As one of the most anticipated true crime releases of 2022, Paul Holes’ new true crime memoir, Unmasked, is an unflinching look inside the career of one of the most well-known figures in true crime and popular culture.
Holes’ memoir recounts some of the most famous and harrowing moments in his career alongside events in his personal life that shaped him as a man and as an investigator. The text emphasizes a conflation of the personal and the professional, focusing on the ways in which each element of Holes’ life influenced the other, and the complexities that surround each. The memoir covers Holes’ career from beginning to end, and the thread that runs through the entire narrative is the story of Holes’ own connection to the Golden State Killer case and the files that Holes became interested in early in his career.
Unmasked marks what seems to be the third and final essential installment in what I’ve come to think of as the Golden State Killer ‘trilogy,’ beginning with Michella McNamara’s unforgettable memoir I’ll be Gone in the Dark (2018), and Billy Jensen’s Chase Darkness With Me (2019). Holes’ work is an important addition to this body of writing from those who were directly involved with the case, and those who knew McNamara. Because Holes has recently gained public notoriety on podcasts like My Favourite Murder and with his own podcast hosted with Billy Jensen, The Murder Squad, it is no surprise that readers and true crime fans will want to hear from Holes, and it is my hope that they will be pleasantly surprised by what they find. Although he has become famous in recent years, Holes’ career is long and complex, and his narrative of his life is one of honesty and clarity.
Contradictory to the professional and analytical public persona that Holes presents online, Unmasked is unflinchingly honest. Holes brings his articulate and careful voice to some of the most harrowing and private moments of his life, allowing the reader to encounter Holes’ earnest reflections on his life, career, and the cases he has worked. After reading the memoir, the title takes on two different meanings: Paul Holes both unmasks killers and makes a sincere and successful effort to unmask himself for his readers. I did not anticipate such an emotionally honest memoir, and it was a pleasure to read such frank reflections. His chapters on the Golden State Killer are especially poignant, and his chapter on Michelle McNamara and the effect she had on his life are a fitting tribute to the woman who was so integral to solving the case and Holes’ grief for his dear friend.
Another fascinating aspect of the memoir, and one that often appears in former investigators’ narratives of their careers, is Holes’ narration of some of the most famous and most bizarre cases he was involved in. Holes worked cases that nearly every true crime reader or watcher knows, and his presence on the investigative team is surprising and insightful. In addition to the Golden State Killer case, Holes explores some of his most memorable cases throughout his career, including those that continue to haunt him.
With careful construction, Holes crafts a narrative out of the complex and varied moments of his life. The character of this memoir is emotional honesty and forthrightness, and it will give readers a new insight into the life and career of one of true crime’s most popular personas in popular culture.
About the Writer:
Rachel M. Friars (she/her) is a PhD student in the Department of English Language and Literature at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She holds a BA and an MA in English Literature with a focus on neo-Victorianism and adaptations of Jane Eyre. Her current work centers on neo-Victorianism and nineteenth-century lesbian literature and history, with secondary research interests in life writing, historical fiction, true crime, popular culture, and the Gothic. Her academic writing has been published with Palgrave Macmillan and in The Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies. She is a reviewer for The Lesbrary, the co-creator of True Crime Index, and an Associate Editor and Social Media Coordinator for PopMeC Research Collective. Rachel is co-editor-in-chief of the international literary journal, The Lamp, and regularly publishes her own short fiction and poetry. Find her on Twitter and Goodreads.