Book Review “How a Colonel Became a Killer” by Cal Millar and Ian Robertson

on February 21, 2013 in Book Reviews, Serial Killers by

Russell Williams. The former Canadian Air Force Colonel who, in 2007, began an 873 day crime spree during which he broke in to over eighty houses, stole hundreds of articles of women’s clothing and lingerie, photographed and catalogued his ‘trophies’, culminating in the rape and murder of two women.

The synopsis is brief as the content of this book is not much different from the basic content of Camouflaged Killer (my previous review) by David A. Gibb.

I chose to read about Russell Williams for two reasons:

  • -His “story” is fascinating in that he is the first serial killer to meticulously document everything. I truly believe he is the beginning of a new era of serial killers. Modern technology is a wonderful thing and will aid law enforcement in capture and conviction of myriad criminals it’s also a hindrance. Unfortunately this also means we (society) will be exposed to gruesome crimes pictorially as opposed to via the written and spoken word.
  • -I was so disturbed by the graphic content of Gibb’s novel that I felt obligated to read another book of the same subject matter. Much in the way that there are dozens of books about Charles Manson and the Family, I was hoping to find something – anything – new about Williams that I had not yet read.

Sadly, that has not been the case. What I seem to have found is that with meticulous documentation comes regurgitation of the same facts. Each author has their own distinctive style but the bottom line is, at least at this time, there is very little additional information. Perhaps the most interesting material is chapter fifteen, which breaks away from Russell Williams entirely and gives an historic account of criminals who have documented their crimes whether by video, photographs, audio tape, or diary.

I am hesitant to not recommend this book. It is not horribly written. Sure, it has flaws. The timeline, while date-driven, is hard to follow. It bounces back and forth to the point of confusion.  Instead of one chapter being dedicated to (for example) Laurie Massicotte, her story is partially written within several chapters. There are plenty of pictures and while they are not used to take up space for lack of content, their placement is distracting but is not as graphic as David A. Gibb’s account of Williams’ crimes.

I do not think I will be reading about Russell Williams again. I had really hoped I did not care for Williams based on Camouflaged Killer’s disturbingly graphic account; however, that was not the case. I found him to be one of the more boring serial killers; in fact, the only thing I find interesting about him is his technology savvy detailed documentation of his crimes.

Cal Millar is a former reporter for the Toronto Star and has been associated with Crime Stoppers since the 1980s. You can find more information about him at

Ian Robertson currently writes for the Toronto Sun. He has won myriad awards for his writing and photography.

Note: If you purchase “How a Colonel Became a Killer” from using this link, The Serial Killers Podcast receives a small percentage of the sale, which helps cover our hosting costs.

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