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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery Hardcover – July 9, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (July 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006218363X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062183637
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, July 2013: As you might expect from the story of a serial killer who preys on prostitutes, the young women in Robert Kolker’s enthralling Lost Girls were already, in many ways, lost. Prostitutes and runaways, their murders might have easily elicited a what-did-they-expect shrug. (Certainly that’s how the police at times seemed to handle the case). What sets Lost Girls apart is Kolker’s empathetic and detailed portrayals of the victims, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with their families and friends. This is an impressive and impassioned work of investigative journalism, and a chilling commentary on the entangled influences of economics, race, technology and politics on sex and murder in the Internet age. Kolker, a reporter for New York magazine, is that rare-breed journalist who latched onto a difficult story and refused to let go. In this haunting tale, he bravely and meticulously recreates the lives of once hopeful but sadly forgotten young women, while shining a light on the economic hardships that pushed them to make tough, risky choices. A colleague told me that after finishing Lost Girls she spent hours researching the victims and the case online. Her warning to me is my promise to you: Be prepared to obsess. --Neal Thompson

Review

“Kolker is a careful writer and researcher...[he paints] a far more nuanced picture of each young woman than any screaming headline could.” (Miami Herald)

“Through extensive interviews with the victims’ families and friends, Kolker creates compassionate portraits of the murdered young women, and uncovers the forces that drove them from their respective home towns into risky, but lucrative, careers as prostitutes in a digital age.” ( New Yorker )

“Captivating.” (Boston Globe)

“Robert Kolker unflinchingly probes the 21st-century innovations that facilitated these crimes… ...An important examination of the socioeconomic and cultural forces that can shape a woman’s entry into prostitution.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Beautifully and provocatively written.... [Lost Girls] will make all but the hardest-hearted empathetic. Add a baffling whodunit that remains, as the subtitle indicates, unsolved, and you have a captivating true crime narrative that’s sure to win new converts and please longtime fans of the genre.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Robert Kolker’s LOST GIRLS is reportage at the highest level; it’s miss-your-bedtime storytelling… It’s a wonder.” (Darin Strauss, author of Half A Life)

“Lost Girls is a marvelous book, taking a complicated, trying story and making it compulsively readable. Kolker is an outstanding reporter and a sensitive narrator who does justice to a horrible tragedy by paying exactly the kind of attention that no one else did, or would.” (Nick Reding, author of Methland)

“The absence of the killer is the making of this book, a constraint that allows it to become extraordinary…humane and imaginative…[Kolker] shows the dented magnificence and universal sorrow within ordinary lives, and makes you realize how much more they are worth.” ( Laura Miller, Salon )

“Kolker indulges in zero preaching and very little sociology; his is the lens of a classic police reporter. And often in Lost Girls, the facts are eloquent in themselves.” (Newsday)

“Some true crime books are exploitative…others grasp at serious literature. Robert Kolker’s new book falls into the latter category.” (New York Observer)

“Readers expecting an SVU-style true-crime story will be disappointed. But through detailed profiles of the victims themselves, Kolker has written a more provocative book—a book that is as much about class and economic pressures as it is about sex work and murder.” ( The Daily Beast )

“Meticulously reported and beautifully written, Robert Kolker’s Lost Girls is a haunting and powerful crime story that gives voice to those who can no longer be heard. It is a story that you will not be able to forget.” (David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z)

“A gothic whodunit for the Internet age…nearly unputdownable…[LOST GIRLS is] a horrific, cautionary tale that makes for a very different kind of beach read…Kolker expertly chronicles the sad cycle of poor, uneducated white women faced with lots of kids and few resources.” (Mimi Swartz, New York Times Book Review)

“Rich, tragic...monumental...true-crime reporting at its best.” (Washington Post)

“Engrossing...a car-crash of a book...By humanizing the women, Mr. Kolker has produced a subtle indictment of the sex trade.” ( Nina Burleigh, New York Observer )

“A heart-chilling non-fiction tour-de-force...terrifying and intensely reported.” ( Complex Magazine )

“A rare gem of a book that not only tells a riveting story but illuminates something about a slice of America and gets into a lot of very deep issues. Its really great on every front.” ( Slate, DoubleX )

“Riveting and often heartbreaking...a lashing critique of how society, and the police, let these young women down.” ( Dwight Garner, New York Times )

“Immensely evocative...we are left with is a visceral understanding of the lives of the victims and why they should have mattered more.” ( New York Daily News )

“Terrific...vivid and moving...Grade: A-” ( Entertainment Weekly )

“So masterful.” ( Megan Abbott, author of Dare Me , via Twitter )

“By learning the intimate details of the women’s lives, seeing them as humans rather than victims, we see our similarities…Lost Girls is possibly the realest, fullest picture of what is happening with sex work in the US right now.” (The Guardian (UK))

“Kolker does not hold back in addressing the fact that there was dysfunction in these women’s lives. They were drug addicts and teenage mothers and petty criminals. They suffered. But he can also see that within those circumstances they had moments of strength and self-assurance. ” (Barnes & Noble Review )

Lost Girls is partly unsolved mystery...[partly]the intimate story of the five women… [and] a case study in the profound impact of the Internet, and particularly Craigslist, on the business of buying and selling sex.” (National Post (Canada))

Customer Reviews

This is a well researched, well written and provocative book.
robert s. ginsburg
Like other commenters, the author jumps from one victim to another making it very difficult to keep track of all the characters in this story.
boogaboo
So your read the entire book and you STILL don't know who did it.
Barbara

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 90 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In December 2010, the remains of four young women were found buried in Oak Beach, a community in one of New York's barrier islands. The women all worked as escorts, as did a fifth woman whose body was discovered later. They all disappeared between 2007 and 2010. Arguing that these lost girls do not deserve to be stereotyped and forgotten simply because they engaged in prostitution, Robert Kolker brings them back to life in a book that is dedicated to telling their stories, if not to solving the mystery of their killer(s).

A pregnant high school dropout at sixteen, Maureen went through a series of dead-end jobs and failed relationships. A hair stylist in training who did well in high school, Melissa saw a path out of Buffalo when a man (who turned out to be a pimp) offered her a job cutting hair in a New York barbershop. Rebellious, impossible to control, and marked as white trash, Megan was impregnated by a thirty-two year old when she was seventeen. Sexually abused as a child, Amber eventually joined her sister at an escort service because the workers provided her with a sense of family. All of the women advertised on Craigslist and disappeared after making appointments with unidentified clients.

Raised in a series of foster homes, Shannon worked for an escort agency that catered to high-end clients before the police put it out of business. She also turned to Craigslist. Her last appointment was in Oak Beach. Unlike the other lost girls, Shannon made quite a scene before she disappeared, running around Oak Beach screaming and banging on doors, perhaps frightened by something, perhaps suffering from cocaine psychosis. She called 911 but got no help from the police. Her client that night was Joe Brewer.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Oliveira on July 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read Robert Kolker's "Lost Girls" in one sitting, so immersed was I with this "unsolved American mystery." I would urge you to read it as soon as you can, but first let me give you a few reasons why you should. Without trying to give too much away, let me describe you (partially) the main narrative of Kolker's story. Almost the first half of the book is concerned with the story of four young women: one chapter narrating their personal histories (with their actual names) and the other recounting their descend into prostitution (with their respective pseudonyms). Briefly, these are their stories:

- Maureen/Marie: A telemarketer who wishes to be a poet, or a song composer for rap artists. Unable to launch her career, she is astonished by the amount of money that escorts (working for certain agencies) can actually make. Maureen sees Craigslist as an opportunity to make money without having to pay escort services.

- Melissa/Chloe: A girl whose dream is to open a hair-salon, she grows up in Buffalo, NY, in a neighborhood where hers is one of the only white families. "The race thing was a peculiar subject for all of them." Melissa feels like she was born on the wrong body since she wants to be black. That is why she finds herself a black boyfriend, a boy involved in drug dealing, and moves to NYC.

- Shannan/Angelina: Diagnosed as bipolar, and described by her mother as "independent-minded," Shannan decides to grow up in a series of foster homes rather than with her mother. Seeking to have "the best of everything," Shannan wants to pursue a singing career and also moves to NYC.

- Megan/Lexi: As a child, growing up in Portland, ME, Megan becomes the perfect example of misbehavior.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Deborah S. Eden on July 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am very hard on true crime - for me to give five stars it has to be outstanding. This is the author's first book - I hope he writes more if this is any indication of how he writes - the girls come alive - their stories told in a way that doesn't make them seem sad or pathetic - and I've known strippers and prostitutes not all of them are drug addicted losers- some of them just made a lot of money and then used it to open up their own businesses or just supplmented their income.

These girls were murdered, however, and the murderer was never caught (this is all written on the back jacket) I liked how the author weaved each individual story and then their "chosen" name and ultimately what happened to them and the ensuing investigation. The author is no slouch. He's right up on the language it doesn't come off as condescending or snobby, to these girls - as it shouldn't and I just think this is a remarkable job. I really hope this is the beginning of Mr. Kolker's career in true crime - some have a stilted "dry" way of telling a true crime story that drives me crazy this is told in a way that pulls one in and I found myself wanting to read this when I had other things to do. I really enjoyed it though not what happened to the girl. That is a shame.
But if you're looking for a great true crime or just an interesting true story - this is it.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E.Paige VINE VOICE on July 27, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I just finished Kolker's "Lost Girls" and I had to go back and reread several passages because I didn't want the book to end. This book is absolutely fascinating and extremely well researched. Each of the five most recent victims has their story told with sensitivity and grace. The families of the women must have really opened up to the author because their most intimate stories are told here. The fact the killer(s) is still out there adds to the suspense of the book. I really disagree with the reviewer on here who felt the author wasn't connected enough with the police. As I pointed out under his review, how much can the police tell an investigative journalist when the crimes remain unsolved? The reviewer also found fault with how much the Internet and Facebook were referenced but the web is actually a center player in these cases and FB is how people communicate. FB provided the author with a wealth of information on how the friends and families of the victims felt minute by minute in their own words. The crimes keep me up at night as I try to figure out whether Shannan Gilbert was a victim of the same "Long Island" serial killer or just a coincidental isolated murder (or as the police continue to allege) an unfortunate accident? Does this killer reside in Oak Beach and if so, why can't he be caught? What are his connections to New York City and Oak Beach? Why did Dr. Peter Hackett insert himself into this case? The questions go on and we can only hope a resolution can be found for the families of these young women. The fact they were escorting on Craigslist makes them no less important or missed by their loved ones. An intriguing book that should be missed by no avid TC reader.
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More About the Author

Robert Kolker is a New York magazine contributing editor and a finalist for the National Magazine Award. He writes frequently about issues surrounding criminal justice and the unforeseen impacts of extraordinary events on everyday people. He lives with his family in Brooklyn. This is his first book.

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