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Lost Girls : An Unsolved American Mystery - Robert Kolker

Lost Girls

An Unsolved American Mystery

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Published: 1st June 2014
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Shannan wanted acceptance. Maureen wanted a solution. Megan wanted love. Melissa wanted adventure. Amber wanted to be saved. Robert Kolker learned about each of these women while reporting his acclaimed cover story for New York magazine, “A Serial Killer in Common”, and has spent countless hours with their families researching this book, Lost Girls. Over the course of three years, each of them vanished without a trace--Maureen in 2007, Melissa and Megan in 2009, and Amber and Shannan in 2010.

At first, their disappearances barely registered anyone’s attention aside from their families; even the police had a hard time considering some of them to be actual missing-persons cases. Then, last December, the search for Shannan (who disappeared after a bizarre half-hour 911 call as she ran door to door in the quaint town of Oak Beach) led to the discovery of the four others’ bodies along Gilgo Beach, Long Island, an unsettled, overgrown seven-mile stretch of shoreline on the string of barrier islands along South Oyster Bay. Police acknowledged they all fit the same profile--all women in their twenties, all but one under five feet tall, and all prostitutes who advertised on Craigslist.

Now they are all assumed to be victims of the same murderer--the so-called Long Island serial killer. But as Kolker, an intrepid young reporter, began working on the case, it became clear that everything commonly understood about these girls was wrong. They weren’t outcasts. Their families knew them well and loved them and maintained close ties with them. They weren’t classic cases of human trafficking; they weren’t kidnapped or enslaved or held hostage as illegal immigrants. They all came into prostitution on their own, eyes open. What they shared is that they all came from a part of America that the media often overlooks--poor, often rural and white parts of the country, where options have been narrowing for years, and people are forced to make hard choices. No set formula or blueprint exists to explain what brought them all to Gilgo Beach. Instead of easy explanations, we have stories: five stories about five different lives.

Lost Girls tells those stories in richly reported detail and a keen sense of place--a work of narrative nonfiction that will stand beside Methland and Random Family as writing that reads like the best fiction, and as a narrative that reveals parts of America that we are so prone to ignore. Weaved throughout, too, is the true-crime mystery itself, which hinges first on finding Shannan’s body and finally inspecting the various characters that call Oak Beach home.

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 impact of extraordinary events on everyday people. He lives with his family in Brooklyn. This is his first book.

"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)

ISBN: 9780062183651
ISBN-10: 0062183656
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 416
Published: 1st June 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 20.4 x 13.3  x 2.6
Weight (kg): 0.31