- A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER -
- A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2013 -
- ONE OF AMAZON'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF JULY 2013 -
The Long Island Serial Killer and His Victims
“Riveting and often heartbreaking.”
- Dwight Garner, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“A gothic whodunit for the Internet age…. Compelling, nearly unputdownable…. [LOST GIRLS is] a horrific, cautionary tale that makes for a very different kind of beach read.”
- Mimi Swartz, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"...a terrific investigation....vivid and moving..."
- Tina Jordan, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
"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.COM
"[A]n 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."
- Neal Thompson, AMAZON.COM
"Meticulously reported and beautifully written.... 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 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
“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
Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.
One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went missing. No one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty-four-year-old: she was a Craigslist prostitute who had been fleeing a scene—of what, no one could be sure. The Suffolk County Police, too, seemed to have paid little attention—until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned up four bodies, all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap. But none of them Shannan's.
There was Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen at Penn Station in Manhattan three years earlier, and Melissa Barthelemy, last seen in the Bronx in 2009. There was Megan Waterman, last seen leaving a hotel in Hauppauge, Long Island, just a month after Shannan's disappearance in 2010, and Amber Lynn Costello, last seen leaving a house in West Babylon a few months later that same year. Like Shannan, all four women were petite and in their twenties, they all came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage.
In a triumph of reporting—and in a riveting narrative—Robert Kolker presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of escorts in the Internet age, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. He has talked exhaustively with the friends and family of each woman to reveal the three-dimensional truths about their lives, the struggling towns they came from, and the dreams they chased. And he has gained unique access to the Oak Beach neighborhood that has found itself the focus of national media scrutiny—where the police have flailed, the body count has risen, and the neighbors have begun pointing fingers at one another. There, in a remote community, out of sight of the beaches and marinas scattered along the South Shore barrier islands, the women's stories come together in death and dark mystery. Lost Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved murder in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them.