Reginald Hill is a Cumbrian, as am I, and the author of the well known Dalziel & Pascoe detective series of novels. The Woodcutter is one of his standalone novels described as a psychological thriller. The central character is Wilf Hadda, commonly known as Wolf Hadda, a successful businessman. Successful until one day the police storm into his home, search the place, take his computers before carting him off for questioning on some unexplained charge!
Wolf is eventually imprisoned on conviction for paedophilia and fraud and is jailed. As this is occurring his wife sues for divorce and engages his own lawyer to work for her. In prison, after 7 years of silence, Wolf is “treated” by a female psychiatrist, Alva Ozigbo, who persuades him to begin writing a journal about his thoughts and feelings across his life. These are written in the book as first person narratives, so much of the first chapters of the book are as Wolf himself speaking to you.
Eventually Wolf is released on parole having convinced Dr Ozigbo of his remorse and repentance and he returns to live in an isolated house in West Cumbria, and it is now that the story expands considerably. There are no spoilers here as I tell you that the action spirals from murder, to drugs, Russian gangsters, shady lawyers and to the U.K. secret service. Utterly brilliant and with an explosive ending.
If you have any knowledge of Cumbria you will recognise the area around Wastwater where much of the action takes place, Wasdale, Mosedale, Black Sail, Kirk Fell, Pillar and Pillar Rock. In my case, it was just like being back home!
I bought this book in Audible format, which made it even more enjoyable for me because it is read in a North of England accent, though not quite Cumbrian to my ear, more Yorkshire. At one level the book is quite witty as Wolf is full of Northern humour and sarcasm. It is also a wonderful mix of mystery and complexity which I believe is essential in a good crime novel where for a while you are not quite sure of the plot. But the most compelling part of this book is it being based on “character” rather than plot or crime, and hopefully without too much of a spoiler, the crime isn’t what you first think it is. A cracking book, 10/10 Mr Hill!