas journalist Ron Franscell, however, this case transcends the true crime genre to become a powerful exploration of good, bad and ugly. In The Darkest Night, Franscell nails the good of the two sisters, the bad of two criminals and takes a stab at the hardest part of the literary equation: the ugly that is easy to see but hard to explain. He delivers two kinds of ugly: the tragic ugly of a girl who died twice and the pathetic ugly of her tormentor's disgusting survival. The result is a book that deserves its awards and stellar reviews.

The girl who died twice was Burridge's 18-year-old sister, Becky Thomson. The two girls were kidnapped from a Casper convenience store by a pair of local punks, Jerry Jenkins and Ronald Kennedy, who took them to a spot near the Fremont Canyon Bridge. After tossing Burridge over the bridge into the North Platte River to her death 100 feet below, they raped Thomson and pitched her over the rails as well. Although Thomson survived to identify her rapists and send them to prison, she never recovered from the emotional shock of the event and committed suicide 19 years later by leaping from the bridge at the same spot.

Franscell paints a stark contrast between the guilt-wracked post-crime life of Thomson as a victim and the unrepentant existence of the rapists, particularly Kennedy, who became a trusty, enjoyed conjugal visits and even penned a ludicrous, cowardly memoir accusing Thomson of stalking him. Although obviously a fairy tale about his youth as a legendary pre-teen reincarnation of both Robin Hood and Lothario in 1950s Casper, Kennedy's memoir actually sheds more light on the mental state of a psychopath than a dozen psychiatric reports could do. Franscell offers a literary MRI of Kennedy's twisted brain by summarizing the memoir while dodging the temptation for editorial pot shots. He recognizes that some jokes require no punchline. Franscell even goes the extra mile by investigating some of Kennedy's outrageous historical claims, providing a few flakes of fact that add more perspective to Kennedy's blizzard of bull.

Although he now lives in Texas, Franscell is able to add another dimension to his narrative from the perspective of his past--growing up in Casper at the time of the crime. He had no direct involvement but still manages to inject a personal perspective without overreaching to give the reader an insider feel for the events. He describes the book as a memoir of his personal quest for understanding what had been an influential episode in his development.

In the end, of course, Franscell finds no complete answer to the question of evil's origins. But The Darkest Night does provide an entertaining and thought-provoking portrait of his search.
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on January 25, 2015
While shopping for something new to read, I stumbled onto a book about Casper. What. This was a place where my husband and I raised our family in the years 1984-2002. Although we were middle-class we didn't escape heartbreak in that ugly town of prairie and wind. The author brought back the location and told a sad story . Hauntingly fresh and unvisited, I chose to close the door to the crimes my mind was exposed to and never return to Casper.
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on August 10, 2017
Ron Franscell guides us through one of the most horrific crimes in Wyoming in the early 1970's when two girls are subjected to unforgettable crimes of violence and thrown off a cliff to die...Mr. Franscell knew the girls and delivers a profound and true account of what transpired the night it happened and the legal process that followed. His writing is unparalleled and this story will stay with you forever...
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