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Tenderness Of Wolves [Hardcover]

Stef Penney
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Hardcover, Sept. 26 2006 --  
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Book Description

Sept. 26 2006

A panoramic epic, a magnificent piece of storytelling, an unforgettable debut novel

As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Canada’s Dove River in 1867, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year-old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man’s cabin head north toward the forest and the tundra beyond.

In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township—journalists, Hudson Bay Company men, trappers, traders—but do they want to solve the crime or exploit it? One-by-one the assembled searchers set out from Dove River, pursuing the tracks across a desolate landscape home only to wild animals, madmen, and fugitives, variously seeking a murderer, a son, two missing sisters, a forgotten Native culture, and a fortune in stolen furs.

In an astonishingly assured debut, Stef Penney weaves adventure, suspense, revelation, and humour into a gripping historical tale, an exhilarating thriller, a keen murder mystery, and ultimately, with the sheer scope and quality of her storytelling, one of the best books of the year.


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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The frigid isolation of European immigrants living on the 19th-century Canadian frontier is the setting for British author Penney's haunting debut. Seventeen-year-old Francis Ross disappears the same day his mother discovers the scalped body of his friend, fur trader Laurent Jammet, in a neighboring cabin. The murder brings newcomers to the small settlement, from inexperienced Hudson Bay Company representative Donald Moody to elderly eccentric Thomas Sturrock, who arrives searching for a mysterious archeological fragment once in Jammet's possession. Other than Francis, no real suspects emerge until half-Indian trapper William Parker is caught searching the dead man's house. Parker escapes and joins with Francis's mother to track Francis north, a journey that produces a deep if unlikely bond between them. Only when the pair reaches a distant Scandinavian settlement do both characters and reader begin to understand Francis, who arrived there days before them. Penney's absorbing, quietly convincing narrative illuminates the characters, each a kind of outcast, through whose complex viewpoints this dense, many-layered story is told. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Review

Mysteries also dominate this confident and complex portrait of 1860s Ontario. Although Stef Penney, an agoraphobic, lives in Edinburgh, she is the grandniece of Norman Bethune. The characters and lives she creates-consulting Hudson’s Bay Company records from the British Museum-attain a larger-than-life dimension. Our only first-person narrator, an aloof woman with a history of confinement in Scottish asylums, is Mrs. Ross, who discovers the bloodied corpse of Laurent Jammet, a French trapper and trader. Soon the local magistrate, various Hudson’s Bay Company investigators, and acquaintances of the deceased-including a native Canadian and a man very interested in something Jammet has acquired-are popping in and out of the narrative with an assortment of goals in mind.
Closer to home is the problem of Mrs. Ross’s teenaged son, the troubled Francis, who vanished the night of the murder. Francis at first tops the list of suspects, but is soon replaced by William Parker, a taciturn native who knew the slain man. When her son doesn’t return, Mrs. Ross takes off to find him with Parker as her guide. Penney creates an engrossing narrative, connecting the dots across different social strata in the colony. Eerily adept at depicting a range of human traits-and hinting at more-she also teases us with an older mystery, the disappearance of two young girls from the Georgian Bay community several years before.
Between twists and turns of plot, Penney evokes the land-its shades of light and changes of weather, its marshes and treacherous waters. Rarely has winter seemed so febrile. One strange northern community gives way to the next-from a settlement of pious Norwegians to a decayed outpost peopled by those whom the Company has seen fit to exile. Something rather Conrad-like surfaces in the portrait of Mr. Stewart, the Company man gone bad. Yet masculine and feminine elements are fully balanced; there’s not only the complicated Mrs. Ross and her tormented son, but also a sensual Norwegian widow named Line, determined to escape the sanctuary she has found with her fellow countrymen. This one is a powerhouse.
Nancy Wigston (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada

'"The Tenderness of Wolves" is a brilliant novel about people living on the fringes, both literally and figuratively. Penney has artfully blended warmth and poetic austerity. I loved it.' -- Paul Quarrington, author of "Galveston" and "Whale Music"

'A richly detailed mystery that brings the isolation of the Canadian North vividly to life ... Stef Penney is clearly a talented writer...' -- Quill & Quire

'I now believe in reincarnation. Stef Penney was clearly, undeniably, once a settler in the harsh pre-Cambrian Shield that runs across this country ... like a spine. She has captured the terror, the loneliness, the hope and even the way winter light falls on the edge of the lake. "The Tenderness of Wolves" is an unnerving book, brilliantly executed, and could only have been written by someone who was actually there, taking careful notes.' -- Roy MacGregor, author of "A Life in the Bush" and "The Weekender"

'Stef Penney's debut is written with wicked clarity and beauty. Part mystery, part historical drama,"The Tenderness of Wolves" is a tale as crisp and driven as Georgian Bay snow. One of the most assured and memorable debuts I've had the fortune to read.' -- Joseph Boyden, author of Three Day Road

'Tender is Ms. Penney's talent, carrying a village of characters - and ultimately the reader — into mystery, history, and the wilderness of being human. A fine and compelling book.' -- Seth Kantner, author of "Ordinary Wolves"

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In the Canadian winter of 1867, near the remote settlement of Caulfield, Laurent Jammet is found murdered. His body is discovered by Mrs Ross, whose first-person narrative is one thread of the story. Mrs Ross's son, Francis, is a friend of Laurent Jammet. When Francis doesn't return home after Jammet's murder, he becomes a suspect.

A search for Jammet's murderer is soon organised. The searchers include Mrs Ross and Donald Moody, representing the Hudson Bay Company. Others join the search as well, and the community is reminded of an earlier search for two young sisters who disappeared some years earlier.

Solving Jammet's murder is not the only truth being sought, and there are a number of other mysteries to be explored and motives to be understood. The wintry landscape both hides and preserves the pasts of some characters, as well as some of the evidence.

`Doesn't it always matter, finding the truth?'

It's a challenge at times to follow the various narrative strands, but it becomes easier as the story progresses. There are a number of sub-plots which add different dimensions to what otherwise might be a straightforward murder investigation. The weather, the past and the country each play a part in the story.
I enjoyed this novel and while I fleetingly wished that all loose ends had been tied off at the end, I realised that would not have worked. Not for this novel.

`The sound is inescapable; quiet but insistent, like conscience.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book June 30 2009
By Shhhh
Format:Paperback
I loved this book. What an amazing first novel. The characters were compelling, the story gripping and the writing wonderful. I love Canadian history and this book made me feel like I had taken a visit to the past.
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4.0 out of 5 stars gripping, creepy,and beautifully-written Jan. 29 2009
Format:Paperback
This first novel has all the elements of a good read: beautiful prose, a gripping story, and interesting history and description of places I've never been. If you like Joseph Boyden's novels, this lesser-known will not disappoint.

The perspective is interesting in that the story is told from various points of view, but only one of the characters (Mrs Ross) uses the first person. The tone is foreboding and haunting, continually giving the impression that something major is about to happen.

I agree with the other reviewer that the ending seemed rushed and left some loose ends. But I also appreciated that Stef Penney avoided the Hollywood ending in which every character ends up finding their love and living happily ever after. This seemed more realistic, even if I was left wanting more and feeling deflated that the story was over.

One minor complaint is that the photo on the cover looks like British Columbia, not northern Ontario.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very nicely written June 18 2008
Format:Paperback
This book is a beautifully written story. I especially enjoyed the details with character building and the plot kept my attention throughout. The only downside is the ending. I was disappointed at how rushed the last chapter (or two) seemed (not the way it ended but how quickly the loose ends were tied). I would rather have read another two chapters than have it end so quickly. However, I would still recommend it as a great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  117 reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Beach Book... Aug. 29 2007
By Steven James - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
While I thoroughly enjoyed this book once I got into it, it was a challenge to figure out what was going on. The story itself is really interesting and the setting is fabulously well-drawn, but there are so many names to remember that it is kind of tough going, at times. The first 50 pages or so are completely hard to follow, but stick with it and it will begin to gel later on. Each chapter is told from a different character's point of view, and while interesting, it makes for a lot of head scratching. The names of many of the characters are similar, and we often go through 100 pages or more before a character is mentioned again. I would recommend this to the more sophisticated reader. This is not a book to be casually leafed through while sitting on the beach at Waikiki. One other thing, I can't imagine why the publishers decided to make this book a "summer release". The setting is so dark, cold, and snowy that it's difficult to even imagine what these people are feeling as we are suffocating of heat here in the Pacific Northwest in August. Overall, after a slow start, this book got under my skin and is now one of my all-time favorites. But it's not for everyone.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining novel July 13 2007
By Nicole Maier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This novel ws very entertaining and kept me reading. I agree that after finishing I wondered why some of the many plots were relevant, because they didn't seem to come to a conclusion. It's an unsual story with many twists and likable characters. I was very engrossed in the characters' stories and would have liked to find out what happened to them. The ending just gave me hints ... instead I got the resolution of the murder mystery which wasn't that original. In any case, I don't mean to make it sound as if I didn't like it. I did, in fact I couldn't put the book down, it's a very likable story. If you're looking for a good and easy read I recommend this book. If you're primarily looking for a gripping murder mystery then better go and look for something else.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Characters in search of a story June 9 2008
By Lawrence J. Frank - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book starts out as a mystery, then becomes a coming of age story, and finally a romance - none of which are ever truly resolved. The author successfully creates the harsh environment of the Canadian winter and develops interesting characters, but the plot fall flat and leaves these characters with nowhere to go. The mystery is not really a mystery, the romance is not really a romance, and leaves the reader with far to many questions that one wonders why the author bothered to create so many plotlines that she didn't want to explore futher. A decent try for a first novel, but I felt this was much closer to a character study for a screenplay than a novel to be read.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost in the wilderness. May 15 2007
By Dr. L - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Evocative and atmospheric, I agree with other reviewers there, but also found Wolves disconnected (too many stories) and slow at times. Yes this reflects the landscape they lived in and the character's lives, but I really like to get in touch with the people I'm reading about so I care about them or their story. I got lost in the wildnerness here. It's an obviously intelligently-written book and some of the paths it took were entriguing, but others seemed meaningless when I turned the last page. 3.5 stars.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No happy endings here Feb. 26 2009
By Cris Carl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tenderness of Wolves was eloquently written - that being said, it was also dreary and painful, which I could have found appreciation for if the ending wasn't so lackluster and flaccid. Tremendous build-up with no pay-off. I read this because of a reccommendation by Stephen King in an article he wrote. The story leads you into a state of emotional rip-off.
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