Book Review: The Woodcutter – Reginald Hill

Review by José Ignacio Escribano of The Game’s Afoot from Spain.

British author Reginald Hill died January 12th, 2012, at the age of 75. Best known for his “Dalziel and Pascoe” series, he also wrote a number of standalone novels.

When I was asked to participate in a tribute to Reginald Hill my first reaction was to decline politely, mainly because I had not read any of his books. But I gave it a second thought. I had an excellent chance to start reading one of his books and there is no better tribute to an author than read her/his books.

The next question was where should I start? Not an easy task in this case if you check the impressive list of his books in Fantastic Fiction. But to cut a long story short I decided to read his latest book. One can always return to his earlier works to find out how he got there. And I was lucky, his last book The Woodcutter, Harper (2011) is a standalone.

UK paperback edition

Book Description: “Wolf Hadda’s life has been a fairy tale. From his humble origins as a Cumbrian woodcutter’s son, he has risen to become a hugely successful entrepreneur, happily married to the woman of his dreams. A knock on the door one morning ends it all. Universally reviled, thrown into prison while protesting his innocence, abandoned by friends and family, Wolf retreats into silence. Seven years later, prison psychiatrist Alva Ozigbo makes a breakthrough. Wolf begins to talk, and under her guidance he is paroled, returning to his family home in rural Cumbria. But there was a mysterious period in Wolf’s youth when he disappeared from home and was known to his employers as the Woodcutter. And now the Woodcutter is back, looking for the truth—and revenge. Can Alva intervene before his pursuit of vengeance takes him to a place from which he can never come back?” (HarperCollins).

The book opens with two short chapters that take place in two different time periods, 1963 and 1989. The characters involved remain anonymous and the stories do not seem to have any meaning. From there onwards the novel unfolds through several voices and the action moves back and forth between past and present events. For my taste it is a truly entertaining book. The story is superbly developed, it has some good doses of humour and the characters are nicely drawn. As the events unfold, the reader gets hooked up until the last pages in a futile task of trying to anticipate what may come next. Overall The Woodcutter is masterfully written, the plot is intelligent and thus offers a very satisfying read. I’ve been definitely captivated by the prose of Reginald Hill and I have the firm intention to read him more.

My rating: 5/5.

The Woodcutter has been reviewed by Martin at Do You Write Under Your Own Name?, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, Yvonne Klein at Reviewing the Evidence, Nick Hay at Reviewing the Evidence, Anne Corey at Reviewing the Evidence, among others.

Read an extract from The Woodcutter [PDF viewer required].

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