Another Review at MyShelf.Com

The Woodcutter
Reginald Hill

Harper Collins
August 2011 / ISBN 978006206060747
Suspense / British

Reviewed by Barbara Buhrer

Wilfred (Wolf, so called because of his wild youth) Hadda, a lowly woodcutter, fell in love with Imogen, the daughter of Sir Leon.

Wilfred’s father, Fred, was head forester for Sir Leon. The two young people had a very physical relationship, which ended abruptly when Wolf suggested they marry. Imogene laughed at him, saying it had been great fun, but surely he could see how impossible it would be for her to marry someone who couldn't speak properly, had neither manners nor education, and was likely to remain on a working man's wage all his life. Rejected and furious, he left Cambria for parts unknown.

He returned five years later a wealthy reinvented man. Having accomplished the three impossible tasks, he claims his “princess.” They marry against the objections of both his father and Sir Leon.

For 15 years he lived the life of "happily ever after.” He has acquired a fortune of several millions, a private jet, five residences, a lovely daughter and a beautiful wife, and a knighthood. All comes crashing down when he is accused of trafficking in pornography and of committing financial fraud. He pleads his innocence. In a flight to resist arrest, he is seriously injured. He loses one eye, a few fingers and the use of one leg, He remains in a coma for five years, during which time he loses his wife and daughter, his fortune and his good name.

When he recovers from his coma, he is found guilty and placed in prison. He still proclaims his innocence but refuses to speak. A psychiatrist, Dr Alva Ozible, attempts to break his wall of silence. Eventually Wolf confesses his guilt, but it is only a ruse that enables Alva to engineer his release to a hermit's life in Cumbria. She is afraid that he will seek revenge on the faithless friends who framed him. When his faithless friends and enemies begin to die in peculiar circumstances, he only says, “Everything they get will be less than they deserve.” Alva struggles to intervene before he loses his way to peace.

In this stand-alone from his Dalziel and Pascoe series, Reginald Hill has created a masterpiece. This is a story of love and hate, trust and betrayal, greed, loyalty and friendship, a gamut of emotions. The characters are well developed, some strong, others with too-human frailties and flaws.

Hill has deftly combined the present and past events in a smooth flowing narrative. His style of writing is always a pleasure to read, not only for the plot and characters but also for enjoyment and education. His writing is excellent and elegant. Hill has great command of the English language. He may well be one of the most erudite writers of his time.

Reviewer's Note: Do not, I repeat, do not plan any activity once you begin to read The Woodcutter. When I received my copy of the book, I sat down to read the first few pages. A few hours I was still reading. This is a totally engrossing book, one of the best I have read this year.
Reviewed 2011
© 2011