This book took me far too long to finish, through no fault of it’s own. I’ve been busy and preoccupied with non-mystery matters. I have only been managing to find the time right before bed each night to read a few pages, which has inevitably resulted in the book dropping and needing to spend time the next night trying to find my place.
Obviously, I need to address this.
Death’s Golden Whisper is the first book in the Meg Harris Mystery series by R.J. Harlick and was initially published in 2004. Meg is an engaging main character. As is often the case in series mysteries, in an effort to address personal issues, Meg has left a previous life to embrace a new environment. In this case, she has left the city after a divorce and moved to a house inherited from her great-aunt (but long abandoned) on a somewhat remote lake in western Quebec.
The setting — an isolated lake, but with a nearby community (a reserve) — is interesting and, for anyone who lives in the eastern Ontario / western Quebec area, will prove to be familiar and realistic.
As much as the tortured main character driven to help others is a familiar resident in mystery fiction, there is a reason for that and Meg is a great example of how this character type can work well. Her behaviour rings true — she drinks a lot (alone), cares deeply for Marie, the woman who helps out around the house, and integrates into the surrounding area. She has a dog and the terrible ex shows up, but she (thankfully) has fairly unambiguous feelings about him (and certainly no romantic ones).
The mystery involves a possible gold discovery on an island near to where Meg lives. Meg teams up with newly made local friends, as well as some people from her past, to figure out what is going on. The involvement of Marie, her abusive husband, and her grown son pulls Meg in.
Deaths, of course, ensue, and Meg investigates with the help of Eric, the local band chief and fishing camp operator.
The book benefits from a solid balance between action, investigation, and reflection. Meg may be struggling with various personal issues, but it does not overshadow her humanity or connection with others. The characters in general are nicely developed and fit in with the storyline well.
The conclusion has a couple of bumps (there is a key piece of evidence that is delayed, which I found a little awkward), but resolves smoothly in the end. It is a complicated resolution, but a logical one.
I look forward to reading more in the series.