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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars

on 27 August 2014
The book covers the fates of five sex workers. One disappears during a call at a Long Island address. The search for her uncovers the remains of the four others, wrapped in burlap on the beach nearby. Although the subsequent police investigation finds further bodies and body parts across several miles of the coast (who may or may not be by the same killer) the story stays central the five women.

The whole narrative is well structured and keeps you fascinated.
What comes across is the intention to portray the humans behind the headlines, and behind the instant stigma and assumptions that the public, media and police attach to women working in the sex industry. As the sister of one of the victims states : “… they only know what she was down there doing, and that’s what they look at her as”.
The life-histories and families of the victims are carefully constructed based upon interviews with the author. What emerges is a picture of a whole sub-culture living right in the middle of the American dream, one that involves broken families, absent or neglectful parents, rebellion and substance abuse that leads to chronic addiction. But as the same sister says “She was still a mother. She still meant the world to her daughter, she meant the world to me.”
The book also chronicles the victims’ families use of the media to push and fight against the apathy and inertia of the police, the secretive and closed community of the gated neighborhood in which the victims are found, as well as the psychics, internet sleuths and other oddballs who attach to the circus.

I typically only read fiction, but this is an absolutely astounding book and a great piece of investigative journalism.
Overall, the book offers a fascinating exposure of segments of the modern American culture. And it isn’t very pretty.
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on 12 October 2016
A lot of true crime books are trash tabloid affairs , to be read gratuitously and with one of those slow frightening voices from a trailer for a horror movie. This wont satisfy that type of reader. This is strong journalism into the dark struggling lives of helpless. Girls with kids and little money , living from day to day and making poor choices , yet still some ones daughter / mother/ friend. This is the underside to America we don't see on our shiny trips to New York , this is no sex and the city cosmo. I connected and felt for these girls , hoping that an ad on Craigs list would change their lives, no , at least pay the rent. This is a lost and damaged and disolutioned America. My only criticism , maybe there is a little too much detail , its not a beach read and as the killer has never been found / caught we are left with no ending to satisfy , even more sadness for the girls families.
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on 8 March 2017
Gripping once you get past the girls life history (which is needed but long)
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on 6 July 2016
Brilliant book
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on 5 April 2017
Great investigation work. Marvellously written. A page turner from beginning to end.
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on 7 October 2015
Lost Girls is one of the saddest, moving and most touching books I’ve ever read. I cried several times reading it and my eyes still feel damp. I have a vague memory of seeing a programme about these murders a while ago on some TV channel. I don’t remember when or which show or channel.

I found this book heart-breaking at times. The murders have never been solved. No one has been arrested and served time for so mercilessly ending these lives. This book makes it clear there can never be any real closure for the families. Even if someone was arrested and sent to prison there wouldn’t be real closure but the families would get a sense of an ending. This has been denied.

One of the most striking things about Lost Girl and the crimes discussed within is how little regard the police seemed to have for the missing girls, even when the bodies started turning up. The attitude of disregard because the girls were missing and later dead prostitutes chilled me. Why should a dead or missing prostitute matter less than a dead or missing child? They victims were completely dismissed because of their profession which disgusted me.

I liked how the book focuses mostly on the families of the victims, four in particular and Shannon’s family, especially when her remains are finally found. I wouldn’t have felt so emotional if the crimes were discussed from the perspective of the police. This really tugged at my heart-strings.

I’d highly recommend Lost Girls to anyone looking to real a true crime book that’s not full of blood and gore.
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on 13 February 2015
This is the first review I've posted on Amazon but I felt this book deserved it. This is a thorough, well-researched and moving account of the search for the missing girls and their killer. What's clear is that the author has taken the time to seek to understand them as human beings, not just sex workers or victims, and it shines through in every page. This is proper, long-form journalism at its very best, and as far from tabloid sensationalism as you can get. It feels wrong to describe this book as a 'treat', given the subject matter, but it's a gripping and powerful read and delivers everything you could want in serious non-fiction. It would have been easy to patronise and judge the victim's and their families, but the author is so even-handed, clear-eyed and measured that this never happens.

As a British reader this was an eye-opening account of the US sex trade, but it also captures perfectly modern-day America and particularly evokes the Long Island area. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 17 June 2014
This book makes you want to go campaigning for women's rights to be safe even if a prostitute, which seems to legalise physical abuse from men. Its very different from the Channel 4 show which paints the families to be super supportive etc. Some are but most of them create situations where these women went on the game to begin with. Its very well written, even for an American Author (cheeky I know, but usually the writing isn't brilliant but this one lacks the annoying factor).

Its not a book for people who like their reading lite.

Very good read.
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on 23 August 2015
Robert Kolker's Lost Girls is an excellent read with a serious purpose: to tell the stories of five murder victims who worked as escorts while ensuring that they are seen as the whole human beings that they were. It is a sober examination of the lives and intersecting deaths of five women, and a reminder of the complexity of real life, as opposed to the simple, morally unambiguous narratives of most fictional crime stories in books or on TV.

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.
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on 31 March 2015
This is a superb book analysing the deaths of 5 prostitutes. Unlike more conventional true crime narratives it focuses on the women more than the police. What Kolker does is humanise the girls showing the myriad reasons why they came to sell their bodies. It's a very human, heart-breaking book which explores working class life in modern America; shocking police attitudes to prostitutes and the suspects in the case many of whom are diabolical people out for publicity.

There is no gawky shock or cheap thrills. This is a book about five women that were murdered.
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