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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery Paperback – May 6, 2014
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“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))
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
You meet their family members, some of whom couldn't have cared less when the girls were alive but exploit them in death. When three mothers erect crosses at the site where the bodies were dumped, the other mother orders a cross four times bigger than the other three.
Kolker has an exclusive interview with the john from whose home Shannan Gilbert ran screaming "He's going to kill me." And we hear from Dr. Hackett, who lives nearby and is an enigmatic suspect who may be guilty only of having a big mouth -- or is there more to it? There's a frustrating lack of information about the case because there's a frustrating lack of public information about the case. One hopes the police have more than they're letting on, but after reading the book it seems doubtful they have much.
I loved the way Kolker organized the book and could not put it down. The only problem, as has been pointed out by others, is the lack of photos. Sure, I looked them all up on line and even watched the A&E documentary, but while reading the book it was difficult to juggle Melissa, Maureen, Missy, Mari, Marie, two Gregs, etc. Shame on whoever decided not to include photos.
I guess I'm not sorry I read it, but it was pretty unsatisfying. The narratives of the murdered women blended together, and this was not helped by them being called various names at various points. Kolker did not succeed at characterizations that made them pop as individuals, and while not trying to narrate their inner lives is responsible journalism, it did make many of their actions inexplicable, as well and muddling them all together.
After finishing the whole book- I began to wonder what was the point of having read it (or written it). It was too long to be a succinct description of the way our society deems some people "disposable" and does not show them the consideration we all deserve, by the end, that dead horse had been thoroughly beaten. It might have been more effective at half its length. Add to that the lack of any resolution at all and... well, I suppose it's very "literary" and post-modern.
Reasonably well-written, but not recommended.