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Rugged Relationships   Leave a comment

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The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney has been on my nightstand for years; I’ve lost track of how many. I’m sorry I didn’t read it sooner.

The author evokes the loneliness and bitter cold of Canada’s Northern Territory in the late 1860s. Alternating between the first person voice of Mrs. Ross and that of an omniscient narrator, the scene is set to unravel the mystery behind the brutal murder of a French trapper found in his cabin. Mrs. Ross is the first to discover the body and the first to wonder about the absence of her teenage son, Francis.

The small settlement, rich with gossip, lacks law enforcement, which results in the arrival of Hudson’s Bay Company representatives to investigate. An assortment of characters, from refined gentry to trappers and Indians, among others, figure into the story.

Family histories (and secrets), personal backgrounds, Native American relations with settlers, the stark landscape and unconditional love are given equal weight throughout the narrative. Although Mrs. Ross is the character with whom the reader becomes most familiar, her first name is never revealed. She does not believe Francis is capable of murder, and she has little faith that those searching for him will give him the benefit of innocent until proven guilty.

Thus, she sets out on her own search with the help of William Parker, a half-breed previously held custody on suspicion of his role in the murder.
Doubt and faith vie as the prominent sentiments in this fast-paced whodunit adventure.

The Tenderness of the Wolves
Four Bookmarks
Simon & Schuster, 2006
371 pages (plus summary and Discussion Points)