Where Shadows Linger: The Untold Story of the Olson Murders Investigation


256 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895811-92-9
DDC 364.15'23'09711




Reviewed by Louis A. Knafla

Louis A. Knafla is a professor of history at the University of Calgary,
the co-editor of Law, Society, and the State: Essays in Modern Legal
History, and the author of Lords of the Western Bench.


Holmes and Northorp, who coordinated the original RCMP investigation
into the Olson serial murders of 1980–81 and kept detailed notebooks,
have written what may well become the definitive account of the case.

It was undermined by a host of problems, including the ill-defined
jurisdiction of departments and detachments, which allowed Olson to
remain free to commit more sexual crimes and murders; lack of
coordination between the 10 units involved in the case; an insufficient
number of active officers in detachments; excessive and untimely
transfers of officers familiar with the case; deadwood and upheavals in
the chain of command; malaise in the RCMP hierarchy; an overstaffed
bureaucracy; lack of an adequate surveillance team at critical
junctures; and misjudgments in the Crown prosecutor’s office that made
it possible for Olson to commit 10 additional sexual assaults and
murders after he had been identified as the main suspect. There is also
the matter of the $100,000 that was paid to Olson’s wife in exchange
for his identification of the location of the bodies.

The authors conclude by observing that the case achieved a satisfactory
resolution. Their greatest accomplishment in this book, however, is to
expose the failures of the criminal justice system.


Holmes, W. Leslie, and Bruce Northorp., “Where Shadows Linger: The Untold Story of the Olson Murders Investigation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8670.