The River Runs Orange

The River Runs Orange

By Elspeth Redmond

A review of The River Runs Orange by R. J. Harlick

Published on October 1, 2008

The River Runs Orange
R. J. Harlick

Rendez-Vous Crime
$15.95
paper
300pp
978-1-894917-62-9

R.J. Harlick’s latest mystery opens with detective Meg Harris and her lover Eric Odjik, chief of a band of the Algonquin First Nation, canoeing down the wild waters of the De Montigny River in West Quebec. After some scary misadventures involving rocks, eddies, chutes, and standing waves, Meg catches her breath on a beach. She discovers a copper-coloured skull and bones, the remains of a human being who has apparently met a violent end. Once the pathologists and archaeologists get hold of the bones we learn that they are thousands of years old and belonged to a woman who suffered many fractures while alive. The remains, according to the experts, should not have turned up in that place at all. These puzzles are never explained.

At this point the storyline is taken over by the question of who should control the disposition of the De Montigny Lady, as the skeleton is called: the native peoples on whose land the bones were found, the federal or provincial governments, or some unscrupulous traffickers in ancient tribal artefacts. The story spins off into numerous subplots, all well researched, with some more interesting than others. The bones are repeatedly stolen and passed from one group to another. Bad things start to happen, including the stabbing death of one of the paleo-anthropologists. Deep divisions occur within Eric’s band and quarrels spring up everywhere. In the end, after another vivid and terrifying canoe trip down the De Montigny, this time through a forest fire, the killer is arrested and conflicts are resolved, though not entirely to the reader’s satisfaction. mRb

Elspeth Redmond is a Baie d'Urfe writer and reviewer.

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