Saturday, February 25, 2012


by R.J. Harlick
Dundurn Press

Two young native girl go missing on the streets of Ottawa. Not an unusual story but when it becomes the disappearance of 16 girls in total and four are found dead, the story takes on new significance.

It’s not an Ottawa story. It happens across the country. And often the tragedy is that the police show little interest in pursuing the cases. Until the numbers become so great that notoriety follows and then the story becomes in large part, media-driven.

This is the story Meg Harris finds herself involved with in this fifth Meg Harris Mystery. One of the girls is Fleur, the 18-year-old daughter of a friend, who fled the Migiskan Anishinabeg First Nations Reserve in Western Quebec after a fight with her mom. She ended up in Ottawa and there the trail goes cold. Meg is drawn into the search which leads to a Welcome Centre for first nations youth in east Ottawa, a place the girls had all frequented.

When Meg’s former boyfriend, Eric who is the band chief, also goes missing, his daughter and Meg track the clues that point to a connection between all the disappearances. Also comes the certainty that if both Eric and Fleur are not already dead, they will be, soon.

R,J. Harlick has taken a story we’ve read about many times in the newspapers over the years. She’s given the story a focus, Fleur, and a family that is traumatized by what has happened. We meet the friends and neighbours on the Migiskan Reserve who offer comfort and help. We feel the terror of what they are confronting. This is top notch story-telling.

Another of Harlick’s wonderful way with words, is the including of the reader in the culture and traditions. The first two chapters enfold us in the sights and sounds of a monthly ceremony to honour Grandmother Moon, with the hope that a sign will give some hope to the mothers of the two missing girls.

All of the Meg Harris books are steeped in this rich culture that adds a deeper texture to the novels. The mysteries are solidly plotted and provide new challenges to Meg. And she in turn, works through her own demons and insecurities.

It’s certainly possible to read A Green Place For Dying on its own but so much more satisfying to start at the beginning of Meg’s story and read the four books that come before. This is a series you’ll want to read from start to finish.

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