#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · non-fiction · true crime

Book Review: The Lost Girls by Ava Benny-Morrison

Title: The Lost Girls

Author: Ava Benny-Morrison

Published: May 2nd 2019

Publisher: ABC Books – AU

Pages: 304

Genres:  Non Fiction, True Crime

RRP: $32.99

Rating: 4 stars

The chilling true story of the heinous murder of Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and daughter

Khandalyce and how the case was cracked.


In August 2010, the bones of a young woman were found in Belanglo State Forest, where, years earlier, Ivan Milat had tortured and slain seven young backpackers. Dubbed Angel, her remains lay unidentified for years. Who was she, how did she die, and at whose hand?

Then, in July 2015, the bones of a child were found in a suitcase by a highway in South Australia. Months later, a call to Crime Stoppers led to an identification. Two-year-old Khandalyce Pearce had left Alice Springs in 2008 with her mother and hadn’t been seen since. Through DNA, Angel was quickly identified as Khandalyce’s mother, Karlie Pearce-Stevenson. In the grimmest of scenarios, mother and daughter were reunited at last.

The Lost Girls is the chilling true story of this heinous double murder and how police tracked down the perpetrator, who not only killed the girls but stole the young mother’s identity to defraud authorities and her family. Gripping and authentic, The Lost Girls celebrates the short lives of a young woman and her daughter, and the investigators determined to bring them home.


The double murder of Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her young daughter Khandalyce shocked our nation. Journalist Ava Benny-Morrison brings our attention to this tragic case through her book, The Lost Girls. In her book, Ava Benny-Morrison outlines the detailed forensic investigation and the careful police work that resulted in the arrest of a killer.

The Lost Girls is carefully compiled by Ava Benny-Morrison, a crime reporter for the Sunday Telegraph. The Lost Girls is divided into four parts. The first part is titled ‘Discovery’. This pivotal section looks at the day the remains of Karlie were unearthed in the Belanglo State Forest, along with the resulting forensic investigation which worked to identify her bones. The second part titled ‘Disappearance’ gives the reader a solid background to Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, her family, personality traits, relationships and Karlie’s movements leading up to her disappearance. Ava Benny-Morrison provides a chronological based timeline around Karlie and her young daughter’s case. Part three is ‘Investigation’ which provides the reader with an in-depth look into the mechanics of this convoluted double murder investigation. The final part ‘Justice’ charts the judicial segment of this investigation into gaining a conviction, as well as the sentencing of the vicious killer. An Author’s Note, References and Acknowledgements section rounds off this informative text. Ava Benny-Morrison leaves no stone unturned in The Lost Girls, she outlines all aspects of this case from Karlie’s early family days, to the painstaking police work and the killer’s background. Much of the book concentrates on the impact that this terrible crime had on the loved ones left behind. What remains clear in this true crime novel is that it is a truly heart-breaking case and the motives for murdering mother and daughter were vicious, as well as calculated.

The Lost Girls was a book due to the content being based on domestic and child abuse, I found hard to both read and review. There was definitely a sick feeling that followed me throughout The Lost Girls. It would be inappropriate if I said that I enjoyed this text, but I appreciated what was presented. Despite the uncomfortable feeling that I had while reading The Lost Girls I felt compelled to keep reading this book and I cared to learn more about the lives of this mother and child, who were taken too soon. I did know about the final outcome of this case due to the media coverage I have encountered previously, but the path The Lost Girls took me on was tear jerking and shocking.

The Lost Girls is a well composed, empathetic and respectful text. Ava Benny-Morrison’s background as a journalist lends to an informative style of writing that complimented this book. The format was a clear and each preceding part of this true crime puzzle somehow got under your skin, encouraging you to read on, despite the upsetting circumstances. The Lost Girls is carefully researched, offering a comprehensive perspective on one of Australia’s most devastating cases. Ava Benny-Morrison utilises a balanced approach, issuing the core facts of this true crime, with moments of sensitivity. The author gives us a solid picture of the killer, but Ava Benny-Morrison is careful in ensuring that she does not glorify this man. In her treatment of Karlie’s family, partners and friends, Ava Benny-Morrison is very respectful.

I hope The Lost Girls will serve as an essential text to help raise community awareness of extreme violence against women and children in vulnerable situations.

The Lost Girls by Ava Benny-Morrison was published on 2nd May 2019 by ABC Books – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Lost Girls , Ava Benny-Morrison, visit here.

The Lost Girls is book #111 the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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