Review – Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes

Posted March 30, 2022 by Carole in Reviews / 12 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review – Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul HolesUnmasked: My Life Solving America's Cold Cases by Paul Holes, Robin Gaby Fisher
Published by Celadon Books on April 26, 2022
Genres: True Crime / Murder / General
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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From the detective who found The Golden State Killer, a memoir of investigating America’s toughest cold cases and the rewards--and toll--of a life solving crime.

For a decade, The Golden State Killer stalked and murdered Californians in the dead of night, leaving entire communities afraid to turn out the lights. The sadistic predator disappeared in 1986, hiding in plain sight for the next thirty years in middle class suburbia. In 1994, when cold case investigator Paul Holes came across the old file, he swore he would unmask the Golden State Killer and finally give these families some closure. Twenty four years later, Holes fulfilled that promise, identifying a 73-year-old former cop named Joseph J. DeAngelo. Headlines blasted from the U.S. to Europe: one of America’s most prolific serial killers was in custody.

That case launched Holes's career into the stratosphere, turning him into an icon in the true crime world with television shows like The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes and America's Most Wanted, and with the podcast Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad. Everyone knows Paul Holes, the gifted crime solver with a big heart and charming smile who finally caught the Golden State Killer. But until now, no one has known the man behind it all, the person beneath the flashy cases and brilliant investigations.

In this memoir, Holes takes us through his memories of a storied career and provides an insider account of some of the most notorious cases in contemporary American history, including the hunt for the Golden State Killer, Laci Peterson's murder and Jaycee Dugard's kidnapping. This is also a revelatory profile of a complex man and what makes him tick: the drive to find closure for victims and their loved ones, the inability to walk away from a challenge--even at the expense of his own happiness. Holes opens up the most intimate scenes of his life: his moments of self-doubt and the impact that detective work has had on his marriage. This is a story about the gritty truth of crime solving when there are no flashbulbs and “case closed” headlines. It is the story of a man and his commitment to cases and people who might have otherwise been forgotten.

I really liked this book! I had no idea who Paul Holes was when I picked up this book but it didn’t take long before I was captivated by this book. It is still kind of amazing to me that the same person would have been a part of so many high-profile cases. This was the kind of book that I would think about when I wasn’t reading so I can understand why Mr. Holes had a hard time getting these cases out of his head. I am so glad that I decided to give this book a try.

Paul Holes is credited with helping to catch the Golden State Killer. One might say that he was almost obsessed with finding who was responsible for these rapes and murders and sometimes pursued leads against the directions of his superiors. A lot of this book is dedicated to detailing these crimes and what went into breaking the case. I found all of this to be very interesting since I knew little about these crimes. He was also a part of the investigation of the Laci Peterson and Jaycee Dugard cases which were well-known. Those aren’t the only cases covered in the book and many of the others were not only eye-opening but heart-breaking. I should also note that Paul Holes worked in the crime lab so science plays a role in this book and I really liked seeing how forensics helps to solve cases.

We also get to see Mr. Holes’s personal life and how his job impacted his family life. I was impressed that he shared so many personal details in this book. He gave so much to his job that there was often not much left to share with his wife and children. He acknowledges his obsession with finding these criminals and how it took over his life. I also appreciated his candor when discussing the obstacles he faced when trying to work with other municipalities in trying to solve cases.

I would highly recommend this book to others. It was the kind of book that made me think and also appreciate the people who put so much of themselves out there to help make the world a safer place.

I received an advanced review copy of this book from Celadon Books.

12 responses to “Review – Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes

  1. Yay, I’m so glad you liked this one. It’s on my wish list!! I first heard about Paul Holes in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and then in Chase Darkness with Me as well – both very good true crime books.


  2. Oh this sounds fascinating! I hadn’t heard of him either but I do remember when the Golden State Killer Case broke. Definitely adding this one to my TBR.