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Publisher's Summary

Award-winning investigative reporter 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 24-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 Hauppage, 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 20s, 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.

©2013 Robert Kolker (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Sam
  • CHICAGO, IL, United States
  • 07-24-13

No answers

What made the experience of listening to Lost Girls the most enjoyable?

it's so timely, and an interesting look at a side of the internet that I'm sure we'd all rather ignore.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Lost Girls?

Seeing many perspectives of the same story was valuable, and the author tries to take away some of the sensationalism.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It's definitely an upsetting book, and I personally looked in the mirror at my own classism and ability to write off certain crimes as "just the way things are."

Any additional comments?

There are no answers in this book. The author doesn't attempt to make any guesses as to the killer, nor does he try to reconstruct any of the homicides, so if you're looking for that kind of book, you're in the wrong place. If you're looking to learn about the victims, about the line of work they were in, and about how the internet is inextricably linked to the sex industry, this book is really well-written.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Sad Story, Smartly Told

What made the experience of listening to Lost Girls the most enjoyable?

This was an enlightening (if somewhat depressing) look into the dangers of the modern sex trade, especially in the Craigslist era. I wouldn't call it an enjoyable listen, but informative and well-told.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Lost Girls?

I think what will leave a lasting impression was the amount of time the author devoted to telling the stories of the victims. A lot of hard work and excellent reporting went into this work.

Any additional comments?

I think the author did a really good job of telling the complete story, from the broken homes that the victims came from, to the quirks of the private community where the bodies were found. There are no easy answers in this story, but it was a smartly written and fair minded work.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Interesting Look at the Victims

One problem with true stories about crime is that they center on and glorify killers. That doesn't happen here not only because these are unsolved killings but because the book is truly victim-centric. The beginning of the book does a great job of presenting the victims to you as real people. This was the most interesting part to me. It is actually amazing the depth of the profiles considering not only that they needed to be put together after the women disappeared but because their lives were so unstable at times. I find poverty and the family dysfunction that so often accompanies it to be very interesting. We see in these parallel lives, so many of the same problems and bad decisions that the ending seems almost inevitable. One problem with this as an audio book though is that is is easy to get the victims confused as we switch between their stories over and over. Was that Melissa or Megan, was that the one with the mother Lynn or Lorraine? And without the book you can loose track. I found the part of the book about the community where the bodies were found to drag and be less compelling than the girls stories were. Towards the end we deal a lot with the families and it is like getting first hand into the dysfunction that shaped these women in the first place. Like all unsolved mysteries it leaves a sense of frustration that we aren't truly getting closure,.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Should have read a hard copy

this is a good example of a good book poorly executed as an audio book. The story was interesting and dramatic, but the narrator was dry and apathetic.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating but a bit judgmental...

Fascinating story but a little judgmental about the victims and victims' families, many of whom are victims themselves. This terrifying true crime story is told from a clearly privileged perspective, and I thought some of the judgments detracted from the tragedy. You can already infer that the victims come from troubled families - the commentary isn't really necessary.

If I were going to do it over, I'd watch "the killing season" first, then listen to this book. That way, you can form your own opinions and learn more about the players in an unbiased fashion.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Do not bother

It is as if a teenage girl is telling you a story. It is convoluted, hard to keep track and often does not finish s thought the performance was good but the story never made sense. I can't believe this got past an editor.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Informative but hard to follow.

He jumps around to the different girls stories through the book. makes it a little hard to follow whom he is talking about

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Lost Girls

Lost girls in every sense of the phrase. I had listened to a Thinking Sideways episode that detailed this case and that is what led me to the book. I loved all the detail of the book, but did not enjoy how hard I was to keep track of the different girls involved. I hope one day this case is solved.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Decent story, but no closure(not authors fault)

Well written, and researched story. primarily of the victims. But seeing as the LISK has not been apprehended, there is no closure. I didn't expect it going in, but i did expect more. Probably worth the credit.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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very stirring

How gut-wrenchingly sad! At its best when its divulging the inner lives of the girls.