Header Image

Nonfiction Review: Unmasked by Paul Holes with Robin Gaby Fisher

Title: Unmasked: My Life Solving America's Cold Cases
Author: Paul Holes with Robin Gaby Fisher
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (CA)

SummaryFrom Paul Holes, the detective who found the Golden State Killer, Unmasked is a memoir that "grabs its reader in a stranglehold and proves more fascinating than fiction and darker than any noir narrative." (LA Magazine)

I order another bourbon, neat. This is the drink that will flip the switch. I don’t even know how I got here, to this place, to this point. Something is happening to me lately. I’m drinking too much. My sheets are soaking wet when I wake up from nightmares of decaying corpses. I order another drink and swig it, trying to forget about the latest case I can’t shake.

Crime solving for me is more complex than the challenge of the hunt, or the process of piecing together a scientific puzzle. The thought of good people suffering drives me, for better or worse, to the point of obsession. People always ask how I am able to detach from the horrors of my work. Part of it is an innate capacity to compartmentalize; the rest is experience and exposure, and I’ve had plenty of both. But I have always taken pride in the fact that I can keep my feelings locked up to get the job done. It’s only been recently that it feels like all that suppressed darkness is beginning to seep out.

When I look back at my long career, there is a lot I am proud of. I have caught some of the most notorious killers of the twenty-first century and brought justice and closure for their victims and families. I want to tell you about a lifetime solving these cold cases, from Laci Peterson to Jaycee Dugard to the Pittsburg homicides to, yes, my twenty-year-long hunt for the Golden State Killer.

But a deeper question eats at me as I ask myself, at what cost? I have sacrificed relationships, joy―even fatherhood―because the pursuit of evil always came first. Did I make the right choice? It’s something I grapple with every day. Yet as I stand in the spot where a young girl took her last breath, as I look into the eyes of her family, I know that, for me, there has never been a choice. “I don’t know if I can solve your case,” I whisper. “But I promise I will do my best.”

Review:  I don't remember who recommended this book, but I am glad they did. I haven't read a good nonfiction in a while and this one hit the spot. I listened to it because I had a couple long drives to Los Angeles and thought it would make the drive go more quickly and it did. The author reads the book and he does a good job of it.

Cold cases are fascinating to me. Give me a good true crime podcast and I am riveted so this one suited me and I was in the right mood for it. Holes tells a good story and kept the pace moving quickly. I didn't realize so much of it would be on the Golden State Killer and I found that particularly interesting since Santa Barbara had a few of the victims, one of whom was the mother of one of my high school classmates (my classmate was quite active working with the police in the end when they were closing in on him).

This book is not for the feint of heart. There are descriptions of attacks, rape, and murder that can be quite disturbing. However, they are not gratuitous and feel necessary to understand how working these crimes affects not only the victims and their families, but the law enforcement personnel who are involved. Holmes was a Crime Scene Investigator so he had first hand experience with these cases.

If you find this sort of thing interesting, this book will appeal to you.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Nonfiction--popular science

No comments