The year is 1867. Winter has just tightened its grip on Dove River, a tiny isolated settlement in the Northern Territory, when a man is brutally murdered. Laurent Jammett had been a voyageur for the Hudson Bay Company before an accident lamed him four years earlier. The same accident afforded him the little parcel of land in Dove River, land that the locals called unlucky due to the untimely death of the previous owner.
A local woman, Mrs. Ross, stumbles upon the crime scene and sees the tracks leading from the dead man's cabin north toward the forest and the tundra beyond. It is Mrs. Ross's knock on the door of the largest house in Caulfield that launches the investigation. Within hours she will regret that knock with a mother's love -- for soon she makes another discovery: her seventeen-year-old son Francis has disappeared and is now considered a prime suspect.
In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the crime and to the township -- Andrew Knox, Dove River's elder statesman; Thomas Sturrock, a wily American itinerant trader; Donald Moody, the clumsy young Company representative; William Parker, a half-breed Native American and trapper who was briefly detained for Jammett's murder before becoming Mrs. Ross's guide. But the question remains: do these men want to solve the crime or exploit it?
One by one, the searchers set out from Dove River following the tracks across a desolate landscape -- home to only wild animals, madmen, and fugitives -- variously seeking a murderer, a son, two sisters missing for seventeen years, and a forgotten Native American culture before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good.
In an astonishingly assured debut, Stef Penney deftly weaves adventure, suspense, revelation, and humor into an exhilarating thriller; a panoramic historical romance; a gripping murder mystery; and, ultimately, with the sheer scope and quality of her storytelling, an epic for the ages.
Like The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Tenderness of Wolves is a classic "western" in which the raw and rugged people are dwarfed by their surroundings as they find their way towards, or away from, hard-won redemption. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The Times (London)
An original and readable mixture of mystery and history, with a good dollop of old-fashioned adventure.
The novel has a large canvas and . . . the story twists and turns. The Tenderness of Wolves is an entertaining and well-written adventure thriller.
The Sunday Telegraph (London)
A fascinating, suspense-filled adventure, a refreshing contrast to the conventional murder mystery.
The Guardian (UK)
In suitable Jack London style for a setting in Canada's snowy wastes, wolves wander in and out of this suspenseful 19th-century epic, offering a leitmotif of constant unease. So begins what masquerades as a traditional murder quiz but quickly broadens out to encompass other lines of inquiry -- the mystery of two long-missing young sisters, the quest for a forgotten native American culture, the twists and turns of an unusual love story. Stef Penney is from Edinburgh and claims never to have visited Canada -- impressive, then, that the land of her imagination convinces.
The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Penney's descriptions of the harsh landscape and the deprivation of living there are vivid and excellent.
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
An entertaining, well-constructed mystery . . . sexy, suspenseful, densely plotted storytelling . . . a novel with far greater ambitions than your average thriller, combining as it does the themes of Conrad's Heart of Darkness with Atwood's Survival, and lashing them to a story that morphs Ian Rankin with The Mad Trapper of Rat River.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Gillian McManus An epic story Subtle yet honest portrayal character, nuanced emotion and the protagonist, Mrs Ross, wolf mother. I wondered about the title for a long time until I realised that that bitter and hungry country echoed with their presence.
An epic that appealed to... Read More
Rated of 5
by bj Slow and boring I was disappointed that I had spent the time reading the book. Several tedious background plots were left hanging.
Rated of 5
by Philippa Roberts A Lazy Novel I wouldn't rate this book anything like as highly as most critics. Some aspects of the plot were highly improbable. For instance, would a gentle 17 year old white boy seriously be suspected of scalping someone? I think it is far more likely that it... Read More
Rated of 5
by Barbara A Very Engaging Read Each character in this book, no matter how briefly they appeared, was well developed and multi-dimensional. The author is very skilled in providing specific insights into a character to develop the internal person, while leaving each character... Read More
Rated of 5
by Angie A truly good book It is a supreme pleasure in life to come across a truly good book that captivates you completely. The Tenderness of Wolves is one of them. The storyline and characters are compelling and full of depth. It is easy to feel compassion and interest... Read More
Rated of 5
by Mercedes A debut novel that is not to be missed This has it all in just under 400 pages. Genre-bending is a popular descriptor these days but it does not do this novel justice. There is adventure, murder, a love story, a richly described historical setting and all in a first novel. The narrative... Read More
One plot thread of The
Tenderness of Wolves
involves an artifact that may or
may not have belonged to the
Nations, collectively known to
themselves as the Haudenosaunee
(People of the Long House), but
better known today by the
derogatory term given to them by
white settlers, Iroquois meaning
rattlesnake, are a group of
Native American tribes
consisting of the Seneca (People
of the Great Hill), Cayuga
(People of the Great Swamp),
Onondaga (People of the Hills),
Mohawk (People of the Flint) and
Oneida (People of Upright Stone).
It is said that these five
tribes formed a Union of
Nations well before European
contact (possibly as early as
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