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Lost in the Stacks: In Light of All Darkness

Before she was America’s Child she was simply Polly; delighted as any 12-year-old would to be having a sleepover with her friends. Polly, Kate and Gillian would experiment with makeup, giggle, eat pizza and ice cream, and stay up late. But their innocent fun was shattered when a stranger with a knife broke into the Klaas home in Petaluma, California, and abducted Polly. 

The kidnapping of Polly Klaas on October 1, 1993, in her own home, by a stranger, shocked not only Petaluma, but all of America. Her story was everywhere: America’s Most Wanted, backs of milk cartons, People magazine, an MTV video. Celebrities, including former Petaluma resident Winona Ryder, donated money and time to help find Polly. The pressure was on the local police partnering with the FBI to bring Polly home before it was too late.

book coverThe Polly Klaas investigation was unique and pioneering in many ways. It was the first time a missing person flyer was transmitted digitally. It was the first time fluorescent powder and an alternate light source were used at an FBI crime scene. The investigation also offered lessons in how not to do things. The harmful way Kate and Gillian were subjected to polygraphs and harsh interrogation changed how child witnesses were questioned. 

In Light of All Darkness by Kim Cross is the definitive history of the Polly Klaas kidnapping. With unprecedented access to files and interviews – Cross is the daughter-in-law of the FBI agent in charge of the investigation – she meticulously reconstructs an investigation that is still used as a case study today. But Cross does much more than relay the nuts and bolts of an investigation, she sensitively and respectfully tells Polly’s story and how her abduction affected her family and friends, the investigators, and all of America.   


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