Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  3,880 ratings  ·  552 reviews
Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.

One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went m...more
ebook, 305 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Harper
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Debbie Seaman
Aug 01, 2013 Debbie Seaman rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Viewers of Lifetime Channel, not true crime afficionados
Recommended to Debbie by: NY Times Review of Books
Perusing some of these reviews, I have no idea why no one else seems to be puzzled by how very little information about the police investigation is given. Yes, Kolker does a good job of creating portraits of the "Lost Girls" and their families, and the book's arguably best attribute is its portrayal of the new world of online prostitution and its pitfalls.
That having been said, I could have done with fewer family, Oak Beach, and FaceBook dramas in exchange for some good forensic information and...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I was struggling a bit with insomnia back in 2010 when Shannan Gilbert’s bizarre 911 calls made the news (a surefire way to get to sleep is some Nancy Grace – just sayin’). Although I didn’t intentionally keep up with the story, I also recall when the burlap-wrapped bodies started being discovered on Oak Beach and the fact that all of these women were escorts who advertised on Craigslist and were not local to Long Island, yet somehow t...more
According to the back of the book: "Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and internet prostitution."

Five girls. Maureen, Megan, Amber, Melissa and Shannon. All five had promise, loved ones, passions, pursuits, hopes and dreams. All five had turned to prostitution for their own reasons, specifically using the adult section on c...more
The author did a great job of capturing the story of the Long Island Serial Killer from all angles. I was glad to see that even though I was a vigilante web detective suffering from tunnel vision, the author described me as a "skilled researcher" and much of the information I gathered was ultimately utilized in the book.
This book held more interest for me since I lived very close to where these unfortunate ladies were found. It was truly a tragic turn of events though some might feel that the ladies' profession left them open to the dangers and darkness of the underworld of prostitution and craigslist posting escort services.

The thing that irked me and has during the recent news is that these mothers go on and on about their daughters, hold vigils, appear on TV, conduct interviews, sell tee shirts, and yet whe...more
Jenny Mccloskey
Could not put this book down. The kind of book that leaves me wondering, now what the HELL am I going to read? No doubt whatever I read next will suffer by close comparison.
Hank Stuever
Felt like 2.5 stars; rounded up to 3.

The subtitle makes it quite plain: this is an UNSOLVED AMERICAN MYSTERY. So, no matter how eloquent or meticulously reported, "Lost Girls" has a built-in disappointment as far as a conclusion goes. The book is quite often a fascinating study of what a terrible crime did to a small, gated neighborhood. It also takes a good long look at the outrage over how such a crime can happen when it happens to a group of people (prostitutes) that society cares little for,...more
Karin Slaughter
As a kid, I started reading true crime with Helter Skelter, then went on to the master (Ann Rule) and never looked back. Sometime in the last decade, true crime took a wrong turn (in my opinion, of course). The writing stopped focusing on the victim and started glorifying the killer. Serial killers (or just regular murderers) are not sexy or charming. They are violent killers. I hate when writers get so caught up in the who that they forget the why of the victim.

Lost Girls doesn't forget the vic...more
Catherine Ryan Howard
*Really* not having much luck with my saved-for-vacation book pile...

LOST GIRLS has a problem right from the start, and it was there before the author even sat down to write one word: the case is unsolved and there is nothing but conspiracy theories, rumors and internet-based speculation about what actually happened (as opposed to, say, the case of the Zodiac Killer, where although no one was ever convicted, there was at least a prime suspect). So already, this tale is murky, because unless the...more
♥ Marlene♥
As a very frequent reader of true crime I hardly if ever read unsolved crimes because the part I like best is when the perpetrator is caught and punished. How glad I am that I decided to give this book a try, if not I would have missed a very emotional and good read and would not have known about this shocking case.

First of all I compliment the author how well he brought the girls to life.Yes there were no photo's but I did not mind that so much. After I finished reading I looked them up online....more
Nancy Oakes
Jul 19, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of not crappy true crime
A no-miss, for sure.

read on for the brief version; a longer version can be found here.

Five young women are the central focus of this excellent book, five "lost girls" who went to work one day and never returned. All were escorts advertising their services on Craigslist; four of them ended up as bodies wrapped in burlap hidden near the main road of Jones Beach Island (NY), close to the small gated community of Oak Beach. The body of the fifth young woman was located almost a year to the day afte...more
Robert Kolker’s “Lost Girls” about Long Island’s Gilgo Beach serial killer is one of the most penetrating and haunting true crime books I’ve ever read. Chilling and controlled, it reminds me of a scary surgeon carefully cutting up a patient with skill and precision; with each page brimming with unbearable tension and heartbreak. The book centers on the disappearances and the murders of five prostitutes who advertised their services on sites such as Craiglist and Backpage: Shannan, Megan, Melissa...more
Mark Stevens
“Lost Girls” is a grim trip to the underbelly of prostitution and drugs and desperation. And serial killers. Robert Kolker draws intimate portraits of women on the economic edge of society—Maureen, Melissa, Shannon, Megan and Amber. He gives them identities, families, cares and concerns. He invites us into their worlds and we meet real individuals with real hopes and dreams. These are not quick, newspaper-abbreviated glimpses.

The first half of “Lost Girls” draws their slow journey down into the...more
Haunting. That's the first word that comes to mind after finishing Lost Girls, about the victims of the serial killer on Long Island.

The book was also chilling and compulsively read-able. I stayed up one night until 2 am, unable to put the book down, completely freaked out by what I was reading. The section detailing how the killer called the younger sister of one of the victims to taunt her still gives me chills when I think about it.

Because the killer has yet to be apprehended, and because t...more
One of the great films of the last decade is David Fincher's Zodiac. But even though it had all the ingredients of his earlier film Seven, it disappointed commercially and failed to win any prestige awards. Too long, maybe, too many characters to sort through.

But the biggest reason the movie flopped may have been something inherent to the story: the Zodiac killer, unlike Kevin Spacey in Seven, has never been caught. Maybe people of a certain age knew that going in, but for anyone under the age o...more
It’s hard to understand how a book filled with horrific detail about murders that happened to young girls can be an excellent, must read. Trust me, this is! Robert Kolker does not add fiction, because this book needs none. This book is filled with only factual information, told to Robert by the many people he interviewed….and he went everywhere to talk to those who knew the “lost girls”. He went to the girl’s hometowns, tracked down friends, associates, pimps, other escort girls, families, and b...more
Shannan Gilbert goes out on an escort call to a remote part of Long Island. While she is inside the house something goes wrong and she emerges hysterical and runs off into the night never to be seen again. The search for her leads to the discovery that some one has been using Gilgo beach as a dumping ground for bodies. Who that may be is still yet to be determined.

This book chronicles the lives of the known women whose bodies were discovered during the search for Shannan Gilbert. Maureen was a s...more
Jody  Julian
"The demand for commercial sex will never go away. Neither will the Internet; they're stuck with each other. It may no longer even matter anymore whether the sale of sex among consenting adults is right or wrong, immoral or empowering. What's clear is that no good can come from pretending that the people who participate in prostitution don't exist. That, after all, is what the killer is counting on." pg. 381

I read true crime because of books like this one. Robert Kolker humanizes the tragic dea...more
I don't often read true crime books, but I do love investigative reporting/narrative nonfiction. This book has been getting raves from pretty much everyone, including both highbrow and middlebrow book critics, so I gave it a shot.

Kolker explores the unsolved case of the Long Island serial killer, whose victims had one common characteristic: they were all escorts who used Craigslist to market their services. They all disappeared. Four of their bodies were found along a rural Long Island highway;...more
I had a difficult time deciding how to rate this book. At first it seemed intricately detailed, sharing the personal lives of five of the girls whose bodies have been found. The author obviously took a lot of time getting to know the victims through their family members, friends, and acquaintances. Once the book started to venture into the discovery of the bodies and the search for the killer, however, the whole thing got very confusing. I found myself having to reread multiple times in some ins...more
Elizabeth Desole
Because the killings are still unsolved, the author took the chance to write in depth about the lives of the victims of this Long Island serial killer. It was refreshing that he took the time and care to present them as real people instead of just writing them off as the detritus of society (they were all prostitutes). Don't expect it to be impartial though. I can't even believe how he managed to get these women's families to open up to him so much only to savage some of them. I highly doubt som...more
Aug 25, 2014 Sera rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: Book Page Magazine
Shelves: kindle, non-fiction, own
I read this book about 5 prostitutes who were killed and their bodies found next to a gated community in Long Island. Kolker did a great job writing about the lives of each of the girls in the first half of the book. In the second half, he delves into the murder investigation and explores the issue of whether society cares less about the deaths of these girls because of how they made money. Kolker also explores how technology, such as the use of Craig's List, makes it more difficult to not only...more
An unpolished look at the gritty narrative of prostitution and commercial sex in America, Kolker centers his investigative report on murder victims whose remains were found in Long Island. I like the way Kolker tells the narrative in vignettes and humanizes the women who were victimized. This book goes a long way to show how missing and murdered prostitutes are often written off by society, and worse, the police tasked with investigating their disappearances. Truly eye-opening and heart wrenchin...more
“I can’t believe they’re doing all this for a whore,” comments a TV cameraman to the author of Lost Girls.

‘Whore’, it is clear, ranks significantly below ‘human being’. The quoted cameraman is tasked with covering a memorial service held for the victims of the Long Island serial killer. The serial killer in question is the latest in a long run of killers who have managed to stay beneath the radar largely because they targeted prostitutes (and not, y’know, actual people).

In Lost Girls, Robert Kol...more
It's difficult to write about serial killers without abstracting the story into poles of dark and light. Serial killers lend themselves to torture porn, flat reportage, and academic treatises. We devour these stories. Their names are famous, their deeds infamous, and their victims - anonymous. In Green River, Running Red, Anne Rule writes about the Green River Killer, except she doesn't - instead, she writes about his victims. We come to the story through their stories and it is a powerful exper...more
Well written, engaging and reads like fiction. I picked this up because I enjoyed The Good Nurse so much. Turns out I really like true crime novels! Unlike The Good Nurse, the killer in this "story" is still out there.

The author does a great job of delving into the victims' histories. The one single similarity between all the girls was their horrible, tragic beginnings. I'll be careful here because these are real people who lived this horrific nightmare (and are still living it), but the famili...more
Gripping non-fiction account of the victims of the "Long Island Serial Killer" who preyed (preys?) upon professional escorts. This is a story of five of the girls and their families both in the years leading up to their disappearances as well as the aftermath. The author takes us back, all the way back to their childhoods, to give us a complete picture of their pasts. The writing is engaging and he does a solid job of humanizing these women who at times can be really horrible people. The glimpse...more
Susan Merrell
Impressive both for its reporting and Kolker's humanity. Without being a Capote-esque journalist inserted into narrative, we get a real sense of his empathy and his intelligence, and of the sad stories of the murdered women. Most painful is the realization that we will probably never know what happened to the victims.
I liked this book as much as one can like a book about prostitution and girls being murdered and dumped on the side of a road in a real-life unsolved mystery (if that makes any sense). I don't often read non-fiction, and when I do, I often lose interest. That wasn't the case with this book. It provided a fascinating and disturbing look into "escorts": how some of them end up doing what they do, why they keep doing it, what their families think/do about it, and how little these particular women m...more
Bill Kupersmith
True crime books are a lot different from detective fiction. Even the most hackneyed & clichéd mystery novel ultimately upholds our belief in a world where evil, however unacceptable, can be dealt with, explained, & set right. But with real crimes we’re appalled by the unnecessary suffering inflicted on the victims & disgusted with the murderer even when found & punished. And when he remains undetected there seems a mysterious hole in our world. That’s so with the murderer known...more
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“about $3,500 of dope a week, or $14,000” 0 likes
“The demand for commercial sex will never go away. Neither will the Internet; they’re stuck with each other. It may no longer even matter anymore whether the sale of sex among consenting adults is wrong or right, immoral or empowering. What’s clear is that no good can come from pretending that the people who participate in prostitution don’t exist. That, after all, is what the killer was counting on.” 0 likes
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