THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES
Steff Penney

 


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Quercus/Murdoch Books, This Edition first published October 2006
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

During the winter of 1867, in the backwoods of Canada, Maria Ross finds the scalped body of independent fur trader Laurent Jammet. Maria has gone to Jammet's cabin to discuss his relationship with her adopted son, Francis, who has gone missing. The Company men from nearby Fort Edgar arrive to investigate and soon a number of suspects are offered for the reader to think about. There is Francis, the missing boy; Parker, a Native American; and Thomas Sturrock, an east coast Yankee who claims that Jammet had an artifact that had gone missing. Soon different groups of people set out in search of Francis, those who think he has murdered Jammet, those who think he is hiding from the real murderer, and those whose motives for finding the boy are unclear. The murder investigation is also a back drop for quite a few secondary plots of hidden love, jealousy and greed, inter-racial relationships and the unsolved disappearance of two young girls.

THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES is a massive debut novel. The story is very complex, with so many sub-plots and relationships' going on that it was almost as if the author, Steff Penney, threw all of the sub-plots in the air and juggled them frantically to keep them up until she was ready to bring them down to their individual conclusions. Most story lines had a satisfactory outcome, but I did find that once or twice the story seemed to stretch out more than it needed to; however, this was balanced with superb prose and vivid evocation of the Canadian landscape. There was a huge cast of characters, and at the very beginning I got lost as to who was who and what was what, because so much was being introduced to the reader at once. However, all the pieces started coming together very quickly and the story settled down and became easier to follow, and the pace less frantic. Despite these criticisms, and they are tiny when compared to the size of the book, this was a well balanced, compelling story. Taken as a whole, this is must read book and I thoroughly recommend it.

Dec 2006 review originally published at Murder & Mayhem

 

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