Friday, January 14, 2011
Bookshelf Bookstore: The Tenderness of Wolves
The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney is a novel that I originally read last fall, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share with you here.
In 1867, Canada is a sparsely populated wilderness. Immigrants from the United Kingdom and France fight the elements to survive, and the Hudson Bay Company (know as "the Company") controls all trade in region.
In Dove River, a small town on the northern edge of Georgian Bay, Laurent Jammet, an independent trapper and Frenchman, lies dead in his cabin, his throat cut. Mrs. Ross, his neighbor, discovers him while looking for her son Francis and is the one who alerts the town elders of the horrible act.
She will soon regret this because she realizes that her son, Francis, has disappeared around the time of Jammet's murder. This suspicious timing convinces some in the town that Francis must in fact be the murderer.
Determined to bring Francis home and learn whether he did kill Jammet, Mrs. Ross sets out with William Parker, a trapper and another suspect in Jammet's murder, to find him and learn the truth. Talk about gutsy!
Meanwhile, news of Jammet's death spreads and attracts all types of folks like Thomas Sturrock, a con man with ties to another Dove River tragedy, and representatives of the Hudson Bay Company. Whether they are interested in solving Jammet's murder is uncertain.
As Mrs. Ross and Parker march further into the wilderness, their discoveries reveal that Jammet's death was just one tiny piece in very large puzzle. It's as this point I do feel that the plot could have used a little more editing -- at my last count there are four major mysteries introduced during the course of the book. Thankfully I didn't find it that hard to follow and amazingly, they do all intersect and finally emerge as one crazy truth in the last twenty pages of the novel.
Though the plot could use some edits, the language Penney uses to shape the people and places is lovely. When Mrs. Ross arrives at Jammet's cabin just before the fateful discovery, she sees "walls [that] have faded over the years until the whole thing looks gray and woolly, more like a living growth than a building."
Despite some plot issues, this is a beautifully detailed story I couldn't wait to finish.