Books are piling up and I have several to review and if I am not careful I am going to fall behind and end up tearing my hair out with frustration and guilt. I have said before that if publishers are good enough to contact me and then send me books, the least I can do is to have a look at them, read them and write about them. Not always possible but I do hate the thought that books are sent out to somebody who then totally ignores them. My catholic conscience troubling me again.
I am also a member of the Amazon Vine programme which sends me a newsletter once a month listing a whole range of books, talking books, computer program etc for me choose from, read or test and review. Some of the choices are pretty weird and I wonder what they are doing on the list, but there are also books that I might read but not necessarily so (I feel a song coming up...) and as they are sent to me by Amazon and not the publisher/author somehow I feel the shackles are loosed and if I think it is crap then I say so. Believe me some of them are.
BUT lots of goodies come my way and last month I was offered The Woodcutter by Reginald HIll. Not a Dalziel and Pascoe book which I was quite grateful for as much though I love them, I felt the last one was a slight disappointment, and am beginning to wonder if there is any mileage left in this pairing. Dalziel has gone from being a repugnant, fat and rude character to one who is now more vulnerable and not on a par any more with Pascoe following his recent brush with death, and the dynamics have changed. So perhaps the author is having a think about this and in the interim wrote this stand alone book which I have to say is a simply stonking read.
Wolf Hadda is the son of a woodcutter living in Cumbria and working on a large estate. He marries the estate owner's daughter, in the teeth of opposition from his own father, as well as that of his bride. Wolf has returned to claim her as his own after he has made his way in the world, become a millionaire business man and has proved his worth. All is well with him and his family until one day it all falls apart when he is woken in the morning by a thunderous knocking at his door and the police raid his house, his files and his computer and arrest him for a heinous crime. He is thrown into prison whilst protesting his innocence, abandoned by his family and friends. And there he stays for seven years in silence, withdrawn into himself, until a young idealistic prison psychiatrist, Alva Ozigbo persuades him to talk to her and, under her guidance, obtains his parole and Wolf returns to his old family home in Cumbria left to him by his now deceased father.
It was at this stage when Wolf starts to seek out his detractors and so called friends and starts to plot and plan revenge, that I suddenly realized this was the Count of Monte Cristo. Not sure if this was a deliberate ploy by the author, or whether I am reading too much into it, but for the Chateau d'if, think of Wolf's prison; the count had to use cunning and patience to escape as did Wolf which we find out later on in the narrative; once out his Machiavellian efforts to track down those who betrayed him, including his wife who divorced him and then married his friend and lawyer, and to punish them in a way that uniquely suited their behavior and the slow destruction of all involved, is similar to those meted out by the Count and once I realised this I found I was enjoying the book more and more.
I discovered Reginald HIll's books a few years ago, rather late into the Dalziel and Pascoe oeuvre, the first one read by me being Death's Jest Book, which blew me away with, not only its plotting and narrative, but also its use of the English language, so beautiful and intricate that I found it necessary to have a copy of the Oxford dictionary next to me to check out some of the words used by the author. I then read the rest of the books in this series, finding some of the earlier ones a tad disappointing, but noted that as he wrote more and more about this twosome, the better they got. I gather there are also novels about a character called Joe Sixsmith and I intend to have a crack at these as well - one day when I have time....
I think The Woodcutter is far and away the best he has written so far, in my opinion anyway. There are leads and clues leading to Wolf's character laid out at the very start of the book so be warned, best to read these pages carefully. I had to nip back to them later on in the book when connections began to click in my mind and when we slowly beging to realis who was really behind Wolf's incarcaration in prison for a crime he did not commit, and that there were bigger forces at work than originally thought.
An intricate, well plotted story that will lead you all the way up the garden path and then down again - it certainly fooled me and as more and more layers were uncovered towards the end of the book, I realized that I hadn't had a clue what was going on and was left gasping at the final solution and the ultimate twist at the end.
This is not the first time this author has done this to me and daresay it won't be the last.