“Killers Keep Secrets: The Golden State Killer’s Other Life” by James Huddle


James Huddle
Independently Published (2020)
ISBN 9781733973205
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (09/2020)

“Killers Keep Secrets: The Golden State Killer’s Other Life” is told by Jim Huddle. For almost fifty years, the Golden State Killer had been a part of his family. Introduced to him in 1971 as his sister’s new boyfriend, Joseph James DeAngelo was a bit odd, but nothing directly painted him as dangerous or as a potential threat to himself or others. A Vietnam Veteran and former police officer himself, DeAngelo was welcomed into Huddle’s family with ease.  Eventually marrying Huddle’s sister, DeAngelo became a regular part of Jim’s life and played important roles as both an uncle to Jim’s daughters, and a father to his own. Referred to multiple times as “the brother (I wish) I never had,” it came as a shock when Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested in April 2018, accused of being the infamous Golden State Killer. 

“Killers Keep Secrets” details the entirety of Joseph James DeAngelo’s time as a member of Jim’s family, putting into full focus the message that sometimes the most dangerous people are the ones you least expect. In fact, they could be standing right next to you or sharing your table.  Huddle’s book is well organized, and the chronological progress of the information, starting with Joe’s introduction as his little sister’s boyfriend and through to his arrest in 2018, helps with being able to convey a lot of information and details in a way that is not overwhelming to readers. 

Huddle captured Joseph James DeAngelo’s life as seeming to be perfectly ordinary yet speckled with various instances of dangerous impulse or erratic behavior.  Still, none of this behavior necessarily insinuated that Joseph himself was dangerous, only that sometimes he may not have made the best decisions.  This, of course, is something all of us humans are guilty of every now and then.  While it was hard mentally to read and comprehend the scope of the violence and devastation DeAngelo left in his wake of his crimes, the information was clear cut and added to the narrative of Huddle’s story, rather than simply reading like a list of the Golden State Killer’s crimes over the years. 

I also thought it was really clever of Huddle to include the research on other historic serial killers from America’s history, as well as some of the very common myths and stereotypes the media likes to use to portray these heinous individuals in books, movies and TV shows.  Huddle’s intent is a grim, yet important one: to teach his readers that danger often rears its ugly head when least expected and can very easily wear a face you are familiar with. 

“Killers Keep Secrets” can easily be targeted at a general audience.  The language and writing style are accessible to those of most ages and reading levels.  Given the subject material, however, the book may not be suitable for younger readers or those who might be overly frightened by the violent accounts of DeAngelo’s crimes.  I found no editing or mechanical issues during my read of the book, and found the pacing to be fast, but in a way the emphasized the suspenseful nature of the information being presented.  For this kind of read, I find that a faster pace can help readers want to keep turning pages and keeps the story from feeling like it’s dragging toward the middle of the book.

Ultimately, “Killers Keep Secrets: The Golden State Killer’s Other Life” is an informative and riveting account of the life of Joseph James DeAngelo.  Once picked up, it certainly is a book that is hard to put down!  The autobiographical tone of the book brings readers into the heart of DeAngelo’s seemingly normal life as a father, friend, and hard worker, of whom most family members and friends spoke of in a positive light.  The informative undercurrent, however, reminds readers throughout that we should always be vigilant of the people around us, and take note of any behavior that seems out of the ordinary.  By staying vigilant, we can not only keep ourselves and our communities safer, but also potentially try and help someone who might be about to jump over the edge and give into violent impulses.

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