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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  8,052 Ratings  ·  967 Reviews
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,
ebook, 305 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Harper
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Debbie Seaman
Aug 01, 2013 Debbie Seaman rated it it was ok
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
Nov 21, 2016 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Dave Cullen's Columbine, fans of quality true crime stories

Possibly the truest thing that can be said about Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is that it’s atypical for the true crime genre. This is not 399 pages of mostly investigation twists and turns and speculation regarding the killer(s). Lost Girls is primarily about each of the murder victims, all of whom were escorts, dismissed as mere objects in life. Author Robert Kolker banished the stoicism from standard-issue news reports about five murdered New York City prostitutes;
Karin Slaughter
Mar 05, 2014 Karin Slaughter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

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
Aug 03, 2013 Marialyce rated it it was ok
Shelves: august-2013
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
Jun 15, 2013 Camille rated it liked it
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
Catherine 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
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,
Jul 10, 2013 Brendan rated it really liked it
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.
Jenny Mccloskey
Sep 07, 2013 Jenny Mccloskey rated it it was amazing
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.
Nancy Oakes
Jul 19, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it  ·  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
Feb 01, 2015 Shaun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tony and Al were guys Maureen had been hoping to get to know better, guys who might help her stop doing this [prostitution] one day. She had told her friend Jay DuBrule that porn was legal and safer and easier than what she was doing; it resembled a legitimate entertainment career and was one step closer to the life she dreamed about.

Okay, so WTF!!!!

This is why I read, to understand how someone can feel this way. On the surface this passage blows my mind. I'm certainly no prude, but I'm the fi
♥ 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.
Mark Stevens
Jan 11, 2014 Mark Stevens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
Nov 14, 2013 Marcos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 05, 2016 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, crime, 2016
I read this book because a family member who shares my Kindle account bought it, so there it was. I've complained before about my general failure to see the appeal of true crime books, but--surprise--this isn't really a true crime book. First off, how could it be, when the culprit has never been found? All the kinds of salacious details that true crime books would allow us to puzzle over are unknown here. Over several years, a number of young sex workers who operate solo on Craigslist or Backpag ...more
Jul 15, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mikey B.
May 05, 2015 Mikey B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging and very sad book. It explores in detail how these five young women descended into a nether-world life of selling their bodies for money and hard drug use (cocaine, heroin, crack, meth...).

We are given their family background and friendships. Initially they started with pimps as their guardians – but then used the internet (Craiglist) to solicit customers. Four of them were abducted and murdered between July 2007 and September 2010. Their partially buried bodies were found not far ap
"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
Full Review at Booklikes.

What is the worth a person? It’s all equal you say. Well, that would be nice, but let’s get real. Turn on the nightly news, and the only people that ever go missing are white, attractive women from good families. Okay, sometimes there might be a minority or an older woman. But the national news seems to be saying that if you are poor, ugly, a minority, male, or above a certain age you do not have to worry about going missing or anything happening to you at all, unless it
The Haunted Reading Room 2017 - Year of Lovecraft
Review: LOST GIRLS by Robert Kolker

LOST GIRLS is the single most engrossing true crime account I have read. Author Robert Kolker, who specifically avoids fictionalizing any portion of his account, introduces readers to a much-maligned, often misguided, sometimes greedy but other times simply clawing at survival, societal construct: sex workers, specifically prostitution conducted via the Internet. Long Island, Eastern Connecticut, and upstate New York, as well as New York City, are the locales f
Aug 21, 2013 Ariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
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
Anita Pomerantz
A very interesting murder mystery, poorly told.

Lost Girls is a true crime book focusing on a serial killer who murdered prostitutes and dumped their remains in a small area of Long Island. This book could have been much better, but Kolker did a reasonable job of telling the stories of the victims. He definitely elaborates on how prostitution operates in today's Internet-based world, and the risks that these young women faced as they worked.

Ultimately, though, the story is unsatisfying. First, it
Aug 03, 2015 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this on tape, driving across Illinois farmland. When I arrived at my destination, I sat in my car, unable to stop listening. This book is enthralling. There is a part of it that has a true crime element, but since so little is known about the killers and the actual murders, that is not the predominant part of the book. Instead, you get to know, in a very deep and nuanced way, the five girls at the center of the book. Their lives were fascinating and absolutely worthy of the time th ...more
This is one of those fantastic non-fiction pieces that reads like really good fiction! The story is told in a compelling manner and it did a great job of putting all of the events together in a manageable way. He brought the women - the Lost Girls - to life in this one. They were a group of women with very interesting and complex lives. I really appreciated the respect that Robert Kolker gave to them in this book.

I'm not usually a fan of the whole true crime genre but I think this is an outstan
Aug 25, 2014 Sera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: Book Page Magazine
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle, 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
Victoria Moore
Sep 16, 2014 Victoria Moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Kolker's phenomenal non-fiction crime thriller "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery" is engrossing, tragic, frustrating and infuriating. He so thoroughly emerses you in the world of these victims that you actually feel pain and loss when their bodies are found in Long Island. Presumably killed by a serial killer the one thing that ties them together is that they're all internet escorts. Regardless of their circumstances, which are dour, Kolker writes about them, their lives, friends ...more
David Bales
Heartbreaking book about the Ocean Parkway murders on Long Island and the women and their stories who disappeared and whose remains were eventually found, the victims of a serial killer. Robert Kolker is outstanding in his investigative reporting and provides much commentary on the tentacles of circumstance surrounding poverty, addiction, family dysfunction and class that led the women to work in the highly dangerous trade of Craigslist sex worker.
Dec 26, 2015 Tasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bee-books, non-fic
I'm glad these girls have a voice out there. A sad, unresolved story. Reading about family dynamics is always interesting and you get a lot of that here.
Katherine Addison
This is a fascinating, disturbing, terrifying, and deeply sad book. It's a study of the deaths of five women, all of them "escorts" who advertised on Craigslist, four of the five (if not all five) murdered by the same person. Kolker isn't so much interested in the investigation as he is in the biographies of the victims and the stories of the people who survive them. He's compassionately non-judgmental (I think the only person I could actually tell Kolker didn't like was Shannan Gilbert's last j ...more
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Mic Breaks Only: Lost: Fin! (Full Book Discussion) 2 7 Oct 21, 2014 04:17PM  
Nerdy Book Club: * *Discussion* Lost Girls by Robert Kolker 10 28 Sep 18, 2014 10:32AM  
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