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“Lost Girls”: A serial killer’s victims

There's a hole at the center of Robert Kolker's new book, "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery," and he lets you know it right in the subtitle. Kolker, a contributing editor at New York magazine, has covered the Long Island Serial Killer case for that publication, and the case remains open. At least four and possibly as many as 14 murders have been attributed to a still-unknown individual who dumped his victims' remains along the desolate 15-mile stretch of Ocean Parkway beside Gilgo Beach, on one of the barrier islands of Suffolk County, N.Y.

What many true crime aficionados would regard as the most important element of the crimes -- the identity of the perpetrator -- is the one piece of information Kolker, along with everybody else investigating the killings, cannot supply. Surely a few readers of "Lost Girls" will find this unsatisfying, but that will be their shortcoming, not Kolker's. The absence of the killer is the making of this book, a constraint that allows it to become extraordinary.

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