Robert Kolker dives into the case of the Long Island serial killer in Lost Girls. He looks at each victim and delves into their families – why they became escorts and prostitutes, how they ended up where they did, and why they were targets of this killer, who has never been caught.
I will admit, despite their being a list of characters in the back, I got lost in who was who and who was connected to who sometimes. The girls all worked under multiple names and they had kids and families, so sometimes the names got jumbled and confused. However, there are a couple of things about this book that make it a really important read.
The first thing is that these women/girls all came from hard-scrabble existences. They lived in poverty and saw being a prostitute as a way to quick cash and out of their socio-economic bracket. Despite what their friends and families have said, that is the one thing that binds them together. Whether they grew up in Maine, Maryland, North Carolina, or New York, they all had poverty, lack of education, lack of job opportunities, early motherhood, and bad parents as their common bonds.
The second point that Kolker makes – though almost always very subtly, is that if these women were ANYTHING but prostitutes/call girls, this case might have been solved. Or the outcome for Shannan Gilbert may have been different. Because Shannan was a prostitute and was on a call when she called 9-1-1, the police didn’t take her seriously. When the families of all the girls who were killed reported them missing, the police didn’t take them seriously. As soon as the police found out they were prostitutes, they didn’t seem to care about finding them – until their bodies were located. Then it became a big deal.
I liked this book. Kolker wrote it with care. He wants to readers to understand these girls’ lives – their complicated family situations, their poverty, their dreams, their ambitions. He writes them in a way that makes you care and makes you understand. I don’t condone prostitution, but I certainly understand how women can be driven to it. It’s an expression of power, though ultimately, it’s really not. That is how/why these women ended up dead.
As much as Kolker wrote the girls with an eye towards sympathy and understanding, he wrote the cops as attention-starved cynics, who just didn’t care about solving this case. The police did, in my opinion, a very slipshod investigation. I think that is why this case isn’t solved. I think it could be. But I don’t know if it ever will be.
I liked this book. It was well-written and tells a fascinating story. If you like true crime, you’ll like this book. I won this book and received no compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.