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 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 waves 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.