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Lost Girls Mass Market Paperback – July 3, 2012

3.4 out of 5 stars 206 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A close look at a killer . . . Lost Girls by veteran journalist and true-crime writer Caitlin Rother is a deeply reported, dispassionately written attempt to determine what created a monster and predator. It is a cautionary tale and a horror story, done superbly by a writer who knows how to burrow into a complex case without becoming captive to her sources." ----Los Angeles Times

"The disturbing story of John Gardner, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered two teenage girls in San Diego. . . . Rother addresses the complexity and difficulty of managing paroled sexual predators. This book will be popular with fans of Rother, Ann Rule, and other popular true crime writers." ---- Library Journal

"Well-written, thought-provoking . . . if ever a 'true crime' deserved a book-length study, this is certainly that crime." ----San Diego Union Tribune

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Caitlin Rother has written or co-authored ten books.   Her latest is Then No One Can Have Her.  Her previous titles include:  Naked Addiction, I'll Take Care of You, Lost Girls, Poisoned Love, Dead Reckoning, Body Parts, Twisted Triangle, Deadly Devotion, and My Life, Deleted. Rother, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, worked as an investigative reporter at daily newspapers for nineteen years before deciding to write books full-time. Her work has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. Her more than 100 TV/radio appearances include Nancy Grace, On the Record, the Jay Thomas Show, Snapped, and numerous shows on Investigation Discovery, E!, A&E, XM Radio, America at Night, C-SPAN and various affiliates. Rother also works as a book doctor, writing/research coach and consultant, and teaches narrative non-fiction writing and digital journalism at UCSD Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink.

Please visit her website at caitlinrother.com.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle; 1 edition (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786022183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786022182
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Her latest release, THEN NO ONE CAN HAVE HER (Kensington/Pinnacle, 2015), is a story of blood money, sex addiction, manipulation and murder in a small mountain town in Arizona, and a roller coaster ride to justice. This complex legal tale involves a deep love gone wrong between Carol Kennedy--a peaceful, loving mother of two, artist and therapist--and her "soulmate" ex-husband Steve DeMocker, an investment broker. DeMocker's family believes he was wrongly convicted for Carol's murder, which occurred just 35 days after their divorce was finalized. (Kensington/Pinnacle).

Rother's debut crime novel, NAKED ADDICTION (WildBlue Press, 2014), unveils a lethal confluence of sex, drugs and the murder of young-beauty school entrepreneurs that oozes into the wealthy beach community of La Jolla. Undercover narcotics detective Ken Goode confronts his own demons as he investigates these homicides, which are complicated by a drug ring, an escort service, a seductive witness, and fears that his missing sister could be the next murder victim. UPDATE: An audio book of this title was just released in October 2015.

I'LL TAKE CARE OF YOU is the true story behind the cold case murder of multimillionaire entrepreneur Bill McLaughlin in Newport Beach, Calif., by his femme fatale fiancee, Nanette Johnston Packard, and her NFL-linebacker lover, Eric Naposki. (Kensington, 2014)

BODY PARTS is the true story of Wayne Adam Ford, a serial killer who killed four troubled women, then did the rare deed of turning himself in before he could kill again. (Re-released by Kensington, 2013)

Rother's most controversial true crime book is LOST GIRLS, a behind-the-scenes account of the rape and murder of San Diego area teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois by sexual predator John Gardner (Kensington, 2012).

Her NYT bestseller MY LIFE, DELETED, is the inspirational memoir of former NFL player Scott Bolzan, who rebuilds his life after suffering a brain injury and losing his entire long-term memory. She co-authored the book with Scott and his wife Joan. (HarperOne, 2011)

The updated POISONED LOVE (Kensington, 2011) adds 20 pages of new developments in the Kristin Rossum case, in which the beautiful San Diego toxicologist was convicted of poisoning her husband with powerful narcotics she stole from her lab at the county Medical Examiner's Office, then staging a suicide scene by sprinkling red rose petals over her husband's body.

Before writing books full-time, Rother worked for 19 years as an investigative reporter for daily newspapers, covering issues ranging from addiction, suicide, mental illness and murder to politics and corruption at City Hall and in Congress. She now writes books full-time, teaches writing and works as a book doctor, writing/research/promotions coach, publishing consultant, speaker and event planner.

Rother was a Pulitzer-nominated staff writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune, and also has been published in Cosmopolitan, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, The Daily Beast and Huffington Post. Her more than 100 TV/radio appearances include "Nancy Grace," the "Jay Thomas Show," "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren, "Women Who Kill" on E!, "Snapped," and numerous shows on Investigation Discovery, C-SPAN, XM Radio and various PBS affiliates.

Rother, who earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from University of California Berkeley and her master's in journalism from Northwestern University, teaches narrative non-fiction, digital journalism, and author branding/promotions at UCSD Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink. Please visit her website at caitlinrother.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I can't say I have ever read a true- crime book before, but having followed the searches for Amber and Chelsea closely, I preordered this book. Had I known the parents of the two beautiful girls who were murdered were strongly opposed to the books release, I probably would not have purchased it.

That said, I read the book in just two days. I found the story of John Gardner's evolution into becoming the rapist and murderer he is deeply disturbing. Rother objectively tells of his childhood in which he was described by one doctor as having the worst case of ADD he had ever seen. Some of the most disturbing aspects of Gardner are that he had many facets to his personality, and could be considerate and charming one minute, and then quickly show his evil side. How much safer we would be as a society if people capable of such horrific crimes were one dimensional.

Rother also gives information about Gardner's mother, who was overwhelmed with trying to help her son find appropriate treatment. The reader will see moments in which she could have helped with the search of Chelsea had she offered up the information and opened her eyes. That she was so worried when her 30-year-old son was little late for dinner was very telling. She clearly enabled her son. At the same time, this woman worked hard to try to find a place that would take her son in for psychiatric care which he desperately needed. Gardner wanted to be locked up, and had told doctors he wanted to hurt people, only to be given new medication and sent on his way.

Also, the reader will see the amazing lengths the county and its detectives went through to try to bring Chelsea home alive. People do care, and there are many unsung heroes in law enforcement.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Chelsea King was a senior in high school. She was an academic leader among her peers with a strong conviction to make the world a better place. Often thinking of activities that would benefit her community, Chelsea frequently set these ideas in motion with the help of friends and family. Beautiful, intelligent, selfless, and dependable, Chelsea was the teenage daughter most parents can only dream about.

Then one day she failed to come home. Her parents began a frantic search for their daughter but found only her car. As Chelsea was a minor and had an impeccable track record of always being in touch with family and friends, police immediately formed search parties and informed residents of the area about the missing girl by way of television and helicopter announcements.

Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain. A few days later Chelsea's body was found in a shallow grave.

But police had arrested one John Albert Gardner, Jr., a bipolar sex offender whose mother lived in the area near Rancho Bernardo Community Park. Several witnesses had seen Gardner on the trials the day of Chelsea's disappearance and soon enough DNA from Chelsea's discarded clothing would be matched to Gardner.

John Gardner realized the death penalty was a very real possibility and made a deal with investigators: he would show them where to find the body of Amber Dubois, another young teen who had disappeared without a trace the year before Chelsea.

Veteran true crime author Caitlin Rother has taken the tough task of recounting Gardner's story in her recently published book Lost Girls.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have lived in both San Diego and Riverside Counties my entire life and I don't get the anger toward this book. Both families have aired their story for the whole world on 48 hours and ID channel specials. This book is not about the girls and their private lives, but rather that a seemingly normal looking man could be such a monster and bring heartache and horror to two families and Southern California. It asks a lot of poignant questions about mental illness, treatment and just plain evil. It is well written, compelling and devastating. I would imagine the author would have gladly donated a percentage of her earnings to the charities set up by the girl's families had they not been so hostile about this book. IMHO-author should do this anyway and take the high road!
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I read this book in less than 48 hours. Ms. Rother wrote this book on a very painful subject with extreme sensitivity and thoroughness. I am a Rancho Bernardo resident, and lived through that painful period of our history. She gave a lot of insight into the mind of the killer, and his family, and how the system failed to protect those girls. I highly recommend this book, and I am shocked to see so many negative "reviews" from people who didn't even have the decency to actually read the book, but are simply trying to quash the author's First Amendment rights. I was under the impression we still lived in America.
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I remember firsthand, this horrific crime since I live in San Diego. I especially found interesting, the list of anti-psychotic drugs given to Gardner during his early years. I have a good friend who is a psychiatric social worker and we had a discussion about the various medications given to children with ADHD and bi-polar disorder. It seems to me to be a rather hit or miss proposition in many cases, and I wonder if the drugs might make the condition worse rather than improve it. It probably didn't help that due to the fact that Gardner's mother had to rely on public treatmentl services due to her limited income, young Gardner had many different doctors during his early years.
I thought the author did a decent job presenting the chronology of the events leading up to the murders, especially the failure of the system to recognize that Gardner was a ticking time bomb, and I disagree with the family's insistence that she donate all of the profits to the fund.
I recommend this book to anyone who want some insight into why people like Gardner do what they do.
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