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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery Hardcover – July 9, 2013
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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
“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)
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The book is paced out well and does not grow wearisome, as some non - fiction can. I was engrossed in the details of this book. It really hit me emotionally. It brought out horror, pity, righteous anger, bafflement, and sorrow. I hoped for an ending like the movies, but reality only gives enough answers to invite further questions, it seems.
I sincerely appreciate the care which the author took to humanize the girls, be very detailed and give an unbiased view of the events and people. I think that this is a great tribute to all of these poor, lost souls.
I hope they catch who did the killing and for peace for the loved ones left behind in the wake of such atrocities. I recommend this book and thank the author.
It is sad that these young women lost their lives in the way they did. Some reviewers pointed out that these women chose this life, which is true. However, given their circumstances they did not have lots of options. The lure of the money got them into the life and kept them there. Minimum wage jobs provide enough to live paycheck to paycheck. They were drawn in by the promise to earn more in a night than they could earn in almost a month at a minimum wage job. Based on Mr Kolker's research, none of these women went into the life expecting to become stuck. They each seemed to have plans for futures and expected they could bankroll their dreams from their earnings. It also appeared that they either did not have access to other resources or information to help them with other options. They also lacked strong support systems in their personal relationships to help them.
There are others that may point out that other people have succeeded under worse circumstances. That is true to a point but no one does it alone and these women did not seem to have some crucial intervention that may have given them hope for others choices.
There were also mention of lack of detail on the police investigation. That may be the result of the police protecting information that would be critical in weeding out potential suspects or providing certain details to the killer that could help him avoid detection. Many police departments have policies restricting what can be discussed even with victims' families to protect the integrity of the investigation.
The book was excellent in showing the ease with which such a killer can gain access to victims in our modern age. It is frightening to think a victim is a mouse click away from such a fate. It is horrific that bipedal monsters exist that seek pleasure in causing so much misery to victims and their families.
The book also revealed the insular attitude of the Oak Beach community and how these crimes galvanized certain factions. It was disheartening that some residents saw the media coverage as an opportunity to air dirty laundry and point fingers.
I have read that there is someone charged in the cases of Jessica Taylor and victims that were dissected. The authorities are still treating the five cases from Oak Beach as a separate killer.
I know police keep theorizing that Shannan drowned. Have they considered that the killer may have broke pattern because he did not have time to perform his usual routine because of the attention she drew with her near escape? That could explain why the clothes and body were not dumped together and she was at a different location.
The reason I gave this book five stars is because of the questions it raises rather than the ones it answers. How does society handle an already risky "profession" in the digital age? It asks us to examine our values when we marginalize curtains members of our society when their choices fall outside the accepted norm. What can we offer young people to improve their chances as adults when they lack strong support at home? It raises questions about how police handle missing persons report for adults, especially people with marginalized status. Many departments are short staffed and in some of these cases the women were known to remain out of contact for days at a time. The police are pushed to prioritize. That is not meant to disparage the value of these womens' lives but it is a harsh reality.
Considering all the rumors and conspiracy surrounding this sad tale. I was able to find my way around the many discrepancies and chaos. Indeed it seemed a few were looking for their moment of fame. Then the others that wished this all went away. So if you continue to read and are 'well read' should understand that pointing fingers isn't a solution. Rather ignoring it is the problem. As well as this being the oldest yet extremely dangerous profession. The Internet has only facilitated it yet is a given...indeed a perilous life. No matter how street savvy these girls can be danger lurks in the darkness they so walk. Hope this book open young women eyes that think of this as a fast way to make cash. The lack of both humanity and, indifference towards these young girls is exactly the reason they go unnoticed. The fact is we still have an intelligent sadistic maniac - walking, working amongst us yet he only targets prostitute's so most - the world could care less...is what bothers me most.