R.J. Harlick’s love for Canada’s untamed wilds is the inspiration for the Meg Harris mystery series. The fourth in the series, Arctic Blue Death, was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. R.J. Harlick divides her time between Ottawa and West Quebec.
Silver Totem of Shame
On Haida Gwaii, Meg unravels a story of betrayal that reaches back more than a century.
While visiting Vancouver, Meg Harris encounters the crime scene of a murdered Haida carver. She and her husband Eric are forced to confront Eric’s painful past when the young victim’s identity is discovered. The repercussions send them up the coast to the islands of Haida Gwaii, land of the Haida, in search of the murdered boy’s family and his killer. As the search progresses, a totem pole carver sets out to depict the ancient tale of a long-ago chief’s treasure and how it incited deception and shame. This tragedy reaches its nasty tentacles into the present where Meg and Eric find themselves embroiled in a modern-day story of betrayal.
Fans of the earlier books in the series will give this one an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and it will work fine as a jumping-off point for new readers.
By showing both sides of the Indian-versus-European cultural dispute, [Harlick] wisely avoids the trap of painting one side’s history as pure evil, the other’s as sinless. This even-handedness brings complexity and depth to what could have been a mere diatribe. Instead, we get a superb novel that lends itself to reread after reread.
This is the best Harlick yet.
It wasn’t long ago that I paid a visit to British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. There on display, are the ‘Totems of Shame’, long ago removed from their original villages. It was with a shudder of recognition that I joined [characters] Meg and Eric for a much-remembered tour of the red cedar carvings of the coast.
Harlick’s prose and characterization is as competent as ever and the slow reveal of the reasons why Allistair was murdered is skillfully handled.