This book is about the murders of 5 women whose bodies were found on Long Island. The killer has been dubbed the Long Island Serial/ The Gilgo Beach Murderer and others. Four of the women’s bodies were determined to have been killed by the same person and the 5th Shannan Gilbert’s was found later and as of the time the book was written it has not been officially determined whether or not she was a victim of the same killer. It was the search for Gilbert’s body that initially turned up the first 4 women’s bodies as well as several others. The book is about the five women and their lives before they went missing as well as the lives of their family and friends in the aftermath.
Most of all, this book gave me perspective. All of these women were close to me in age and in proximity. I grew up in Connecticut as did Maureen Brainard-Barnes. What really struck me was that without the amazing support system that I had growing up myself or any one of my friends could’ve ended up in a similar situation. I grew up in a loving and relatively “normal” family, in a “good” neighborhood and went to “good” schools.
All of these women seemed doomed from the start. I do not mean what I say to pass any form of judgement on any of these women. They all came from unstable families and many of them didn’t feel loved. Even the ones who regularly saw other family members didn’t know how to show love and support to each other. All of them for varying financial and emotional reasons turned to selling themselves on craigslist. Those who hadn’t done drugs before quickly picked them up once “in the life” which led to an even deeper spiral. Though they were making lots of money that at one time had gone to rent or food for their families it was never enough to keep their escalating drug habits. Some of them turned to drugs because it was expected of them while working. Others started because their friends were or to turn out the pain. Some had pimps or protectors many of them rarely saw their own children.
I spent most of the book just feeling so sorry for the women. In any fiction book they would end up being the ones to turn themselves around, but in real life that’s not the way things happen. The book was very interesting and it definitely served as some commentary on small exclusive towns as well as our media culture. I think it also raised some questions about how we investigate missing people. The police found at least 11 bodies, including an infant. All of them were call girls with the exception of one man who may have been posing as a woman while working. All of their bodies had been dumped in the same place never to be seen again if it weren’t for Shannan. Their families largely felt that the girls had been ignored as missing persons because they were all sex workers. There isn’t a lot of information and interviews with the police and I would absolutely give them the benefit of a doubt. I’d like to believe that they all did the best they could but without having anything to work from and the girls being in an industry where people often leave to find business in another big city under another name, there wasn’t much they could do. This book doesn’t really give me much cause to think it was anything other than that even though I do feel terrible that nothing was done for so long.
Other than sadness for the women, a lot of the people involved made me very angry. It was difficult to manage all the egos of people interviewed. Many of them refused to see blame in anything they did, always playing the victim. Others were clearly attention seeking and did all they could to steal the spotlight in such a terrible time. One person lied directly to one of the families and called her a liar to the media. There were also many missteps that were just incredibly frustrating. Security tapes that had been taped over, missing clothing, you’ve heard all these things before in other true stories and unfortunately they happen all too often.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. That said, do not start this book if you’re looking for a pick me up. I give this book 4/5. To purchase this book click here.
*Quick note, I listened to this as an audio book. Shouldn’t be a big deal but there it is.