The Woodcutter is perhaps the sublime Reginald Hill’s most ambitious and well-plotted novel to date. With the Cumbrian landscape a definitive aspect of the novel, Hill manages to take us on a journey of lies and deceit, where love is confused with power, and only a handful of people know what truths prompt the action.

Hill goes back to his Cumbrian roots in The Woodcutter, presenting us with an unlikely hero: Wolf Hadda, son of a woodcutter, an experienced Lake District hiker and climber, who rises from his humble beginnings to the heights of successful entrepreneurship.

Wolf is living a fairy tale existence with his wife, Imogen, only child of Sir Leon and Lady Kira Ulphingstone. Wolf’s father Fred had been Sir Leon’s forestry manager. When Imogen and Wolf fall in love, the young man embarks on an odyssey to make himself worthy of her. After educating himself, gaining polish and a huge business empire, the two married and have one child, a daughter Ginny. With a private jet, a knighthood for services to commerce, and five homes, Wolf is sleeping soundly in his Holland Park home next to Imogen, when the ringing of a bell in the early morning hours changes everything he knows and has built.

With his life destroyed and everyone who loved him abandoning him, Wolf is thrown into prison under repulsive circumstances, protesting his innocence. A tragic accident disfigures him, but nothing could maim him more than the loss of his wife and child, as well as the complete and utter destruction of the life he took such pains to build.

It will take the talents of a young prison psychiatrist, Alva Ozigbo, to gain parole for the silent Wolf Hadda, but once home in Cumbria at the house his father left him, the quest for truth and revenge takes over Wolf’s life. Will Wolf figure out who set him up, and how will he react? Can Alva prevent him from being returned to prison? Does he have a chance at any kind of well-deserved future happiness?

Auntie M is a huge Hill fan, from the wonderful Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe series, to his delectable stand-alones. He’s won numerous awards including CWA’s Cartier Diamond Dagger Lifetime Achievement Award. This time around he has written a huge novel where each character’s flaws stand out and multiply, as the unbelievable sequence of events roll forward.

This is an intense and well-plotted book, with the threads of numerous story lines of Wolf’s history merging like a tightly-woven quilt. Ian Rankin says of Hill: “Reginald Hill’s novels are really dances to the music of time, his heroes and villains interconnecting, their stories entwining.

Don’t miss this entertaining and solidly written novel by a true master author.

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