Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by R.J. Harlick
RendezVous Crime, April 2008
300 pages
$15.95 CAD
ISBN: 1894917626

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Meg Harris lives in the house her Great Aunt Agatha left her, tucked far up impossible roads in the Outaouais, otherwise known as West Quebec, well north of Ottawa, where she seeks to heal the damages wrought on her psyche by a failed marriage and the strains of Toronto, her former home. Her closest neighbours are the Migiskan Algonquin, whose reserve abuts her property..

As this third book in the series opens, Meg is on a canoe trip with her neighbour and lover, Eric Odjik, chief of the Migiskan band. The trip has a two-fold purpose - to teach Meg how to whitewater canoe and to ease relations between her and Eric's daughter, Teht'aa, a young woman who grew up on a Dene reserve in the far north and who has come along on the river with her Mohawk boyfriend, Larry. As an exercise in improved understanding, things are not going well. Both of the young people are suspicious of whites, though perhaps out of different experiences.

When the canoe Meg and Eric are in capsizes in the rapids, they fetch up on a beach where Meg, looking around, comes across skeletal remains. She assumes that they are what is left of some hapless canoeist, less fortunate than she, but they are not. They turn out to be very ancient indeed, dating back eleven thousand years. Further examination reveals that they may be Caucasian in origin, not Amerindian.

This makes them simultaneously an object of great interest both to anthropological science and to the Native peoples of the area, who demand that they be properly and promptly buried in accordance with traditional belief. The value of the bones, scientific, monetary, and spiritual, inevitably leads to murder.

RJ Harlick spends the greater part of her time in the country she describes and clearly has a profound love and respect for it and the people who live there. She has thought long and deeply about the issues involving First Nations people, and her sympathies clearly and properly lie with them. She is, however, aware that these issues are neither clearly defined nor easily resolved, and she takes great care to lay out the various strains and stresses between whites and Natives in a thoughtful way.

The problem is that I am not altogether convinced that Harlick has chosen quite the right genre to discuss these matters. She has a talent for lively description of both nature and action, a talent that must have led her in the direction of the thriller, but she seems too responsible to do what thriller writers must - cut to the chase and forget the nuances.

Nevertheless, this series is certainly worth a look. It provides a lot of sound information about matters that are too frequently presented merely sentimentally and it is by no means short of narrative drive. And the chance to visit the Outaouais without blackflies is really too good to pass up.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, June 2008

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]