Saturday, November 11, 2017
Purple Palette for Murder by R.J. Harlick
Meg Harris has been afraid to go too far from home after the events in A Cold White Fear. She doesn't even accompany her husband, Eric, the newly installed Grand Chief of the Grand Council of First Nations, when he flies to Yellowknife in the Northern Territories to meet with other chiefs and his family. But, she's forced to set aside her fears when she receives a phone call. Eric's in jail, arrested for killing the man who may have attacked his daughter. Teht'aa Bluegoose, Meg's stepdaughter, had been about to start a new job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Now, she's lying in a hospital bed, beaten half to death, in a coma.
As Meg learns more, she finds her only encouragement comes from the man who once encouraged Eric, "Uncle Joe", Joe Bluegoose. The patriarch of his family is a calm presence in the midst of all the turmoil. While the doctors can't say if Teht'aa will live or have brain activity, Uncle Joe says she'll be fine. When Eric tells his lawyer he'll plead to manslaughter with a sentence of at least three years, Meg and Uncle Joe are convinced he's innocent. And, it may be up to Meg to find answers.
Some of those answers lie with Teht'aa's family, sisters and cousins who are often drunk or picking up men. Do the answers lie with the man who insists he's Teht'aa's boyfriend? A break-in, theft, and a murder convince Meg there's more to this story than Eric knows.
While Harlick is known for her vivid depiction of the Canadian wilderness, and there are beautiful descriptions in this book, it was the family connections and the stories of the people of the First Nations that I found fascinating. The history of the peoples, their storytelling, and their shameful treatment by the white people is an integral part of this mystery. Readers won't easily forget the stories of the residential schools, and the damage they caused.
Purple Palette for Murder, as I said, is a dramatic mystery, involving power and family. Don't worry if you haven't read previous books. This one can stand by itself.
R.J. Harlick's website is rjlarlick.ca
Purple Palette for Murder by R.J. Harlick. Dundurn. 2017. ISBN 9781459738652 (paperback), 392p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review for a journal.