Red Ice for a Shroud
by RJ Harlick

Rendezvous Crime, 2006. ISBN 1-894917-38-3.
Reviewed by Sharon Wildwind
Posted on 06/11/2008

Fiction: Mystery

In the end, it always comes down to the land and the weather.

When Meg Harris' great-aunt Agatha bequeathed her land and a house in remote West Quebec, Meg found a perfect way to escape her job and her abusive husband. She spent summers with Aunt Agatha and knew and loved the isolation. What she hadn't planned on was murder moving in with her.

Meg's only neighbors, the Migiskan Anishinabeg First Nation, need cash. Chief Eric Odjik has plans for a ski marathon, but miles of ski trails must be cleared before winter sets in. Meg's trail crew is falling behind, and to complicate matters, she discovers the mutilated, naked body of a young Québécoise woman. The woman's lover, a man from the reserve, is suspected. Although Meg knows the man has problems (including a previous cocaine addiction), she's not convinced that he would murder the woman he loved.

The weather and the land get a big play in this book, and Harlick handles the northern descriptions beautifully. Her Migiskan Anishinabeg people are a construct, but she's done her research well. Having worked with Dene Tha people in northern Alberta, I felt that the author captured the voice and feel of the complex relationships both between First Nations and white cultures, and between French and English cultures in Quebec. This is a dense, rich book that I read with great pleasure, rooting for Meg the whole time.

This is the second book featuring amateur detective Meg. First: Death's Golden Whisper; third, The River Runs Orange. I recommend all of them.

RJ Harlick escaped. She spent a quarter of a century in a large city, working in the computer industry. Eventually, she decided that pursuing killers by pen would be more fun than chasing the elusive computer bug. She moved herself, her family, and her detective, Meg Harris, to the Outaouais. If you're not familiar with that part of Quebec, it's a two-hour drive north of Ottawa, and it is very beautiful, but isolated country. For more information not only about her books, but some lovely photographs of the Quebec wilderness, see RJ's website.

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