Red River Girl: the Life and Death of Tina Fontain by Joanna Jolly
On August 17, 2014, the body of fifteen-year old runaway Tina Fontaine was found in Winnipeg’s Red River. It was wrapped in material and weighted down with rocks. Red River Girl is a gripping account of that murder investigation and the unusual police detective who pursued the killer with every legal means at his disposal. The book, like the movie Spotlight, will chronicle the behind-the-scenes stages of a lengthy and meticulously planned investigation. It reveals characters and social tensions that bring vivid life to a story that made national headlines.
Award-winning BBC reporter and documentary maker Joanna Jolly delves into the troubled life of Tina Fontaine, the half-Ojibway, half-Cree murder victim, starting with her childhood on the Sagkeeng First Nation Reserve. Tina’s journey to the capital city is a harrowing one, culminating in drug abuse, sexual exploitation, and death.
Aware of the reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Jolly has chronicled Tina Fontaine’s life as a reminder that she was more than a statistic. Raised by her father, and then by her great-aunt, Tina was a good student. But the violent death of her father hit Tina hard. She ran away, was found and put into the care of Child and Family Services, which she also sought to escape from. That choice left her in danger.
This was a pretty good look at this case. I enjoyed the look into the police investigation and found it really interesting (especially because I had just learned about the legality of Mr. Big stings, which was used here). I enjoyed Jolly’s writing style and thought it really worked for this book. She manages to make it personal while still sounding like an investigation, and sets out the facts without making it sensationalized.
I also really enjoyed the overall conversation on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and the overall police treatment of Indigenous people in Canada. It’s something that really gets overlooked, so I’m glad this book shone a light on it.
But I have a couple complaints, as well. The author interviewed the main suspect of this case while he was in prison, but, as far as I noticed, almost none of this conversation ended up in the book. I would have loved to know what came out of that interview. Another issue is definitely more of an issue with the police investigation but also impacted the book, which is that it was very laser-focused on one person. I wished the author had looked into other leads and considered things the police didn’t, which would have made the book stronger.
But, overall, I enjoyed this. I’d definitely recommend the audiobook, as well.
So those are my thoughts! Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you plan on reading it? Let me know!