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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery Audiobook, by Robert Kolker Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Robert Kolker Narrator: Sean Pratt, Lloyd James Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2013 ISBN: 9780062263520
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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 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 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 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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

  • “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)

  • “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, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost City of Z

  • “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

  • “Terrific…vivid and moving…Grade: A-”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “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 hometowns into risky, but lucrative, careers as prostitutes in a digital age.”

    New Yorker

  • “Reading this true-crime book, you’re reminded of the observation that easy reading is hard writing.”

    New York Times

  • “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.”


  • “Rich, tragic…monumental…true-crime reporting at its best.”

    Washington Post

  • “Captivating.”

    Boston Globe

  • “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

  • “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&, editorial review

  • “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.”

    Guardian (UK)

  • Lost Girls is partly unsolved mystery…[partly] the intimate story of the five women… [and partly] a case study in the profound impact of the Internet, and particularly Craigslist, on the business of buying and selling sex.”

    National Post (Canada)

  • “Kolker’s empathetic and detailed portrayals of the victims, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with their families and friends, [makes for] an 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. Kolker, a reporter for New York magazine, is that rare-breed journalist who latched onto a difficult story and refused to let go. In this haunting tale, he bravely and meticulously recreates the lives of once hopeful but sadly forgotten young women, while shining a light on the economic hardships that pushed them to make tough, risky choices.”, editorial review

  • “A gothic whodunit for the Internet age…nearly unputdownable…[Lost Girls is] a horrific, cautionary tale…Kolker expertly chronicles the sad cycle of poor, uneducated white women faced with lots of kids and few resources.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013
  • One of the New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for 2013
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for July 2013

Listener Reviews

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  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Julie | 1/16/2019

    " I absolutely could not follow this book. The author's attempts to tell about the lives of the four girls in the first half of the book fall way short of helping the reader to maintain a grasp of each girl and the differences in their lives. It all ran together for me and the narrator is monotone and boring. I would not recommend this book. "

About the Author

Robert Kolker is contributing editor for New York magazine 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.

About the Narrators

Sean Pratt, a working actor for over twenty-five years, has performed at numerous regional theaters around the country. He is the author of To Be or Wanna Be, and he has recorded over seven hundred books in just about every genre, earning eight AudioFile Earphones Awards and four Audie Award nominations.

Lloyd James (a.k.a. Sean Pratt) has been narrating since 1996 and has recorded over six hundred audiobooks. He is a seven-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award and has twice been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award. His critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley Jr. and Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitzkin, among others.