Shortlisted for the British Book Awards, Newcomer of the Year, 2008.
Winner of the Costa Book of the Year, 2006.
Shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger Award, 2007.
Canada, 1867: As winter tightens its grip on the isolated settlement of Dove River, a woman steels herself for the journey of a lifetime.
A man has been brutally murdered, and her 17-year-old son has disappeared. The violence has re-opened old wounds and inflamed deep-running tensions in the frontier township: some want to solve the crime; others seek only to exploit it.
To clear her son's name, she has no choice but to follow the tracks from the dead man's cabin and head north into the forest and the desolate landscape that lies beyond it.
© Stef Penney; (P)2007 Quercus Publishing
"Combining the very best of murder-mystery plotting and a writing style that evokes with the simplest of words the complexity of a character or a feeling, this is an audiobook to lose yourself in." (Kati Nicholl, The Express)
This is a beautifully told story with a gripping plot that unfolds like the best of thrillers. But it's much more than that and also deals with the themes of love,loss and isolation in a moving but not over sentimental way. The author succeeds in the simplest of language to describe the most complex of human emotions and to set the scene so well that my own toes felt almost frozen by her description of the cold.
The narrator has a clear voice and does a good job of distinguishing between most of the characters.
I didn't want to put the iPod down and finished this in one day. I'd strongly recommend to anyone who likes a little suspense, a little love and some very good writing.
Of the ten or so Audiobooks I have downloaded this year, this is tied in second place (with Ukranian Tractors!) I loved it so much, I actually went out and bought a hard copy so I could read all about the Norwegians, which brings me to my only complaint about this title: it was abridged. As such, a large part of the back-story was missing. On the up-side though, the narration was hauntingly beautiful, the plot perfect, the location atmospheric, and the characters real and likeable. The very human issues faced by them in this book are ageless and thought-provoking. Fabulous.
I didn't enjoy this book much, but before I list the negatives, let me say that amongst the positives is the fact that it's atmospheric and 'different', in that it's set in a snowy 1860s Northern Canada. I loved the feeling of being transported to a distant time and place. The topics dealt with are adult and important. However, I found Stef Penny's style of writing hard to cope with: Though I certainly don't like having everything explained to me in the minutest detail, Penny tries to be so clever in her writing that it becomes difficult to know at any time which character she is referring to or writing about and as such she even becomes misleading at times. I had to listen to the first 30 minutes twice in order to get a grip on the start. Add to this the fact that the novel is written from two perspectives: a) in the first person ("I", a Mrs Ross) and b) in the third person ("he, they etc") and that the persons concerned are often referred to differently depending on whose perspective it is written from (e.g. Donald/Mr Moody, Mrs Ross/the woman). The result is that I had to spend an inordinate amount of energy on something as simple as following the plot. An added complication is that Siobhan Redmond's narration contains few obvious gaps that are otherwise needed to demarcate the switching between two such modes and to highlight other natural breaks in the story. The result is one long, confusing, foggy mess. At the time I downloaded the book I didn't realise it was an abridged version and agree that, in this format, there are plenty of things left hanging, unexplained and unresolved. But still, I would not spend time on listening to the whole unabridged version because I was so annoyed by the end of the book that I was looking forward to it ending and couldn't even be bothered who the murderer was and who had been right'd and wrong'd and so on. Also there was little suspense. In short, this style of writing and audio production is not clever; it's just annoying.
This was a gripping tale but left me with lots of unanswered questions; due, I can't help thinking, to the fact that it was abridged. Hints of things from her childhood, the reason her husband picked her to marry, her name - all left hanging for me to the extent that I am considering buying and reading the book, which kind of misses the point!
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