Review: The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of WolvesThe Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked up ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ for no better reason than that I’d just read Maggie Stiefvater’s superb shifter novel, Shiver, and had wolves on the brain. I’d vaguely heard of it some years back when it won the Costa Book of the Year Award, but I had no idea what to expect. If I’d even bothered to read the blurb I might never have tried it – I’m not always a huge fan of historical fiction and the first line of the blurb is ‘1867, Canada’ – so it’s a good thing I grabbed a copy on impulse on the way out of the shop and didn’t look properly.
Though neither the setting nor the style is what I would have chosen, they both drew me in immediately. The wild, frozen north is the perfect setting for an inexplicable murder, and the lawlessness of the environment paves the way for one of the most dramatic murder investigation stories I have ever read.
The dead man, Jammet, owned a bone tablet, marked with mysterious carvings, which may or may not have been valuable, which may have been the motive for his murder, but is now nowhere to be found. The story blends multiple viewpoints, including one of the company men assigned to the investigation of French hunter Laurent Jammet’s murder, and the adoptive mother of one of the main suspects, young Francis, who inexplicably fled the small town of Caulfield in the wake of Jammet’s violent death.
Stef Penney manages the complex pattern of the narrative seemingly effortlessly, and intertwines the various threads of the investigation with a number of superb character studies and even several hints of romance. ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ is a brilliant story, dazzlingly told, the kind of book that leaves after-images on the mental retina for days to come.

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