Review: UNMASKED: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes (2022)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: panic attacks, suicide, rape, sexual assault, drug abuse, alcoholism, murder, gore, PTSD

Paul Holes is perhaps best known as the detective who found the Golden State Killer. In this book, he details his life, from how he became obsessed with investigative work through his career solving murders. It’s insightful and deeply empathetic not only of the victims, but of those lives Paul touched, yet ultimately left behind.

A memoir about solving cold cases that outlines both the personal and interpersonal costs associated with trying to get closure for some of the worst that humanity has to offer.

The self-awareness Holes presents his life with is something to behold. He’s very frank when it comes to his struggles with mental illness, specifically panic attacks and generalized anxiety disorder. He’s also completely aware of how the investigations might have been driving him further down a grisly rabbit hole. He does not shirk away from any details, so be careful once he gets into the details of the various unsolved and solved murders.

Speaking of, I cannot stop thinking about Michelle McNamara and her dogged commitment to solving the Golden State Killer case. The tribute to her role in both the investigation and Holes’ life is touching. The camaraderie there definitely adds a ray of hope to Holes’ otherwise increasingly lonely existence, especially working on a case as harrowing as that one.

But the book does not focus on that case alone. It spans Holes’ entire career, and he carefully explains how investigative technology has evolved. It’s accessible for lay people both with regards to science and true crime. He has a knack for explanation, which makes the self-awareness aspect of this memoir that much easier to follow and compelling. Moreover, it also addresses the moral complexity of some methods, namely the parts where DNA can be cross-referenced with questionably public records provided by genealogy companies.

It’s a fantastic companion piece to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, but really stands on its own as a primer for the mountains or work that goes into investigating long lost cases.

One thought on “Review: UNMASKED: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes (2022)

  1. Pingback: May 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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