The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney Quercus, HK$128 It's usually sound advice to write about what you know, but what do you do when you're an agoraphobic living in London, and the book you want to write is set in the wilds of Canada? Stef Penney resorted to imagination and research - within the walls of the British Library. The Tenderness of Wolves is a murder mystery and love story that transports readers to frigid north-eastern Canada. In 1867, a French fur trader is murdered in his cabin and his body, sans scalp, is discovered by a neighbour whose teenage son, Francis, goes missing on the same day. Much as the woman tells herself it's a coincidence, the thought keeps coming back to her that her son 'has disappeared on the day of the only murder that Dove River has ever known'. The boy naturally becomes a suspect, although someone else is questioned about the killing: a part-English, part-Native American called William Parker. To find Francis and, they hope, the murderer, the pair set out into the wilderness. Penney's narrative skills appear to have been heightened rather than hampered by her fear of open spaces. That view was shared by the judges of the 2006 Costa Book of the Year prize, who lauded her 'effortless storytelling'.