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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

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3.56  ·  Rating details ·  13,935 ratings  ·  1,486 reviews
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. Lost Girls is a portrait of unsolved murders in an idyllic part ...more
Hardcover, 399 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Harper
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Emily Ghettoside by Jill Leovy. In Cold Blood, obvs. The Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez. Columbine by Dave Cullen. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. The…moreGhettoside by Jill Leovy. In Cold Blood, obvs. The Book of Matt by Stephen Jimenez. Columbine by Dave Cullen. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. The Dead Girl by Melanie Thernstrom. Can you tell I'm a bookseller? ;)(less)

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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  13,935 ratings  ·  1,486 reviews


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Debbie Seaman
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Caroline
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Dave Cullen's Columbine, fans of quality true crime stories
***NO SPOILERS***

Possibly the truest thing that can be said about Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is that its 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;
...more
Karin Slaughter
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Carol
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is a portrait of the women, most in the escort business, found slain on a remote stretch of beach in Long Island. It was sad to read this story of mothers, sisters, daughters, tossed away like pieces of garbage in burlap sacks by some depraved individual, who remains at large. The author, Robert Kolker, in this thorough investigative narrative gives these women a face and name, if unable to bring them back to life, at least dignifying the women they were. ...more
Krystin Rachel
Book Blog | Bookstagram

Opening Mystery: Seriously, WTF happened to Shannan Gilbert?
Main Creep: Peter Hackett has some attention issues
Plot Truthy-ness: A humanizing portrait

I'm pretty fascinated by the Long Island Serial killer case. It's been some time since we had an evil, undetectable serial killer case to watch in real-time. Though it's faded from news and been replaced by, well, mostly Trump for fuck's sake... this is certainly a story to keep a light on. There are dozens of women whose
...more
Kelli
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
Ugh! What is happening here?! How is this not solved? How are there no suspects? What is going on with the police investigation? Is this a coverup?You arent going to find any of those answers by reading this book but what you will find are very extensive histories of each of the victims and the victims mothers, and a lot of extraneous information. Wonderful that the author humanizes the victims, devastating that he even has to...but the non-linear structure of this narrative coupled with an ...more
Bren
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Non Fiction and True Crime.
I do include True Crime in my list of genres I read. Some are better then others. This book is among the b est I have read so if you are a fan of this genre and have not read this, put i t on your list!

In some ways, it is not even a book I would classify under that genre. This book is not about the killer. It is about the victims.




Kolker goes into their lives and writes their story with heart, sensitivity and humility. It is very different then the usual true crime book. It is actually rather
...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I was struggling a bit with insomnia back in 2010 when Shannan Gilberts bizarre 911 calls made the news (a surefire way to get to sleep is some Nancy Grace just sayin). Although I didnt 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 took
...more
❤️
The best true crime book I have ever read.

It has all the makings of what one wants out of a true crime book - an interesting case, scandal, gripping storytelling - but what was especially great about the book is how Robert Kolker handled the life stories of the victims. I read a lot of true crime, and I watch a lot of true crime documentaries, and unfortunately a lot of times a victim's humanity can be forgotten in the name of juicy sensationalism and drama. That was not the case with Lost
...more
Hank Stuever
Oct 03, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Amanda NEVER MANDY
I am currently working through my to-read list. I am trying not to add more books until I knock some of the older ones out. This book has been on my list for a long time and Im not sure why it ended up on there to begin with. I imagine I read an awesome review that sold me on it or it happened to catch me at just the right time in my reading cycle. I do like to jump around. Sometimes its truth and sometimes its fairy tales. This one falls under the brutal truth category.

Long Island has a serial
...more
Nancy Oakes
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Camille
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
...more
Catherine Howard
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
*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
Marialyce
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Alissa Patrick
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

I remember hearing this story in the news a few years back . This was a very compelling story, moreso since this was a true story . It reads like a fiction novel so if reading non-fiction isn't normally your cup of tea I would suggest you try this.

Shannan Gilbert, an escort/prostitute is heard screaming for help and running for her life in a quiet gated community in Long Island. She knocks on people's doors begging for help. She calls 911 and is on the phone w police for 22 mins. Yet,
...more
Brendan
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
♥ Marlene♥
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Shaun
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Jenny Parker
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
♓️ Michelle
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lost Girls is an amazing piece of work. Ive been a huge fan of true crime since I read In Cold Blood as a kid. My mom hid Helter Skelter from me, saying I was too young and she was probably right. Ive also devoured everything that Ann Rule has written. Shes definitely missed in this genre. There have only been a few true crime books that I have not been able to finish reading. This has usually been due to the writing being so all over the place that its tough to keep track of who is who or I ...more
Michael
Aug 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Mark Stevens
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 societyMaureen, 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 shady
...more
Morgan
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
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
...more
Marcos
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Robert Kolkers Lost Girls about Long Islands Gilgo Beach serial killer is one of the most penetrating and haunting true crime books Ive 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
Ariel
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Jody
"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
...more
Emily
Sep 05, 2016 rated it liked it
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 ...more
David Bales
May 24, 2016 added it
Shelves: 2016
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.
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 ...more
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Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are the cohosts of the wildly popular true-crime podcast My Favorite Murder. This spring they'll...
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“Dormer, in other words, had no special knowledge about these victims. He was playing the averages—working from a set of accepted assumptions made by many people in law enforcement about who typically goes missing and who gets murdered by serial killers. University of Illinois criminologist Steve Egger, author of a popular 2002 study called The Killers Among Us, has asserted that nearly 78 percent of female victims of serial murderers are prostitutes. That finding does not seem to have been replicated in any other research, but it’s become received wisdom.” 0 likes
“A notorious dandy, Ray was wearing a derby hat and a plaid vest with a matching suit and a long plaid overcoat. As a final flourish, he was carrying a gnarled corkscrew-shaped shillelagh.” 0 likes
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