As I pulled this book off my shelf, I wondered how long I had owned. The answer appeared almost immediately as I opened it and a Barnes and Noble receipt drifted out. 2008. This poor book, along with the next one on my list have been patiently waiting to be enjoyed for six long years. I’m so sorry book. So sorry.
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.
I should have read this book the minute it arrived.
The Tenderness Of Wolves is a book that I became absorbed in immediately. There’s a gigantic cast of characters who will intrigue you and drive you to finish the book as soon as possible. You NEED to know how this is all going to turn out in the end.
Mrs. Ross is the lead character and most of the book is written from her first person perspective. Some reviewers seemed a little overwhelmed by the flip-flopping between her first person accounts and the author’s narrative. I hung in there just fine and found it to be agreeable with the flow of the story. Those people who seemed perturbed by this also had a hard time with the multiple characters and all of the side stories being woven in as you go. Again, I found this to add to the mystery of the book. I flipped each page trying to figure out how every detail tied in to the tale. At times, you may scratch your head and think, is this fact relevant? Oh, you wait. It’s all going to tie together by the end.
That being said, there are some cliff hangers. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again … a good fictional book with leave you a chance to ponder your own closing scenarios. (Exception: Gone With The Wind, if you think Rhett doesn’t go back to Scarlett… then you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.)
It was a wonderful book and I’m quite sad that I had put it off this long. Once my challenge is over, I may get myself a copy of Stef Penney’s other book, The Invisible Ones. I hope it will be just as amazing.
Next on You Bought It, You Read It: Lottery by Patricia Wood.