The Tenderness of Wolves

The Tenderness of Wolves - Stef Penney

"And so while my husband sleeps upstairs we pack–and I prepare to go into the wilderness with a suspected killer. What’s worse, a man I haven’t been properly introduced to. I am too shocked to feel fear, too excited to care about the impropriety of it. I suppose if you have already lost what matters most, then little things like reputation and honour lose their lustre. (Besides, if the worst comes to the worst, I can remind myself that I have sold my honour far more cheaply than this. I can remind myself of that, if I have to.)"


As the nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping to the point that I needed to switch the heating on, this was the perfect book to get in the mood for the upcoming season.


There are a few things that I could criticize about this book - like the holes in some of the sub-plots, anachronisms, the use of 20th century expressions and attitudes that detract from the 1867 setting - but all in all these are minor flaws. 


I loved this book. Not least for its writing:


"Sometimes, you find yourself looking at the forest in a different way. Sometimes it’s no more than the trees that provide houses and warmth, and hide the earth’s nakedness, and you’re glad of it. And then sometimes, like tonight, it is a vast dark presence that you can never see the end of; it might, for all you know, have not just length and breadth to lose yourself in, but also an immeasurable depth, or something else altogether. And sometimes, you find yourself looking at your husband and wondering: is he the straightforward man you think you know–provider, friend, teller of poor jokes that nonetheless make you smile–or does he too have depths that you have never seen? What might he not be capable of?"



So what that the language doesn't fit into 1867? The same concept worked for Marty McFly... Anyway, just to clarify, this book is not about time travel.


The Tenderness of Wolves is a mystery set in the wintry northeast of Canada between communities of immigrants and natives, where the murder of a local trapper and the disappearance of a local youth set in motion an unlikely turn of events.

But it is not just a murder mystery. What I loved about the book is what some other reviewers found distracting - that it a number of subplots.


There are stories of people looking for something they have lost, of people looking for their own way in life, of people trying to remember who they are, of people trying to make new starts. Some fail, some succeed.



The subplots add a great deal of depth to the characters and bring to life how in a largely isolated small community nearly everything is connected. Ironically, for a story set in the freezing north, there is a lot of warmth; and for a story largely set in the wilderness, there is a lot of humanity, even though the stoicism portrayed by characters and the brutality of some of the events ensure that this is by no means a cozy read.