A Cold White FearThere goes that stupid woodpecker again. This is the third morning this week that he’s woken me up at the crack of dawn with his incessant hammering against the logs of the bedroom wall. Sure, there are likely tasty bugs hiding out in the wood, but as that lump of a husband still snoring beside me says “What can you expect, when you’re living in a century old timber house.”

Well, I never expected it. I didn’t even consider it when I moved into Three Deer Point, the Victorian cottage I inherited from my Great-aunt Agatha. I’m a city girl. I grew up surrounded by the brick and asphalt of Toronto and its manicured parks. What did I know of the perils of wilderness living in Quebec, apart from the swarming black flies that attacked me during my summer visits with Aunt Aggie?

I sure know about the pitfalls now, like the squirrel that chewed its way through a window screen and proceeded to chew its way through my kitchen or the raccoon that took up residence in the attic, an attic which I discovered held more secrets than a raccoon. I mustn’t forget the tree that came crashing through my porch roof and smashed a window during a major blizzard or the time Sergei, my wimpy standard poodle, came prancing home with a deer leg clenched between his teeth.

But hey, these things happen and I’m getting used to them, sort of. I’ve even become used to the long dark nights when the faintest squeak can start my heart pounding. But the one problem I never get used to is the bodies.

I fled Toronto to escape a bad marriage, hoping the natural beauty of Three Deer Point would heal my bruised soul. Whenever life’s trials become too much, I settle into Aunt Aggie’s old bentwood rocker in the screened-in porch and gaze out over the shimmering black waters of Echo Lake. I listen for the haunting cries of the loons living on the lake or watch the deer feed on the salt lick standing at the clearing’s edge. I love tramping through the forest, though I am mindful that a bear might be lurking beyond the next bend. But with Sergei as my scout, I figure he’ll give me plenty of warning, as long as he doesn’t come running back to me with the bear in close chase.

I’ve never had a lot of friends and the friends I had, I left behind in Toronto along with my family. Since moving to Three Deer Point, I have made new ones, many from the nearby Algonquin First Nations reserve, my closest neighbor. They have been kind enough to teach me some of their traditional ways and on occasion will invite me to participate in their ceremonies. One summer, the highlight was to help build a birch bark canoe.

Invariably when I feel that my life is finally settling down something intervenes to disrupt it, like a corpse. It’s not as if I willingly seek them out, far from it. Take for example the time I was canoeing down a river filled with rapids and dumped. While the canoe continued floating down the river, I swam ashore where I found myself sitting on a skull buried in the sand. If only I’d left it there. No one would’ve died.

Or the time I answered the front door during a major blizzard and discovered two strange men desperate to come inside. Not one of my smartest moments. I knew when I let them into my house that I was inviting in trouble. But I couldn’t send them away. Not in a snowstorm as bad as this one and not with one of them badly injured.

And there you have it. I find myself in situations that I can’t ignore. My desire for justice takes over. I have to do what I can to make it right.

I almost forgot the big lump snoring beside me. How could I? He is my rock. If it weren’t for Eric, I’d likely be lying comatose in a drunken stupor. Mind you, I wouldn’t be listening to that relentless hammering. Our relationship hasn’t been an easy one, with more downs than ups. But he is a paradigm of patience and puts up with the curves I throw at him. He is my other half. I wouldn’t be whole without him.

But man, I sure wish he’d do something about that wretched woodpecker. Do you think I should wake him up?

A Cold White Fear is the seventh book in the Meg Harris mystery series, published by Dundurn, November 2015.

Stranded by a blizzard at her isolated cabin, Meg Harris, an escapee from a failed marriage into the remote wilderness, finds herself in a desperate and terrifying situation when two strangers arrive.

As night approaches, a major blizzard has cut off road access to Meg Harris’s isolated wilderness home, Three Deer Point. She is alone with her young friend Adjidamo, preparing for Christmas, when a knock suddenly echoes through the house. She finds two strange men at her front door, one of them bleeding. Against her better judgment, she lets them in. At that moment, the power goes out, plunging the group into total darkness and severing all phone links to the outside world. So begin a terrifying twenty-four hours that have Meg summoning up a courage she didn’t know she had to get herself and Adjidamo out alive.

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Meet the author
Canadian author, R.J. Harlick, writes the Meg Harris mystery series set in the wilds of West Quebec. Like her heroine Meg Harris, R.J. loves nothing better than to roam the forests surrounding her own wilderness cabin or paddle the endless lakes and rivers. But unlike Meg, she doesn’t find a body at every twist and turn, although she certainly likes to put them in Meg’s way. The 4th book, Arctic Blue Death was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel. A Cold White Fear, the 7th and latest in the series, has been likened to “a rough acid trip. You know you’re going to survive it, but you’ll have to white-knuckle it all the way.” Visit R.J. at www.rjharlick.ca and on Facebook.

Giveaway: Leave comment below for your chance to win a print copy of A Cold White Fear. US and Canadian entries only, please. The giveaway will end March 31, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

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