Last week I finished reading this book.
I thought it was going to be good, but it exceeded my expectations. Not only was it a great murder mystery, but the development of the character's relationships with each other and the environment was exceptional.
'Mrs Ross' really struck a chord with me.
1867, Canada - As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a man is brutally murdered and a 17-year old boy disappears. Tracks leaving the dead man's cabin head north towards the forest and the tundra beyond. In the wake of such violence, people are drawn to the township - journalists, Hudson's 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 sisters missing for 17 years, a forgotten Native American culture, and a fortune in stolen furs before the snows settle and cover the tracks of the past for good. In an astonishingly assured debut, Stef Penney deftly weaves adventure, suspense, revelation and humour into a panoramic historical romance, an exhilarating thriller, a keen murder mystery and ultimately, with the sheer scope and quality of her storytelling, one of the books of the year.
Stef Penney writes with spare beauty. She clearly thinks about the rhythm of words, etching each scene with fierce intelligence. There is a determination here to understand the effects of loneliness, the frontier and the wilderness on both human community and the individual spirit. The result is a book ruthlessly stripped of cliche and false comfort. (Michael McGirr, reviewer - October 12, 2006)