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Shelf life: Looking at secular books

‘Book of the year’ is quite an accolade, and for a first time novelist it is an award which will mean an ongoing contract, a place in the best seller charts and a display in Waterstone’s window. The recipe? Well, take a lot of snow, mix in a 19th-century fur-trading post, some pretty tough women and a sprinkling of Native Americans, then carefully stir in a murder. Stef Penney has taken some dramatic ingredients for her first novel The Tenderness of Wolves and formed an ambitiously complex mystery out of them.

Secular Shelf Life Sarah Allen

By Stef Penney
Quercus. 450 pages. £7.99
ISBN 1 84724 067 4