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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller

Soon to be a Netflix film.

The best-selling account of the lives of five young women whose fates converged in the perplexing case of the Long Island Serial Killer.

“Rich, tragic...monumental...true-crime reporting at its best.” (Washington Post)

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 escort 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, in their 20s, and had come from out of town to work as escorts, and they all had advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage. 

Long considered “one of the best true-crime books of all time” (Time), Lost Girls is a portrait of unsolved murders 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

What listeners say about Lost Girls

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    4 out of 5 stars
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More story then investigation

The story is disjointed, the investigation is secondary to the characters experience of loss, the intersections of character feels muddled and this detracts from the story.

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Lots to take in

Enjoyed listening. Lots of information on each od the victims, liked the way time was taken on the womens backgrounds. Wish there was some outcome for the families

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  • Sam
  • 24-07-2013

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.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Karen K
  • 26-07-2016

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,.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Andrea
  • 22-06-2016

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

10 people found this helpful

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  • Sunny
  • 29-06-2017

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Suspicious Consumer
  • 01-04-2016

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.

12 people found this helpful

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  • determined
  • 29-07-2018

couldn't stop listening

first the narrator is easy to listen to. the story kept me interested by giving the victims humanity. the story didn't glorify or sugarcoat the lifestyle. it also did not give overly gruesome details. listening to it made me realize i see girls in this lifestyle probably every day& never really noticed. Im now a bit more understanding.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Grumpy S. Monkey
  • 04-01-2014

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Christena F Coonce
  • 04-10-2016

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • ricketsj
  • 27-05-2014

Detailed and engaging.

I knew a little about this case from television, and was very interested to hear more about both the progress of the case and the lives of the victims. It was fairly depressing, but quite interesting, to hear the sad backgrounds of the women and how that played out in the aftermath of the discovery of their remains. The work Kolker did in investigating the residents of the Oak Beach area was quite informative and I was very glad it was included. Nothing like that was included in any television reports I saw of the case. My only real criticism of the book was that it focused very little on the unidentified remains. Whether or not the murders were all related, there must have been more information available (even if just the forensic reports) about these unidentified victims. I realize there could not have been much background information to find without knowing who the bodies belonged to, but it did feel that they were simply not a focus of the book. Yet it seems odd not to have put a little more into that aspect of the story. Still, it was detailed and well-researched. Well worth the credit.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Melissa S.
  • 12-09-2018

A must read for true crime fans

The narrator has a wonderful voice that makes it easy to dive deep into the book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Caitriona H.
  • 01-10-2020

Great Book

great book, great narration and such in depth research. I listened to it in a matter of days. there is a lot of heart and insight into this tragedy.

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  • judith
  • 21-06-2020

Better than the film on Netflix

I was drawn into this story, but I found the layout extremely hard to follow. Firstly, the back stories of all the girls were of course interesting, tragic in some cases. This was followed by the discovery of the bodies, investigations by the police, and the family’s fights for acknowledgment and justice. I think it would have been easier to follow with the book to hand, to refer back to who was who, and to whom related. In audio, I just couldn’t keep track, especially if i left it for a while. Maybe that’s just me!

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