Ottawa author R.J. Harlick has moved from the established foundation of her renowned short stories to the larger stage of novels with DEATH'S GOLDEN WHISPER, and the transition is a sweet one. Still smarting from a bitter divorce, pushing forty, Meg Harris escapes Toronto to find serenity in her great-grandfather's quaint Victorian cabin in the wilds of West Quebec. Yet one morning her peace is invaded by the roar of float planes. Apparently a motherlode of gold has been discovered on mysterious Whispers Island, and development is not far behind. Standing by her side against the interlopers in an effort to preserve the environment is her good friend Eric, the local band chief of the neighbouring Migiskan Reserve. When her wheeling-and-dealing ex-husband Gareth arrives to make a speciously disguised offer on her property, she knows that the roots of greed run deep. Then her friend Marie Whiteduck disappears and Marie's drunken husband is found murdered. Why does Marie's lawyer son seem so hostile to Meg?
Harlick's characters are full-featured, bearing all-too-human faults. Whether she is describing the abused Marie, proud but stubborn, or the stoic Eric, facing a revolt within the band, or well-meaning but flawed Meg, facing her battles with the vodka bottle and taking her standard poodle for granted, Harlick never stints at the truth. Traditional themes run true in the book, the everpresent tensions among the three founding races trying to share the land, English Canadian, Quebecois, and First Nations. Will the environment pay the price in a war about resources? Or is it about jobs? Who can judge? Parallel to the plot weaves an old family secret that takes Meg back over eighty years into the dusty pages of letters in the attic. What made her maiden Great-Aunt Agatha so reclusive that she shut herself away in the cottage? And who is the handsome man in the picture hidden from prying eyes? What happened in the mists of legend to link her family with the Migiskans? The glorious fall setting is a character in itself, and Harlick paints with the talented brush of an ambassador for the pristine but amoral bush. The pines sing a symphony, and the shy stag comes to the lick as evening falls. Even the ominous landing of the first plane which threatens her privacy poeticizes the landscape: "With their wing tips shimmering in the autumn sun, the planes circled over the gold-drenched hills and back down towards the lake like giant ospreys, talons extended, zeroing in for the kill." She has laid the groundwork for a fascinating series.