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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  11,431 ratings  ·  1,261 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. A triumph of reporting, a riveting narrative, and "a lashing cri ...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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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
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 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 vic
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 aren’t 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 victim’s 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 en ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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,
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
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 I’m 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 it’s truth and sometimes it’s fairy tales. This one falls under the brutal truth category.

Long Island has a ser
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best true crime books I have ever read. Nah, scratch that, it is the best true crime book I have ever read.

It has all the makings of a great 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 sen
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 afte
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 whe
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
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.
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, S
♥ 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.
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 fi
Jenny Mccloskey
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.
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 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
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 t
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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 o
"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
Sep 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, crime, nonfiction
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
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 s
Mikey B.
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Anita Pomerantz
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Cats of Ulthar
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
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.
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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.
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Play Book Tag: Lost Girls; 3 stars 3 21 Mar 02, 2017 04:41PM  
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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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