“Red River Girl” by Joanna Jolly


Thanks to Little Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the rampant abuse and murder of indigenous Canadian women and girls, if you’re interested in true crime at least. Despite the media focus, it is clear that the violence persists, and this book focuses particularly on the death of one young girl, Tina Fontaine.   

The format of the book will not be new to anyone who reads a lot of true crime. We have a profile of the victim, input from the investigating detectives and wider background context of the area and local culture of where the crime took place. The journalist who authored the book is clearly passionate about telling Tina’s story and I felt that it was written more sensitively than the blood and gore type approach taken by other books. Rather than reducing Tina down to a faceless victim and concentrating on the crime and perpetrator, we are given an insight into her life, family and the institutional failings that led her into danger.  

The author explores the prejudice against the indigenous community, focusing particularly on Winnipeg and the surrounding area. The book looks unflinchingly at the dark underbelly of a society that often touts itself as a haven for equality and women’s rights. It is difficult not to become frustrated at the actions of various institutions including social work, education, health services and the police, and with the benefit of hindsight we can see where things went wrong for Tina and how she left to slip through the net. I think perhaps the author could have gone further in exploring the  institutional failings that have caused some of the deep-rooted issues still faced by the indigenous community.  

This is a tragic tale and the investigation is covered in detail with all it’s frustrating ins and outs. Sadly, to this day there has still been no justice for Tina. 

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