Sunday, March 23, 2014

Review: Silver Totem of Shame: A Meg Harris Mystery by R.J. Harlick

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Dundurn (April 26 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1459721691
  • ISBN-13: 978-1459721692

Book Description

While visiting Vancouver, Meg Harris comes across the crime scene of a murdered Haida carver. The young man proves to be the adopted nephew of the estranged sister of Meg's husband, Eric Odjik. The unexpected encounter with his sister forces Eric to confront his painful past and eventually sends Meg and Eric up the coast to Haida Gwaii in search of the boy's family and his killer. As the search progresses, a totem pole carver sets out to carve the ancient story of a long ago chief's treasure and how it incited betrayal and shame. It reaches its nasty tentacles into the present and embroils Meg and Eric in a modern-day story of clan rivalry and betrayal.

About the Author

 R.J. Harlick's love for Canada's untamed wilds is the inspiration for the six-book Meg Harris series. The fourth in the series, Arctic Blue Death, was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. She lives in Ottawa.

My Review

Silver Totem of Shame is initially set in Vancouver, which is where I live, so of course my interest was immediately grabbed. Then R.J. Harlick's wonderful writing style and story kept me glued to the book. This is the sixth in the series but the first I have read. The books in the series are all priced very low for the Kindle on Amazon right now so I bought more already. It is not necessary to read the earlier volumes to be able to follow Silver Totem of Shame; it could easily stand alone.

Meg Harris and her husband, Eric Odjik, are visiting Vancouver for a First Nations meeting. A young Haida carver is murdered. Events start to get really interesting once it is discovered that the murder victim is Eric's adopted sister's adopted son. Both Eric and Alistair the murder victim are of First Nations heritage. The action soon moves from Vancouver to the isolated and rugged Queen Charlotte Islands which are known today by their Haida name: Haida Gwaii.

Things heat up once everyone is in Haida Gwaii. The new chief is holding a totem raising and potlatch which is expected of a new chief. Not everyone is happy with the person is the new chief. Old hurts, old shames fester beneath the surface and erupt as the story progresses.

This is an outstanding mystery that fittingly portrays the current realities of First Nations people in British Columbia. R.J. Harlick has brought Vancouver, the Haida people, and Haida Gwaii to life. The islands are beautiful but desolate and the cold there is such a wet cold that deeply penetrates your bones. I could feel for Meg as the waves were crashing over the boat. 

I really enjoyed the Silver Totem of Shame. R.J. Harlick is a wonderful storyteller and able to provide the reader with an authentic sense of place. Be sure to pick up a copy when it is released in April.

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