If a possibly unhealthy interest in true crime has taught me anything, it’s that the law does not function equally for all members of society. Many of the most prolific and longest working serial killers were those that preyed on prostitutes. The media don’t consider these victims compelling news, and the police often feel these women are at least partially to blame for their fates and put their cases on the back burner. In the 21st century, sites like craigslist and backpage have added even more anonymity to the process of connecting with a sex worker. All of these ingredients have combined to aid a killer in Long Island who has killed at least 4 and as many as 10 women and who is still at large as of today.
Lost Girls narrows its focus to 5 of these young women: Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Amber Lynn Costello, Megan Waterman, Melissa Barthelemy and Shannan Gilbert. It is Shannan, who placed a frantic 911 call before running off screaming into the night that brings attention and the subsequent discovery of the bodies of the other four girls into the news. The book begins by giving a brief outline of the short and difficult lives of the girls. Then Kolker covers the days leading up to their disappearances, the discovery of their bodies and the ensuing case which seems to have uncovered some suspicious characters, but no strong leads. Also complicating this is the fact that the community of Oak Beach, where the bodies were found, is peopled by well-off, private people that would like nothing more than this entire mess to go away.
This book is well written and researched but the subject matter is bleak. The title tells you going in the case is unsolved. I found it difficult reading about the girls childhoods filled with poverty and abuse knowing that there would be no justice in the end for them. If you follow this read up with the Making a Murderer and the Paradise Lost documentaries, you can solidify your disillusionment with the American Judicial System.