If you don’t read another mystery this summer, you must read The Tenderness of Wolves* by Stef Penney
The winner of the 2006 Costa Book of the Year (formerly known as the Whitbread Awards), this debut novel by a former filmmaker is set in Dove River, an isolated settlement in the Canadian tundra of 1876. Mrs. Ross, our primary narrator, stumbled onto the brutal murder of her neighbor Laurent Jammett, a reclusive fur trapper, the same night her teenaged son Francis, went missing, along with a mysterious ancient bone tablet of great value.
Penney seamlessly weaves multiple plotlines, (including the disappearance of two young girls 17 years ago) as the search parties trek northward on the trail of the killer, bracing brutal elements and the threat of predatory wolves, towards an explosive conclusion.
Tenderness is much more than a mystery - it is a psychological thriller, an adventure tale, a well-research period piece that captures the cultural and social history of the Canadian north, and most of all, a probing exploration of the unfathomable topography of the human heart.
* = Starred Reviews