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Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

Written by Robert Kolker

Narrated by Sean Pratt


Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery

Written by Robert Kolker

Narrated by Sean Pratt

ratings:
4/5 (90 ratings)
Length:
11 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 9, 2013
ISBN:
9780062263520
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Also available as bookBook

Description

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.

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 9, 2013
ISBN:
9780062263520
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Robert Kolker is the New York Times bestselling author of Lost Girls, named one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books and one of Publishers Weekly Top Ten Books of 2013. As a journalist, his work has appeared in New York magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, the New York Times Magazine, Wired, GQ, O, and Men's Journal. He is a National Magazine Award finalist and a recipient of the Harry Frank Guggenheim 2011 Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting Award from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.


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Reviews

What people think about Lost Girls

4.1
90 ratings / 35 Reviews
What did you think?
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Critic reviews

  • The riveting true account of four internet prostitutes assumed to have been murdered by the same killer. If you're looking for a chilling but sweetly humane story, look no further — this is investigative reportage at its finest.

    Scribd Editors

Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    Don’t expect too much. LOST GIRLS has received so many great reviews, even a NEW YORK TIMES notable book award for 2013, I expected to be mesmerized. Don’t make the same mistake. Then you’ll more readily see what outstanding reporting Robert Kolker does with this book.Not only does Kolker investigate the mysterious deaths of five young prostitutes on Long Island, he also looks at their lives, how they grew up, who loved them, how they chose their “profession.” He provides so many details you might come to understand them. I almost did.My biggest problems with LOST GIRLS were a) too many names and b) too many details. I just couldn’t keep track of all of them.Because LOST GIRLS is nonfiction, all the names are necessary for accurate storytelling. A good reporter is accurate, above all. Fiction can concentrate more on keeping the story readable with fewer names and fewer people who share the same name. But, with LOST GIRLS, at first I was paging back to remind myself who belonged in which girl’s life. Eventually, though, I gave up. Same with all the details. They may be necessary, but I had a hard time remembering which belong with which story, and I eventually gave up.It would have been an enormous help to have a list of names, with reminders of who is who. Then guess what I found at the end of the book: a list of names, with reminders of who is who. WHAT THE HECK IS THAT DOING AT THE END? So, while I admire Kolker’s investigative reporting, as a book, I can’t give it a high rating. At this length, it is too confusing.
  • (3/5)
    The unsolved mystery of the deaths of five prostitutes who used the web to advertise. This took place in Long Island. I found the girls' history to be very detailed, but even more thorough was the investigation into the one missing girl which uncovered four other girls' bodies. I don't think I would recommend this to anyone unless they had an interest in the geographical area in which it happened.
  • (5/5)
    Good info on this crime. Good background info on the women killed. Gets a little bogged down in their lives but all and all very well done. Keeps you reading.
  • (4/5)
    First off, let me say that Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker was not exactly the book I was expecting. I enjoy true crime novels and I have always been fascinated by the procedural part of the story - how the authorities track down their killer. In this case, the killer was never caught and it looks like the police threw the procedures out the window. This book is truly about the victims and while it is not what I normally look for in a true crime story, it was all the more fascinating for putting the crime on the back burner."Over the course of three years, each of these young women vanished without a trace: Maureen in 2007, Melissa and Megan in 2009, and Amber and Shannon in 2010. All but one of their bodies were discovered on Gilgo Beach, Long Island, an unsettled, overgrown, seven-mile stretch of shoreline on the string of barrier islands along South Oyster Bay."These young women are the center of this story. Some of them came from pretty troubled backgrounds. They had children, family and friends. They had pretty serious addiction problems. And they were all working as prostitutes, advertising on Craigslist.What impressed me about the book is that these young women do not become stereotypes. They are not woman battered by a pimp or empowered feminists taking control of their bodies. They are young women who need money, who don't have any great job prospects, and who find prostitution an easy way to make a lot of money in a short period of time. These women don't deal with pimps. They advertise for themselves. They decide where and when to work (and the amount of work they can find with a simple Craigslist ad is astonishing), and while they make some provisions for their own safety, desperation can make people careless.What infuriated me about the story is the way that authorities treated the disappearances: they didn't care. A hooker disappeared - big deal. In some cases their families were unable to file missing person reports and it was clear that authorities did not consider these women to be worth looking for, at least not until the bodies started piling up. There were so many bureaucratic errors in these investigations, so many oddities, so many times where the police were clearly looking out for themselves and not really pushing these investigations that you can't help but be frustrated for these women and their families. In the end, they still have no closure; they have lots of suspicions, but no definitive answers.It takes a skilled author to write a compelling book without an ending, and I think Kolker did an excellent job. I certainly kept turning pages, alternately absorbed and furious, and I found myself very much engaged with these women and wanting justice for them. He doesn't whitewash their stories, so you still get angry at them for putting themselves in so much danger for a few bucks, but you still wish for a better ending for them.My copy of Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery is an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.
  • (5/5)
    A multi generational story about one literally lost girl and several figuratively lost girls. What they have in common is that they all are from the same family spanning three generations all with ties to the same home located in rural Minnesota. The central mystery revolves around the disappearance of the youngest of three sisters in the first generation in 1935. The girl was never found. Fast forward to the present when a woman and and her two daughters (family) end up unraveling the mystery. Well developed characters with a captivating plot.
  • (5/5)
    This is the story of two generations of lost girls. Sisters Lucy and Lillian spent every summer at a Minnesota lake until 1935; then on the last day of their family's vacation, their six year old sister disappears, never to be found again. It is assumed that she ran away.Sixty four years later, shortly before Lucy's death, she decides to write an account of that summer to her great niece Justine. Justine and her two daughters are trying to escape Justine's controlling boyfriend, and are just as lost as Lucy and Lillian were many years earlier. Justine inherits Lucy's house, which is the same one the family had used as a summer home--but now it is winter. Dark secrets threaten to emerge as both of these stories are told in alternating chapters. This is a great novel about family love, loyalty, and regret. Young is an author to watch.
  • (4/5)
    Early reviewers book- thank you.Wonderful little story about families with all their "goods" and "bads," and the different kind of love that holds them together even if loosely.Good story, good characters and the ending was just as it should have been. I was surprised to read this was authors first book- I wouldn't have guessed such as it was very well written.
  • (3/5)
    I received this book from LibraryThing and am thankful to be selected to read it. I found it hard to keep up with the switching back and forth between the leading characters--Lucy and Justine. I would not recommend this as a "Good" book to read.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book quite a bit. I am not always a fan of books that feature dual timelines but this one worked really well for me. I ended up liking both of the timelines equally and thought that Lucy and Justine both had an interesting story to tell. This story was really focused on the characters with the plot building slowly. I found myself really invested in this group of characters by the close of the book.This book focuses on Justine and Lucy. When Lucy died, she left everything to her grandniece, Justine. Justine has two little girls and lives with her boyfriend in California but feels something missing in her life. When Justine inherits Lucy's lake house in Minnesota, she takes her girls and moves there in order to get a fresh start. The transition isn't as easy as Justine expects it to be.Lucy has her own story to tell and decides to write everything down before her death. When Lucy was a child, her younger sister, Emily, disappeared from the lake house and has never been found. Lucy's story tells everything that happened during the summer leading up to Emily's disappearance. Emily's disappearance was heartbreaking and shaped the lives of Lucy and her family.This book really showed how one event can impact a family for generations. Emily's sisters never really moved on with thier life after she disappeared. I liked watching Justine learn to take care of herself and really decide on what she wanted for herself and her girls. It takes a lot for her to learn to stand up for herself but I have a lot of hope for her by the end of the book.I would recommend this book to others. It was a book that gave me hope and broke my heart all at the same time. The slower pace was a nice change and I thought it really gave me a chance to connect with the characters. I enjoyed Heather Young's debut novel and look forward to reading more from this author in the future.I won a copy of this book from William Morrow via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
  • (4/5)
    In a small enclave of houses on a remote Minnesota lake, Lucy spent her childhood summers with her parents and two sisters. Sixty plus years later she recounts in an old composition notebook the sad tale of the disappearance of her six year old sister at the end of one of those summers. She wills the lake house and most of her estate along with the family story to her great niece, Justine, "the only one to whom the past might matter". Justine also spent a childhood summer at this house. The inheritance of the house is a lifeline for her. She makes a quick decision to pack her two daughters and all of their possessions into a car, hoping to leave a bad situation in San Diego behind for a fresh start at the remote Minnesota house on the iced-over lake. Chapters alternate in a dual narrative that spans the years from 1935 to the present, including the stories of five generations of women all of whom are at least a little flawed and not entirely likable. The author has a deft hand at descriptive writing, e.g., their San Diego apartment "was worn and poor and stank of striving and failing and overcooked brussels sprouts." Compelling from the beginning, there are subtly ominous undercurrents that keep up the tension as details are parceled out. Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    I really liked this book! I don't know if I can review it without going into a lot of detail, so I'll try to keep it very basic if I can:This is the story of a family with three daughters and the youngest one goes missing. The rest of the book is about how her absence affects the family. But, how the youngest sister goes missing is not a major part of the story until almost the end. Just the effect of her being gone is the major theme: how it affects the dad, mom, the two older sisters, and some of the community.Now, the other interesting part is that the whole book is told by two different people: one part is told in first person by one of the older sisters starting back in the 1930's during the summer that the whole "missing sister" mystery began. The other story is told in the present by the granddaughter of the other older sister in third person! Are you confused yet?! I thought I was going to be, but as soon as I figured out who was telling which part of the story, I really liked both stories equally, and they both held my attention. I will say that it was not really fast-paced until you start to get about three-fourths of the way through, then I couldn't put it down! Because there are two stories going simultaneously, there are two pretty big climaxes that happen, one after the other. I really did like this story and the author's writing style a lot, and would definitely read other books that she writes!
  • (4/5)
    The first half of this book moved along at a rather slow pace. I had gotten the impression that the disappearance of the youngest sister (back in 1935) was the central theme, and it didn't appear to be the case during the first part - but WOW, the author really tied it all up together in an emotional, gut-punching way at the end. The story is told by Great-Aunt Lucy (via her diary) about her family (sisters Lilith and Emily and horribly dysfunctional parents) and then carried on in the present by Justine (great-niece of Lucy and heir to her estate) about her family (mother Maurie, daughters Melanie and Angela, and boyfriend Patrick). The Miller family (Abe and Matthew) are also present for all of this and play vastly important roles. There are lots of female characters to keep track of here, but it proves to be worthwhile. I cried during the last two chapters of this book, something that I rarely do while reading. Deeply moving and highly recommended!
  • (4/5)
    Lucy spent her childhood summers with her parents and two sisters. Sixty plus years later she recounts in an old notebook the disappearance of her six year old sister, Emily, at the end of one of those summers. She knows that time is short and she wills the lake house and her estate along with the notebook to her great niece, Justine.Justine only spent one summer at this house when she was nine. The inheritance of the house is a lifeline for her. She decides to pack up her two daughters and all of their possessions into her car, leaving a bad situation in San Diego behind for a fresh start at the remote Minnesota house in the middle of winter. The story goes back and forth from the past to the present letting us learn about how the loss of Emily so long ago affected their family through generation after generation. I enjoyed reading this book.
  • (4/5)
    Dual timeline stories are my favorite. When done well, they are exceptional. Historical with present. Present with past curiosity. Author Heather Young has painted a creative story with purpose of keeping the reader guessing while slowly unfurling pieces to keep you engaged. Peppered with mystery, grappling with family secrets, an edge of psychological suspense, and the long-term rippled effects seen readily in the present. Heather pulls it all off so well. I feel the author expertly balances the line between harrowing mystery, life, family, and self revelations so deeply moving. In the end, you are a better person that I to have the willpower to put this down. It cannot be done. I highly recommend this and look forward to more from this author in the future.Many thanks to Library Thing's Early Reviewers for this publication in lieu of an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    Excellent Read! Has left me somewhat numb. It was an engaging mystery, and laid out beautifully. Each character came to life. The story is told between 2 timelines. The present Justine, single mother of 2 daughters.Her own mother (Maurie), was also a single mother still searching for the perfect man or next husband protector and the the other story Lucy. Lucy, Justine's great aunt's journal. Written to Justine whom she leaves the summer house on the lake where Maurie was born and raised. Lucy's Journal is the confession of the last summer at the lake where her baby sister goes missing, where she and her older sister Lilith, keep a secret that changes the path of their lives. Heather Young unfolds the backdrop of this story that stabs the heart in the knowing of the unspoken words. A page turner til the end. Not knowing, yet knowing, the truth and leaving a numb feeling of their regrets with the hope of a happier life for those left at the Miller Lodge on the glistening lake and the faded yellow house that left so many secrets. I am giving this book 5 stars as it deserves it! As does the Edgar Award Nominee for Best First Novel!
  • (4/5)
    Impressive debut! What really happened to six-year-old Emily that summer in 1935? Quiet suspense, dark family secrets, and a remote Minnesota lake house combine for a haunting, atmospheric tale. {Borrowed from the library.}
  • (5/5)
    When I won an ARC of this from LibraryThings, and then it never materialized, a very disappointed me contacted the author Heather Young directly. She offered her apologies and a promise to get a copy in the mail to me pronto. Lo and behold, what arrived at my door was not an ARC but a beautiful hard cover finished copy, personally inscribed to me and signed by the author, with a nice note, saying " ... and I hope The Lost Girls is worth the wait." I hoped so too -- I was already very impressed by her style.I needn't have worried because the book is fantastic. I am gobsmacked and feel like gushing a little here. That this is a debut is unbelievable. I am amazed by this story of Justine and her two daughters, fleeing San Diego and an overly possessive boyfriend to live in the house she just inherited from her great-aunt Lucy. The house is a summer home on a lake in No. MN and it's November - December, so... not a good move exactly. Justine's chapters alternate with a journal that Lucy wrote for Justine to tell her, if no one else, the truth about the unsolved disappearance of Lucy's sister Emily many years prior.So another missing girl story, but one where even those present and accounted for seem lost for what to do, how to love each other, and how to live. We get to know this family through 5 generations of women. Their stories, combined with the mystery of Emily's disappearance, made it hard to put down. The culmination of it all was a stunner and well worth setting aside my life and responsibilities for the past weekend. My 2 thumbs are pointing skyward at 5 big shiny stars. A big thank you to Heather Young for my copy.
  • (3/5)
    Overall, I found this book to be an pretty good debut novel by author, Heather Young. Although, I really thought this book was going to have more of a haunting effect. Yet, I was drawn to the Evans family. Having Lucy's and Justine's voices in the alternating chapters was nice. This was I was drawn to them and it made their voices stronger than just reading the book. Although, I was more drawn to the past and Lucy than with Justine. Either way, after a while I found it to be a bit of a struggle some to keep with the book. I really wanted to know what had happened to Emily and it felt like forever before the truth was revealed. Yet, I liked the innocence of Lucy and her sisters and how one dark secret changed them all forever.
  • (4/5)
    3.5 It was the mention of a lake house that drew me to this book. My cousins and I spent many summers at our lake house, grew up there, such memorable times. Of course, none of us children ever disappeared, so this element of mystery was another draw. A slower paced book, a family, with three daughters and it is the youngest, Emily, just six who disappears and is never found. Two time periods, because it is the eldest daughter's own daughter, Justine who inherits the house. A house she and her own two daughters will escape to getaway from a controlling boyfriend. There the middle daughter's journals will be found and the mystery behind the disappearance will be revealed. Family secrets, a young special friend and a few other details are all found in this journal.I liked this, it was mysterious, atmospheric, and I grew to really like Lucy. Once again, the secrets of the past will haunt the future and it was interesting to see how it all unravels.ARC from publisher.
  • (5/5)
    This is a fascinating story about several generations of the same family told in alternating chapters from two different generations. The oldest generation begins with three sisters who summer each year at a small lakeside community. They each have secrets that ultimately lead to a summer tragedy where youngest daughter Emily disappears one night, never to be found again. One sister, Lucy, is the keeper of those stories and secrets, which she finally divulges in a notebook to be found later by her grandniece Justine. Justine has her own story to tell, from an unconventional childhood with her mother, the illegitimate daughter of one sister, to the reasons she felt compelled to leave California and her boyfriend Patrick the moment she heard Lucy had died and left her the lake house. She brought her two daughters with her, who also had their own secrets. This is a beautifully written tale of secrets and lies filled with twists and turns, as well as wonderful characters.
  • (4/5)
    Inheriting a house she had only lived in for one summer of her childhood seemed to be a way out of her current situation for Justine and her daughters.Arriving at the house that Aunt Lucy left her was not what Justine had expected. The house was run down and no where close to anything but some odd neighbors.Aunt Lucy's sister who had disappeared at the age of six and was never found was the main focus of the book along with the emotional lives of each character.THE LOST GIRLS was a family saga that had chapters about the lives of the three sisters, Lilith, Lucy, Emily, and Justine both past and present. The Evans women lived unhappy lives which carried on from one generation to the next.The father of Lilith, Lucy, and Emily was a bit disturbing. He was odd and strict. The girls were different but interesting. Justine and her daughters followed suit.I enjoyed THE LOST GIRLS despite the gloomy feeling that seemed to overshadow everyone. Ms. Young has a marvelous, descriptive writing style that helped you understand and connect with each character and each situation. Her writing just pulled you into the story. If you enjoy a bit of family drama as well as secrets and mysteries, you will enjoy THE LOST GIRLS. 4/5This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation in return for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    The Lost Girls by Heather Young is a family saga set over two time periods. This is a highly recommended debut novel.Lucy was the only surviving sister of the three Evans' girls. She is planning to leave her great niece, Justine, the family summer home located on a lake near Williamsburg, Minnesota, as well as a portfolio of $150,000. If Justine decides to come to the home, Lucy is leaving her a written account of the true story of what happened in 1935. It was a year of great change for her family and started when her youngest sister, Emily, disappeared.In the summer of 1935 the Evans family moved to their summer home located on a nearby lake. Sisters Lilith, 13, Lucy, 11, and Emily, 6, endure their pious and strange father during the weekends, but are allowed more freedom to roam during the week. Their mother does keep an unnatural amount of attention on her youngest daughter, Emily. It is the summer that Lilith was a teenager and becoming rebellious and distant to Lucy.Justine is the daughter of Maurie, the only child of Lilith. Maurie grew up in the lake house and left as soon as she could. Justine had an unstable childhood moving constantly. Now she has some stability, but her boyfriend seems to be too needy - she's just not certain he is what she needs. When Justine learns that her great aunt Lucy has died and left her the house and her investments, she takes her two daughters and leaves him behind in San Diego in a desperate attempt to make a better life for her and her daughters.Both timelines are fraught with tension, mystery, and family drama. The tragic conclusions are foreshadowed in both time periods, bringing a sense of closure at the end. While the pace of the plot is measured in both timelines, the unsettled feeling gradually increases at the same careful rate. There is a plethora of details in the settings, times, and emotions throughout the novel. The writing is intricate and the characters are well developed and distinctive. All the girls are lost in some way in this moody drama. You will want to find out with equal anticipation what happens in both time periods, which is a remarkable feat in and of itself. The Lost Girls is a great choice for a summer read.Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting look at a crime-spree I already knew a little about (and had my suspicions about the suspect). It's so rare to read a true-crime book that takes such care humanizing the victims of a crime when those victims are sex-trade workers. While sad, it was definitely well-researched, honest, and compelling.
  • (5/5)
    Wonderful book. So refreshing to hear more about the lives of these girls. Very well written.
  • (3/5)
    I wanted to like this book because I was mesmerized by the NetFlix movie of the same name. Based on the true crime story of young women who were found murdered in Long Island, NY. from 1996 - current. Still unsolved, the writer notes that the police were slow to arrive at the scene when a 911 call asked for help, with the statement that she was going to be killed.The movie was clearer and more straightforward in noting that the girls were hookers, and some of them were also addicted to drugs. In trying to solve the crimes, certain people of the area were not investigated, whereas others seemed to be spot on as the potential killer.The writer seemed to ramble and it was very difficult to keep track of the history of each murdered girl.See the movie, and if you like a book cluttered with too much detail, then read the book as well.
  • (5/5)
    Six decades after the disappearance of her younger sister, Lucy Evans, sits down to record the events of that 1935 summer at the lake house, the house in which she now lives alone. She leaves the notebook, along with the Minnesota house, to her grandniece, Justine. Justine remembers the lake house from the summer she spent there as a nine year old. Now it represents a new beginning for her; it offers her freedom and a way to escape the manipulative boyfriend she lives with in California. So she packs up the car and, along with her two daughters, heads for the lake house of her memory. But the present-day house is dilapidated, cold, and isolated; a strange man is her only neighbor.Justine’s mother, with eyes on her daughter’s inheritance, arrives as does the abandoned boyfriend, Patrick, who sets a dangerous plan in motion in hopes of winning Justine back again. Can she overcome the tragic legacy of the lake house?Readers will find this dark tale, filled with pain and loss, building in intensity and suspense as the facts of the past and the present slowly unfold until they reach a terrifying climax. This heart-wrenching tale will keep the pages turning as it captivates readers with its multi-layered story.I received a free copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Readers program
  • (5/5)
    Wow!It has been a long time since I picked up a book that I read straight through the night and I was invested in the characters deeply enough to cry at the end. And to think this was the author’s first book!"I found this notebook in the desk yesterday…It was as though it had lain in wait…until now … sixty-four years [later]. Since Lilith’s passing…the story of that summer has been mine alone, to keep or to share. I am the last…I hold secrets that don’t belong to me…Better to let it be, I tell myself…But this notebook reminds me that it’s not so simple as that…So I will write my family’s story, here in this book … I will tell it as fully as I can, even the parts that grieve me…Lucy Evans"Lucy Evans’ great-grandfather, leaving the coal mines of Wales, arrived in America, and improved his status eventually co-founding Williamsburg, Minnesota. The Lost Girls covers five generations of women in this prominent family. Lucy’s family, along with six other Williamsburg families, owned a summer retreat on a remote lake. A local mixed-race family owned a restaurant and lodge that was central to the social life of the lake residents. In the fall of 1935, as the temporary residents on the lake prepare to head back to town in advance of the harsh Minnesota winter, Lucy’s six-year old sister, Emily, disappears in the dead of night. Lucy’s distraught and overprotective mother never returns to Williamsburg and she, along with the two remaining sisters, stay at the lake- always leaving the light on for Emily.Sixty-four years later, Lucy, the last of the Thomas Evans family still lives at the lake, and knowing she will soon be gone, decides it’s time to tell her family’s story…warts and all. Lucy leaves the Evans estate to her grandniece, Justine, along with the notebook revealing all the family’s dirty secrets.The book alternates from Lucy’s first person narration with the third person narrator focusing on the life of Lucy’s grandniece, Justine after Lucy’s death. As Lucy shares her story we begin to see how the sins of the past generations have deeply scarred Justine’s life in the present.Lucy’s story is so compelling that Justine’s story seems weak at first but as the book progresses Justine’s family issues become as important as the search for the truth about Emily’s disappearance. As the two stories converge, putting the book down is nearly impossible!The novel is emotionally hard at times. The isolation, loneliness and emotional distress of each character is palpable. Both Lucy and Justine’s family secrets are slowly revealed but you can still feel them viscerally just below the surface from beginning to end. Would the story have changed if each succeeding generation not borne only girls? What draws each of the girls to a toxic spouse? Is there a way to save Justine and her girls?The book is so well written that it is hard to believe it’s the author’s first work of fiction! The descriptions of the lake and the woods make you feel as though you are witnessing things through three-D glasses. Lucy’s penchant for writing children’s books about Emily are works of art in themselves. There are so many layers to this book but the reader never gets lost in the story; just hungry to know more…Love, loyalty, friendship and family bonds are tested and the conclusion of the book will leave you stunned.I want to thank Heather Young, WM Morrow Publishers and Edelweiss for both hardcover and e-reader advance copies In exchange for my honest review.Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Heather Young’s marvelous first novel is a thoroughly engrossing mystery and a solid piece of writing. It is a family story of loss, betrayal, cowardice, courage and dark secrets. Many dark secrets. The novel is narrated in two streams. In the historical story, Lucy Evans, nearing the end of her life, decides she must write down an account of the events that took place during the summer of 1935, the last summer her family (sisters Lucy, 11, Emily, 6, and Lilith, 13, and their parents) spent together at their vacation home on the lake in Williamsburg, Minnesota. The contemporary story is a third person narrative from the perspective of Justine Evans, Lucy’s grandniece and Lilith’s granddaughter. Justine is living in San Diego with her own two daughters, Melanie and Angela, and her boyfriend Patrick. Upon Lucy’s death, Justine is astonished to find that she is the sole beneficiary of her great aunt’s will (which skips over Justine’s irresponsible and frequently inebriated mother, Maurie), inheriting the house and a substantial sum of money. Seeing an opportunity that she didn’t even realize she was waiting for, and without a word to Patrick, Justine packs her daughters and a few belongings into the car and takes off for Minnesota. Both narratives proceed at a leisurely pace, gradually and effectively ramping up the tension and suspense. Lucy’s story of that last fateful summer is heavy with foreboding, focusing mainly on her relationship with her sister Lilith, whose behaviour she is beginning to find perplexing, rebellious and occasionally mean spirited. As the summer progresses Lucy notices changes in her family and in herself, noting especially the odd and distressing antipathy springing up between Lilith and their devout, straight-laced father. Meanwhile, Justine’s story shows her coping with the challenges of a house in an advanced state of dilapidation stuffed with the dusty belongings of people long dead, and the severe Minnesota winter, all while trying to placate her two daughters, deal with Maurie when she shows up not entirely unexpectedly, make ends meet, and keep her whereabouts secret from Patrick. Heather Young has conjured up a spellbinding drama and a cast of unfailingly interesting characters. The prose shimmers with evocative sensory detail that brings the rustic Minnesota setting to life. One of the greatest pleasures of this novel are the descriptions of the house, the lake and the surrounding forest. There is a sensual, full-blooded, multi-dimensional quality to the writing that makes it memorable and elevates The Lost Girls to another level. When Lucy ventures into the wild, we are there with her experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. If you consider as well that the story is masterfully paced, the mystery unravels in a most satisfying manner, and the book comments meaningfully on human frailty and endurance and the strategies we use to live with our transgressions, it seems a sure thing that The Lost Girls will end up on more than one best-of-the-year list.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Why are we drawn to true crime sagas? Is it the voyeur in us, the "there but for the grace of..."? For me, both, and for this book, I grew up about ten miles away from this sad dumping ground for murdered female escorts.Robert Kolker is such a compassionate writer. This book is a true eulogy for five women who came of age in the new area of Craigslist escort services. Common to all is the sad realization that all were born to and parented by very flawed people who should have found something less damaging to do with their lives and time. Very worth a read and I think if this author would do readings at high schools and colleges, some women might not set their feet on the same doom-laden paths.

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  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This book should be used in classes on how to write true crime -- tour de force reporting and excellent writing. It's especially impressive since, as the subtitle clearly states, the case remains unsolved. Kolker is candid but compassionate about the lives of the women and how they came to work as escorts -- aka prostitutes -- using Craigslist to connect with clients and, eventually, the person (or persons) who killed them and dumped their bodies on a desolate stretch of Long Island highway. It's heartbreaking to realize that these women come from working class backgrounds where financial and thus family stability was totally undermined by the disappearance of solid jobs in places like Buffalo and Groton. And it's heartbreaking, too, to hear how police blew off the missing person reports on these women once they heard how they earned their money.

    1 person found this helpful