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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery Paperback – January 28, 2020
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“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)
About the Author
Robert Kolker is the New York Times bestselling author of Lost Girls, named one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books and one of Publishers Weekly Top Ten Books of 2013. As a journalist, his work has appeared in New York magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, the New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, O, and Men's Journal. He is a National Magazine Award finalist and a recipient of the Harry Frank Guggenheim 2011 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
- Item Weight : 10.7 ounces
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0063012952
- ISBN-13 : 978-0063012950
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.97 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Updated edition (January 28, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #25,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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.
Top reviews from other countries
Its during a search for Shannan that other bodies are discovered wrapped in burlap near the location where Shannan was last seen after visiting a John and where her driver has astonishingly gone home following a most extraordinary episode in the Johns home where she begins to believe she is in real danger,so much so she calls the Police and then avoids her driver and seems to run away from him too in a neighbours driveway...Is it the same MO in each case that the prostitute is murdered after sex with a John,possibly secretly filmed sex,though probably not in his home and not by him but he is the direct connection or how else will the killer(s) know either 1) or 2) above,the times and places....? I cannot at all see what happened to Shannan as an unconnected incident whilst i also doubt if the Police have any real evidence.
Whilst i would have preferred that more of the book was concerned with a forensic and police-type examination ,it is an outstanding socio-legal examination into internet sex crime and into the circumstances which led the young women into it and an excellent study but doesnt for me ask enough direct questions and offers no real way forward towards its solution.
The dismissive attitude of the Police towards prostitutes elicits no surprise at all.
The book begins with Shannan Gilbert's panicked run from an escort out-call, calling 911 and banging on doors to ask for help, before she disappears into the darkness, never to be seen alive again. From there, Kolker winds back in time to delve into the background of the lives of Maureen, Megan, Melissa, Amber and Shannan and their families, exploring how they ended up working as escorts, their often-chaotic lives (many of the women struggled with addiction), and eventually their disappearance and death, and its effect on their loved ones.
The Long Island serial killer (or killers) has not been caught, and the book makes it clear just how easy it is for women who live on the margins to go missing without much of a fuss being made, with police and emergency services either seeing them as "just" a prostitute, or not believing that the women are genuinely missing, instead putting their disappearances down to their messy lives. The other bodies found in the area and the questions over whether this was the work of one or multiple killers are more than a little chilling.
Kolker interviews the families and friends of the women, local residents, suspects, and the police, taking as an objective a view as possible. His writing about the community near where the women were found evokes a strong sense of place as well as a sense of the close ties and simmering grudges of a small isolated town. He also draws a fascinating picture of the mixture of heartfelt support and infighting amongst the closest relatives of the victims once the bodies were found.
This is an excellent and well-written piece of longform journalism that avoids the schlocky tendencies of a lot of true crime books. The focus is on the victims' lives, not their deaths or the person who killed them. Bubbling under the surface is an indictment of how our society treats women who work in the sex trade, both in life and in death. Highly recommended.