Red River Girl: A Journey into the Dark Heart of Canada by Joanna Jolly – Review

Title: Red River Girl: A Journey Into The Dark Heart of Canada

Author: Joanna Jolly

Genre: True Crime

Publisher: Little Brown Book Group UK

Publication Date: 7th November 2019

Rating: 4/5




A gripping account of the unsolved death of an Indigenous teenager, the detective determined to find her killer and a country’s hidden secrets

On 17 August 2014, the body of fifteen-year old Indigenous runaway Tina Fontaine was found weighted down in the Red River in the Canadian city of Winnipeg.

The loss of Tina was a tragedy for her family and for the Indigenous community. But it also exposed a national scandal: Indigenous women are vastly more likely than other Canadians to be assaulted and killed. Over the past few decades, hundreds had been murdered – or simply gone missing. Many of these cases have never been solved.

Tina’s Fontaine’s death caused an outcry across Canada. The police investigation and trial that followed sparked a widespread debate on the treatment of Indigenous women, while the movement protesting those missing and murdered became an international news story.

In an astonishing feat of investigation, award-winning BBC reporter and documentary maker Joanna Jolly has reconstructed Tina’s life, from her childhood on the Sagkeeng First Nation Reserve to her difficult teenage years.


I remember watching a documentary a few years back about the shocking tragedy of Indigenous women in Canada and being so genuinely surprised that I had heard nothing about it before then. I wanted to read Red River Girl to find out how the situation had progressed and sadly it seems to still be a very distressing reality. Red River Girl is an in-depth look at the life and search for justice for murdered Indigenous teenager Tina Fontaine. The author pulls together all the different aspects involved and does so in an even handed and compassionate manner.

This book is about Tina and the combining factors that led to her life being tragically cut short but it also uses Tina’s story to demonstrate the very real problem Canada is facing. It’s a difficult issue to understand, in large part due to the reputation for fairness and equality that Canada maintains in the eyes of the world. It is jarring to reconcile that forward-thinking attitude with the brutal murders of these Indigenous women but it is vital that we do so because reading this book and specifically the shocking statistics surrounding the subject will make you want something to change very fast. The book doesn’t pretend that there aren’t people who are trying to make a difference within systems like the police. In fact, the lead investigator in Tina’s case has an admirable dogged determination to get Tina the justice she deserves. However as we move through what the author has been able to discover about Tina’s final weeks, there are just too many missed opportunities in which she could have been saved and more needs to be done to ensure this pattern stops.

Red River Girl is a sad but crucial book. It gives the reader an understanding of the difficulties faced by the police and government as well as a fully fledged picture of a girl who deserved better. It dives deeply into the pursuit of suspects without losing sight of the fact that Tina was a very real person which I think is so important in the true crime genre. Highly recommend for anyone interested in true crime and current affairs.


I received this e-arc from Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion. 

2 thoughts on “Red River Girl: A Journey into the Dark Heart of Canada by Joanna Jolly – Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s