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The Darkest Night: The Murder of Innocence in a Small Town

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,933 ratings  ·  147 reviews

Casper, Wyoming:1973. Eleven-year-old Amy Burridge rides with her eighteen-year-old sister, Becky, to the grocery store. When they finish their shopping, Becky’s car gets a flat tire. Two men politely offer them a ride home. But they were anything but Good Samaritans. The girls would suffer unspeakable crimes at the hands of these men before being thrown from a bri

Mass Market Paperback, 282 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by St. Martin's True Crime (first published November 15th 2006)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  1,933 ratings  ·  147 reviews

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Elle G.
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
:: 3.5 Horrific Stars ::

This book details the heartbreaking, true account of the abduction of two sisters- one who was murdered and the other was left for dead. Franscell (the author) does a good job describing what happened on that horrific night and pays tribute to both of the victims in a caring way. This is how all true crime books should be written! I feel like the author did his research really well with this book and most of the facts seem to be legit according to fellow reviewers and t
Sep 20, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Ferak
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Franscell's investigative research is rock solid. His depiction of the killers is accurate, chilling and spot on.

It's my belief that The Darkest Night is one of those true-crime books that should -- or maybe it has -- wound up on your special reading shelf -- not just to read once, but to pull back out at a later point in your life. Maybe a year after you've read it. Maybe five or 10 years from now.

It's one of those special non-fiction books that makes you think about human life. Your values. Y
Jun 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
3 stars--I liked the book. Content warning for rape/abuse.

I don't read a lot of true crime, but this one is notable for its focus on people's lives, not the gory details of the crime. A terrible tale of a heinous act and lives destroyed, told with compassion.
May 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Despite the alleged title, this one is "The Darkest Night." Here's the scoop: two sisters in a small town in Wyoming (already scary to me) go to the store at 9 p.m. and come out to find a flat tire and two guys are there to offer help. They take them out in the boonies, throw the 8 year old off a bridge (down 120+ feet to the Platte River below) then rape the 18 year old and toss her over as well. Well, guess what? She lived to ID them, testified, etc. The two guys were just the scum of the eart ...more
3.75 stars

In a town in Wyoming in 1973, 18-year old Becky and her 11-year old sister Amy went to pick up some groceries. By the next morning, Amy was dead in a canyon, thrown of a high bridge, and Becky somehow managed to survive the night with a broken pelvis after having been raped and also thrown off the bridge. The author was the girls’ neighbour. The book not only looks at the crime, but it also looks at Becky and Amy’s lives, the lives of the two convicted murderers/rapists, and the author
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I was eight years old when the crime in this book occurred in Casper where I lived. My parents must have done a good job of sheltering me from what happened because I don’t remember hearing about until my late teens at the earliest. It was surreal reading this. The sheriff at the time, Ray Clark, lived across the alley from us. The police chief, Zipay, had a daughter who was in my class in elementary school and lived about two blocks away. One of Becky Thomson’s coworkers at KVOC was a good frie ...more
Apr 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I really had a hard time deciding between 2 or 3 stars. While the story of these girls is compelling and heartbreaking, there just isn't enough substance there to justify the length of this book. The author also over-dramatizes quite a bit, which I did not enjoy. ...more
Gary Taylor
Jan 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The good, the bad and two kinds of ugly

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 atte
Bill reilly
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thomas Wolfe famously wrote that you can’t go home again. Ron Franscell did precisely that when he decided to go back to his childhood home of Casper, Wyoming to investigate a crime from thirty years previous. A police report of September 1973 was his starting point. Eighteen year-old Becky Thomson and her eleven year-old sister Amy were shopping at a local store and discovered a flat tire on the family car. Two men offered help but then abducted them at knife point. Becky was raped and Amy was ...more
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: an avid true crime reader
Shelves: favorites, true-crime
The Darkest night is a horrific true story about a night in 1973 in Casper, Wyoming when two half sister's lives (18 year old Becky and 11 year old Amy) would forever be changed. After going to the store to do some shopping they had a flat tire. They were picked up by Ronald Kennedy and Jerry Jenkins two people they thought were going to help and take them home. Instead they came face to face with pure EVIL! After suffering unspeakable crimes Becky and her little sister were thrown off a remote ...more
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Finally, a little relief from the "plucky survivor brings inspiration to all" theme that plagues the true-crime genre. This was an act of rare ugliness and I like that the author, a neighbor kid a little older than the younger victim and a little younger than the older one at the time it happened, really drew a picture of what it was like for the girls next door and for their family. Aren't they the ones who really count here? He also shows the perps for what they are, just by letting them speak ...more
Kim Stiegel
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The only thing that would have made this book a teeny bit better is if it didn't spend 20+ pages quoting one of the killer's (obviously delusional) ""autobiographies"" - a shorter synopsis would have been fine. After learning about his delinquent youth, and the nature of this horrid crime, I didn't think we needed to hear anything further from that lunatic. ...more
Cynthia Sillitoe
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a heartbreaking case, but I felt the narrative didn't weave together as seamlessly as I would have liked. One highlight is the prison autobiography of one of the suspects. It's a primer in the megalomania of a sociopath. ...more
Jill Crosby
Jan 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Author gets a little too overblown with the prose; he really forces his metaphors and waxes almost too philosophical about crime, justice & death. He devotes too much time and effort printing and dissecting portions of convicted Ronald Kennedy's "autobiography." ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Urban Legend that was True

I chose those book because I grew up in Casper, WY. Born 5 years after the crime I remember whispers of afults who knew a friend who knew a friend of the girls. Always in whispered and hushed tones, this story became an urban legend to me. Too horrifying to be real. But, it was and it showed me that monsters are real and even exist in my Wyoming.
I chose this book to know the truth behind the legend that I thought existed. And life can be as scary as the imagination.
Edwina Callan
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2017
"Pain is the price we pay for memory."

This is the true story of a little girl murdered to keep her silent and of the sister who survived rape and attempted murder to tell the tale.

Written by the "boy next door" over 30 years later.

More info here:
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
I heard about this one first on a radio program detailing the crime, so I already knew how it would end. Still, the author has a way of telling this story that really appealed to me. Obviously, don't read this one if you are not prepared to hear details of a horrific crime, but also understand that there is a lot of healing and reflection in these pages as well. ...more
Anita Heveron
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very good true crime. Although the author meanders sometimes, he paints a mostly unbiased version of a horrific crime
Maryann MJS1228
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-crime
When someone who doesn't read true crime asks me why I'm devoted to a genre made up of quickie exploitation tales about serial killers I point them in the direction of one of the classics. Like any genre true crime has bad books, good books and some that are truly great which not only transcend the genre, they ennoble it. The Darkest Night has become one of those books that I recommend to anyone who thinks true crime is a wasteland.

The story itself is haunting. Two young sisters are kidnapped an
Lady ♥ Belleza
September 24, 1973 started like any other day in Casper, Wyoming, the events that transpired that evening into the next day changed life for everyone. Eleven-year old Amy Burridge and her half-sister Becky Thomson had been abducted from a local store, Amy was thrown off the Freemont Canyon Bridge, afterwards Becky was raped by the two men that had abducted them and was also thrown off the bridge. Becky survived, Amy did not.

Ron Franscell lived next door to Amy and Becky. Because of that we get a
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
For about 2/3 of this book, I was enjoying it (as much as you can "enjoy" sad true crime books), and then all of a sudden the story goes from being about the crime and the victims to including a poorly spelled and written autobiography by one of the rapists/killers. The book went from sad facts to sociopathic sexual fantasies, and I just slipped page by page until it started to make sense again. I can appreciate trying to get the readers to understand the one killer/rapist, and his mind. But by ...more
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, non-fiction
What sets this apart from other True Crime books I’ve read is the author’s personal connection to the victims. Franscell grew up in Casper, Wyoming at the time that eleven-year-old Amy Burridge was murdered, and her half-sister Becky Thomson was raped and left for dead. This is not only the story of the crime, its perpetrators and their victims, but of the lasting impact of that horrific night on an entire community. Amy’s life was not the only thing taken - Becky’s innocence and Casper’s sense ...more
May 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
I knew this book would be heartbreaking, but I didn't expect it to be as gut-wrenching as it was. The author has a great voice, but I am pretty sure that this is his first book of this nature. You can kind of tell. That being said, I think he did pretty well. I understand why he sidetracked the story to include the backstory of Casper, Wyoming but I feel like it didn't help the story. My guess is that he included it to beef up the page number. Oh well. The one major problem I had with this book ...more
Tiana Harris
I moved to Casper, WY in 1979, 6 years after this happened but it was one of the first things I was told by other kids my age. Every time we went out to the lake, we remembered the story. I always got a cold chill when going over the bridge at Fremont Canyon. After all these years knowing the bits and pieces I had been told, I decided to read the book and get the whole story. The author can describe Wyoming as only someone who has lived here can. "The middle of April is not spring in Wyoming. It ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is a tragic true story for the 2 girls and the book does show how it affected the community. However I found no sympathy for the 2 criminals locked up for life escaping the death penalty. Ron Franscell obviously did much research and spoke to many people (good newspaper skills) to obtain some many angles and follow up with the outcome of the people embedded in the town in 1973. However, I felt that there were too many side tracks, other cases mentioned, stories that had no real connection t ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a horrific and heart breaking book about a terrible act committed upon 2 sisters. One murdered and the other, well I'll just say the ending shocked me. Didn't see it coming. Sometimes I wonder why I read true crime so much. Usually I am just interested in how nutty some of these dudes are. This story though just hurt to read. I couldn't imagine how much pain and emotional turmoil the one sister suffered after the actual assault and murder. A sad story indeed. The book though is very wel ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
This would have been a good New Yorker article or something, but there is just not enough material here for a book. A crime was committed, the criminals were quickly apprehended, and were then easily convicted. There is one small twist that occurs years later which I won't reveal and which does add some interest to the story. However, there still isn't a book's worth of material here. The author includes all kinds of irrelevant and/or boring information to pad it. My other quibble is that much o ...more
Theresa Turner
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
I found The Darkest Night to be a very interesting story, but not the best written put together story..I think the book overall lacked depth for the reader to stay interested in the story for very long..It took ages for myself to finish reading the book and that is because the book went off topic a lot ,describing such long drawn out writing as of the history of Casper Wyoming,which didn,t quite relate too much to the importance of the story and the tragedy of a true crime case that truly deser ...more
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