R. J. Harlick

Indigenous communities at heart of new mystery novel

There is so much Canadians don't know about native cultures, says R.J. Harlick at Sleuth of Baker Street book launch

Many Canadians know very little about indigenous communities, says mystery writer R.J. Harlick.

“I do a lot of research, and there are many different native cultures in Canada,” she said after a book signing at the Sleuth of Baker Street for her eighth  novel, Purple Palette for Murder.

“Deep down in me, in this eighth edition, I wanted to raise issues related to indigenous groups. I wanted to look into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women.”

The story is set in a small indigenous community called the Dene in the Northwest Territories. It explores how residential schools robbed families of their culture, customs and language at a very young age.

“The RCMP grabbed them from their camps when they were six, seven, eight, and their parents did not see them until they were teenagers,” said Harlick. “But by then they have lost their identity.”

The evening event, organized by Sleuth of Baker Street co-owner Marian Misters, also featured a first-time novelist, Ken Ogilvie. Among other things, he spoke the process that led to the publication of his book, Her Dark Path.

“Elizabeth, my wife, and I go to a crime fest in England.  We met a lot of authors at the U.K. crime writers’ association.  I met Jasper Joffe, a publisher at this event. He asked if I could send him my manuscript and I got lucky and was published,” Ogilvie said.

The potential boost that an author (novice or veteran) can get from a book launch at Sleuth of Baker Street is considerable.

Just ask writer Rosemary McCracken, author of a mystery series featuring financial planner Pat Tierney. She had a launch party at the store in 2016.

“I knew that I made it when I had my novel launch party at Sleuth,” she said. “This is the mystery bookshop in Toronto … if anyone wants to purchase a mystery or crime book, this is the place to come.”

McCracken may be right. At the beginning of the evening, copies of both Purple Palette for Murder and Her Dark Path were displayed in front of the store. By the end, they had been replaced by a simple sign: “Sold out!”