The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney: Book Review

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The Tenderness of Wolves

4 Stars

Laurent Jammett is a French trapper living in a little Canadian community in 1867. He mostly keeps to himself, so everyone is surprised when his neighbor, Mrs. Ross, finds him murdered. Since he worked for them occasionally, the Hudson Bay Company is called in to investigate. When the Hudson Bay officials find out that Mrs. Ross’s teenage son vanished around the same time that Jammett was killed, they’re naturally curious and start looking for him. Mrs. Ross is worried too and sets out to find her son first and prove his innocence.

There is so much more to this book than I could write in the synopsis without spoiling anything. It’s much more than just a murder mystery. In fact, the mystery felt sort of secondary to me. I was more interested in reading what I can only call the mini character studies. The story is told from many shifting points of view, but it works. I was never confused as to who I was following in each chapter. That’s probably because the story only follows one character in the first person point of view–Mrs. Ross. So, in addition to furthering the mystery, we get to read a little about many different characters, how they think, what their lives have been like, etc. That was probably the most interesting part. I was left hungry for more backstory. I mostly mean that in a good way. Had every character’s backstory been explored, the book would have been impossibly long. As it was, there were only a couple of loose ends that I really wish had been tied up that weren’t. Not bad.

There is such a strong sense of place in this book that the setting could almost be a character in itself. The Canadian winter is written about so well that the whole book feels sort of cold, bleak, desolate, and harsh. It’s a force that every character, good or bad, has to contend with. This was a perfect read for December.

The mystery seemed a little weak to me. I felt like the author had been pointing at who did it all along, the only thing I wasn’t too sure of was why. That was explained, but by then there were so many other things going on that I didn’t really care.

Here’s my favorite quote: “He smiled to show he meant no offense, but Scott takes offense like it is going out of fashion, and bristled.” I think that stood out to me because it struck me as funny in a book that really wasn’t. Also, I just like that line, and I’ll probably start throwing it around in conversation. “He takes offense like it’s going out of style.” I can definitely see myself saying that.

Overall, I recommend it, especially if you’ve got a cold, snowy day and time to sit inside under a blanket a read.

Reviewed December 10, 2008

Read an excerpt.

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Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!

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