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26 August 2010
Review, THE WOODCUTTER, Reginald Hill
borrowed from my local library
Wolf Hadda's life has been a fairytale. From humble origins as a woodcutter's son, he has risen to become a hugely successful entrepreneur, happily married to the girl of his dreams. But 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 the breakthrough. Wolf begins to talk and under her guidance gets parole, returning to his rundown family home in rural Cumbria. But there's 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 with the truth, revenge. Can Alva intervene before his pursuit of vengeance takes him to a place from which he can never come back . . .?
Probably, had I written the blurb which is printed on the dustjacket of the hard cover version, I wouldn't have told you as much of the story as it reveals. But never mind, it hardly tells the reader all, just enough to intrigue.
The structure and timeframe of THE WOODCUTTER is interesting. The real action begins in 2008, although there are a couple of vignettes at the beginning set in 1963 and 1989. (If you have read the book, you might like to tell me who the boy in the 1963 story was). By the time Alva meets Wolf in prison the date is January 2015, and the subsequent story takes place over the next two years. I couldn't help wondering why Reginald Hill structured it like that.
This novel is a tale of love and deception, of manipulation, and contains some very strange characters. Wolf himself is not particularly easy to get to know, partly because you see him at first through Alva's eyes. THE WOODCUTTER reminded me a little of some of Reginald Hill's spy stories. (Once you've read it you may understand what I mean by that.) It is a complex novel, not a particularly easy read, and some readers will be dissatisfied with both its length and its complexity in both language and plot. It's about as far from a Daziel & Pascoe as you can get.
For me, I continue to like the way Hill forces the reader to think, the way he makes the reader (well, me, anyway) go back and check details you read a little too quickly, and only half remember. It is one of those novels that would bear re-reading, to see if there were details that you missed first time around, and to appreciate the way the strands of the story are skeined together. Reginald Hill is one of those writers who raises crime fiction into a literary plane.
My rating: 4.8
Other reviews to check: