Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

3.4 41
by Robert Kolker

View All Available Formats & Editions

A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of 2013

Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, and presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of online escorts, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. A

See more details below


A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of 2013

Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, and presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of online escorts, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. A triumph of reporting, a riveting narrative, and "a lashing critique of how society and the police let five young women down" (Dwight Garner, New York Times), Lost Girls is a portrait of unsolved murders in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Dwight Garner
Robert Kolker's Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is, physically, a well-made book. Its cover image is crisp and haunting. Someone has paid close attention to this volume's many maps. They are stylish and, a rarity, actually helpful. This sense of mastery carries over into Mr. Kolker's lean but ductile prose. Reading this true-crime book, you're reminded of the observation that easy reading is hard writing.
Publishers Weekly
In stark contrast to the ugliness of the story, Kolker’s sad tale of five young women linked by the tragic circumstances of their disappearances is beautifully and provocatively written. The book opens with a prologue that casts an appropriately eerie pall on the proceedings: after arriving late one spring night at Long Island’s Oak Beach, Shannan Gilbert, an escort who was in the area to see a client, began banging on doors and screaming for help. Her pleas went unanswered, and then she disappeared. That was in 2010. Seven months later, the corpses of four women—also escorts—were found nearby. Kolker, a contributing editor at New York magazine, outlines each woman’s descent into a world “that many of their loved ones could not imagine,” and in doing so renders each as fully fleshed out individuals forced to make tough decisions to navigate a tough world. Just the right amount of detail will make all but the hardest-hearted empathetic. Add a baffling whodunit that remains, as the subtitle indicates, unsolved, and you have a captivating true crime narrative that’s sure to win new converts and please longtime fans of the genre. 10 maps & timeline. Agents: David Gernert and Chris Parris-Lamb, The Gernert Company. (July)
The New York Times Book Review - Mimi Swartz
Robert Kolker, who wrote about the murders for New York magazine in 2011, has produced in Lost Girls a compelling, nearly unputdownable narrative of the case and its attendant issues; a horrific, cautionary tale that makes for a very different type of beach read.
Kirkus Reviews
In his debut, New York magazine contributor Kolker delves into the disappearances and murders of five women, all working as escorts in the New York metropolitan area. More than 100 years ago, London prostitutes were targeted by Jack the Ripper, a serial killer whose identity remains an enigma. In our brave new world of Craigslist advertisements, cellphones and escort services, one group of lost girls--Shannan, Maureen, Melissa, Megan and Amber--faced similar threats from the anonymous client(s) who eventually killed them. The author unflinchingly probes the 21st-century innovations that facilitated these crimes, which launched a media blitz that shook the integrity of a secluded Long Island community called Oak Beach. What sets his investigation apart from many true-crime tomes, however, is the attention he pays to the girls' back stories and to the efforts of their families and friends to bring the killer to justice. We know from the title that the crimes are still unsolved, leaving Kolker free to present the bewildering array of theories held by law enforcement, neighbors, online communities and even potential suspects. Nor does the author shy away from the dysfunction that permeated all five girls' lives: foster homes, absent parents, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancies and domineering boyfriends all play prominent roles in this narrative. Fortunately, he includes both a timeline and a list of characters for reference, as the deluge of names, dates and details can prove intimidating. Kolker also does a fine job of describing the girls' lives without patronizing their decisions or unnecessarily inserting himself into the proceedings. Most commendably, he points out inconsistencies and dubious motives on the part of some of his interviewees; one mother, who had little to do with her daughter while she was alive, reinvented herself as a crusader for justice. Still, "[t]he issue of blame itself, in the end, may be a trap," Kolker concludes. An important examination of the socioeconomic and cultural forces that can shape a woman's entry into prostitution.
Darin Strauss
“Robert Kolker’s LOST GIRLS is reportage at the highest level; it’s miss-your-bedtime storytelling… It’s a wonder.”
Nick Reding
“Lost Girls is a marvelous book, taking a complicated, trying story and making it compulsively readable. Kolker is an outstanding reporter and a sensitive narrator who does justice to a horrible tragedy by paying exactly the kind of attention that no one else did, or would.”
David Grann
“Meticulously reported and beautifully written, Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls is a haunting and powerful crime story that gives voice to those who can no longer be heard. It is a story that you will not be able to forget.”
“A rare gem of a book that not only tells a riveting story but illuminates something about a slice of America and gets into a lot of very deep issues. Its really great on every front.”
Dwight Garner
“Riveting and often heartbreaking...a lashing critique of how society, and the police, let these young women down.”
New York Daily News
“Immensely evocative...we are left with is a visceral understanding of the lives of the victims and why they should have mattered more.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Terrific...vivid and moving...Grade: A-”
Mimi Swartz
“A gothic whodunit for the Internet age…nearly unputdownable…[LOST GIRLS is] a horrific, cautionary tale that makes for a very different kind of beach read…Kolker expertly chronicles the sad cycle of poor, uneducated white women faced with lots of kids and few resources.”
Laura Miller
“The absence of the killer is the making of this book, a constraint that allows it to become extraordinary…humane and imaginative…[Kolker] shows the dented magnificence and universal sorrow within ordinary lives, and makes you realize how much more they are worth.”
Washington Post
“Rich, tragic...monumental...true-crime reporting at its best.”
Miami Herald
“Kolker is a careful writer and researcher...[he paints] a far more nuanced picture of each young woman than any screaming headline could.”
New Yorker
“Through extensive interviews with the victims’ families and friends, Kolker creates compassionate portraits of the murdered young women, and uncovers the forces that drove them from their respective home towns into risky, but lucrative, careers as prostitutes in a digital age.”
“Kolker indulges in zero preaching and very little sociology; his is the lens of a classic police reporter. And often in Lost Girls, the facts are eloquent in themselves.”
New York Observer
“Some true crime books are exploitative…others grasp at serious literature. Robert Kolker’s new book falls into the latter category.”
Nina Burleigh
“Engrossing...a car-crash of a book...By humanizing the women, Mr. Kolker has produced a subtle indictment of the sex trade.”
Complex Magazine
“A heart-chilling non-fiction tour-de-force...terrifying and intensely reported.”
The Daily Beast
“Readers expecting an SVU-style true-crime story will be disappointed. But through detailed profiles of the victims themselves, Kolker has written a more provocative book—a book that is as much about class and economic pressures as it is about sex work and murder.”
Megan Abbott
“So masterful.”
The Guardian (UK)
“By learning the intimate details of the women’s lives, seeing them as humans rather than victims, we see our similarities…Lost Girls is possibly the realest, fullest picture of what is happening with sex work in the US right now.”
Barnes & Noble Review
“Kolker does not hold back in addressing the fact that there was dysfunction in these women’s lives. They were drug addicts and teenage mothers and petty criminals. They suffered. But he can also see that within those circumstances they had moments of strength and self-assurance. ”
National Post (Canada)
Lost Girls is partly unsolved mystery...[partly]the intimate story of the five women… [and] a case study in the profound impact of the Internet, and particularly Craigslist, on the business of buying and selling sex.”
Boston Globe
Library Journal
The lack of resolution is a foregone conclusion in Kolker's (contributing editor, New York) book about the serial murders in Long Island from 2007 to 2010 of five sex workers who advertised their services on Craigslist: it's right there in the title. However, Kolker's portrait of the young women and their families will draw readers in despite the frustration they will feel at the book's end. Although all five of the victims profiled were sex workers, Kolker does not condescend or dismiss the women as lost causes. While the author doesn't shy away from the more brutal aspects of the women's lives, he avoids the what-did-they-expect undercurrent that pervades reporting about murdered or injured sex workers. He tells their stories as completely as possible, presenting them as whole people, reminding the reader with the complexity of each woman's story that "the issue of blame itself, in the end, may be a trap. They weren't angels. They weren't devils." VERDICT Readers may find themselves checking in with the case in the future, hoping for some justice for the lost girls. Recommended for all true crime readers, particularly those in the New York area.—Kate Sheehan, Waterbury, CT

Read More

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.35(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >