Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill
This genre-smashing ripping great yarn is simultaneously a mystery, a romance, and a dash of science fiction, as portions of it take place, rather daringly I thought, in the future. Set 300 miles northwest of London in the mountainous Cumbrian region of England, the location itself gives a cold, hard, craggy feel to the formative youth of our hero. His return, in later years, to this rugged place for the dénouement makes a pleasing symmetry that reinforces the chill we feel when contemplating the brutality of his life.
Our hero is born of a woodcutter, falls in love with the squire’s daughter, and seeks to breach the obstacles that separate their lives. It may be that romance is never far from the heart of a successful mystery, and it appears to be so in this case. But the swiftness with which we are entangled in the events which overtake our hero is due entirely to the prurient nature of the allegations, the documented and well-known love of readers for trashy sensationalism, and the exceptionally practiced skill of the author.
Author Reginald Hill, widely adored for his long-running Dalziel and Pascoe series, always has a strong sense of character and place in his novels. In this stand-alone mystery, he surpasses himself in presenting a tightly woven narrative from various points of view, with shifting time frames, pacing, and locales. And throughout he manages to preserve the essential humanity (and therefore goodness) of even his wickedest assassin (except, perhaps, Ni-KEE-tin). This earns the characters, despite their failings, our interest, our understanding, and ultimately, our forgiveness. If the author strays occasionally into hyperbole to drive home…an axe, a prick, a character trait...well, we forgive him, too.
This book will be available in stores August 1, 2011 -- so put it on your reading list and buy it for the waning days of summer. You'll love it!
Hill's official website is a limited affair, but worth perusal.
You can buy this book here: Tweet