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VINE VOICEon 3 July 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Be aware that this is not a Fatman and Boy Wonder novel but a stand-alone which in its way is very different from anything this ever versatile writer has tried before. Is it any good? Oh dear me yes! Will it disappoint any of his devoted followers? I doubt it, even though it's set largely in his native Cumbria rather than Yorkshire and involves few policemen. I enjoyed it immensely. It has so many strands - is it a moral tale, a take on our selfish society; is it a tongue-in-cheek fairy story [ Wolf {sic}; cottage in the woods; little blonde haired girl]; a thinly-disguised acerbic comment on the sometimes amoral landed classes, whether here or in Russia and so on. I liked so much about it, not least his descriptions of the wilder parts of the Lake District. Some of the writing is awesome - the moonlit winter countryside around Wolf's farm and the touch of that other famous Cumbrian, William Wordsworth, when on the bleakly beautiful Wastwater. And as for Pillar Rock, what can I say?! Believe me, if you've never been there, no ordinary mortal would consider it without a rope and as for certain activities at the top - well, uncomfortable and scary are words that come to mind! I liked the character of Wolf [loved the phone call from the Courts!!!] but Imogen perhaps from the start doesn't come across as particularly likeable. Even with her, Hill can't keep humour away "only two things would keep her awake - sex and toothache" but the best character I have to say is probably the dog. I defy you to disagree!
Thoroughly recommended; best book I've read for some time.
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on 28 February 2011
One of Hill's early non-Dalziel and Pascoe novels was called "The Long Kill". It's the only one I ever read that dropped a star. The sex was embarrassingly clinical, the fight scenes implausibly long, and the denouement disappointingly predictable. So why mention it now?

Well I think Hill himself might have been less than satisfied with it. Because some of the themes in "The Long Kill" are reprised in "The Woodcutter". And this time he's got it absolutely right. I can't imagine reading a better book this year, and it gave me more pleasure than anything I've read for the past few years - including the best D & P novels. It has drive, tension, wit, compassion (who else could evoke sympathy for a man in the Woodcutter's profession
(and we're not talking forestry here!)?)

So if, like me, you read "The Long Kill" on the strength of his more mature works, ignorant of the inevitable fact that even Hill nods, get "The Woodcutter". Buy it in hardback. And be careful who you lend it to.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I must admit to not having read any of the author's other work - but part of the fun of Vine is being able to access new authors (to me) without any expectations.

This is a very well written, tightly plotted thriller. The main character is mightily flawed, but is still someone you would like to meet (if a bit nervously). The other characters are well drawn, from the good guys to the bad - and there are some amusing touches as well.

The story concerns a self-made millionaire who falls foul of a number of his acquaintances... and ends up in prison for a crime he did not commit. The author brings in some very recent themes (the book is set in 2010 or thereabouts) and we come across paedophilia and the recent economic crash and recession.

Some delightful description of Cumbria and the relationship between Man and Dog (or probably, Wolf and Wolf) help to fill out the main fast-paced tale. Much of it is told in flash-backs as the alleged criminal is taken back through his life by his psychiatrist. These parts of the story are crucial to the tale, and it is intriguing to watch as the psychiatrist picks out the truth from the fiction...

As they say "All's well, that well ends?" or something along those lines...
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on 5 August 2011
I've never read a Reginald Hill novel, as usual picking this up in desperation as the second choice in a Buy One, Get One Half Price thing. To say I was delighted is an understatement.
No understatement in this novel, however - Hill's greatest skill seems to be in his fantastic characterisation, which drives the novel along. No stone is left unturned as regards to motive, passion, relationships, emotion. You'll need to keep a dictionary handy - Hill's vocabulary is awe-inspiring - but never once did I think, 'Oh, just get on with it.'
If you love the wilder side of the Lakes - Wasdale and Mosedale in particular - you'll be able to picture exactly where the action is, such is Hill's talent for painting a picture in text. I've trodden that path up to Black Sail dozens of times so this novel felt like I'd written it myself! The mythical, mystical fairy-tale aspect of the novel, with its Nordic overtones, fits in with this wild part of the world perfectly.
I loved the deeply flawed character of Wolf, as I can't stand 'perfect' heroes, of which there are far too many in this genre. Alva is a spirited and unusual heroine, and the pyschology didn't feel or sound like mumbo-jumbo; the mysterious JC is another well-developed character, and the Reverend Luke Hollins is great (as is Sneck!)
Only a couple of flaws in this novel; the over-enthusiastic use of the exclamation mark (Peter James does this too - maybe they both attended the same Writing Course) - which does not always inject humour as intended, but does tend to annoy the reader. Also, the character of Lady Kira drove me up the wall. She's far too one-dimensional and cliched - surely not all aristocrats are ice-queens? I get the impression Hill isn't too impressed with the upper classes, but I've met a few, and while they may well snigger behind my back for all I know, I've never met anyone with such publicly bad manners as Lady Kira. You wouldn't get away with that in Cumbria - she'd have ended up being socked in the nose. I didn't believe for one moment that the final scenario would have affected her in the way it did - there was just not enough light and shade in her character.
All in all, a fantastic book which kept me hooked for three days.
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on 27 July 2010
I have admired Mr. Hill since I first read him, more than twenty years back. O.K. I'll admit I was disappointed in his last two Dalziel/Pascoe books, Midnight Fugue and A Cure for All Diseases,(the better American title being the Price of Butcher's Meat). This is the kind of book, he wrote under Patrick Ruell sobriquet, the best of which being The Long Kill.
Now, by own mention on more than one occasion, this is Mr. Hill's tribute to Alexander Dumas. Craftily, he doesn't follow the escape route ( a nice touch when the warden says after discovering the book, he was not worried about Hadda digging a tunnel)
Wolf Hadda, a son of a game keeper (shades of D.H. Lawrence, Mr. Hill milks it to an absurd denouement), marries the daugher of the powerful landowner after he makes a fortune and is able to mix in society, conditions laid out by his wife to be, the nuble, Imogen.
He is framed and his wife leaves him for his attorney, Toby Estover (even the name is derivative like the concept, Toby Esterhaze of John Le Carre's Karla Trilogy), and the story moves at a brisk pace. The one loveable character Dr. Alva Ozigbo is the recent trend of mystery writers to put in at least one immigrant minority, is irrestible. She also reminded me of Sgt. Cambridge in the series Pie in teh Sky. (If a movie were made of this book, Bella Enahoro would be a perfect fit for Alva. Mr. Hill is a past master of framing elegant sentences, 'I had to breaks some icicles . . . or I would have been speared,' to literary allusions, none more so than an Othello under the weather.
I loved the first 300 pages and I was going to give the book a five star review and then the roof caved in. Mr. Hill resorted to usual gimmicks, a murder that was not a murder, scenes of axe chopping trees and, yes, at times people. That's the weakest and most annoying part of the narrative. The addition of the Russian character (Nikiti/Nicotine) is so blatantly a filler that readers would gasp and ask if Mr. Hill had to resort to this kind of a trick to push the book to 500 plus pages? If the editors had chopped off a hundred odd pages this would have been a better book. As it is, it's not bad. Hill starting off at the top and sliding down by the end. Well, he's not young any more.
A more penetrating next Dalziel and Pascoe, please. Perhaps Elie can have cancer and get cured (in three novels?)
His writing holds up, but shows signs of overwriting.
Still, heads above the junk turned out by so called best selling writers.
Thanks, Mr. Hill.
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on 9 August 2010
If there's a more dependable British novelist alive today, I don't know who it is. Most writers seem to have their off-days - and William Boyd and Ian Rankin, normally among my favourites, have had a few lately - but Reg Hill churns out a new book every 18 months or so, of consistently high quality whatever the genre. ("Churns out" is the wrong term. I'm sure he puts a lot of work into his research and his writing, but he wears his learning very lightly.)

This novel started a little slowly for my taste, but I took the last 350 pages at a single sitting. Who needs food or drink when you've got a book of this quality to keep you going?

I sometimes amuse myself by imagining who would be the ideal guests to have to dinner. Reginald Hill wouldn't qualify - not because I wouldn't love to meet him, and hear more of his gentle wit, but because I wouldn't want to steal even five minutes of writing time from his next book!
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on 28 February 2014
An excellent story of intrigue, ambition, greed, betrayal and revenge sparked by a poor boy's desire to win the hand of an aristocratic ice-maiden. He makes his fortune and wins her hand, but his blissful existence is shattered by a nasty conspiracy organised by his
closest associates. He spends time in gaol but only after suffering severe injuries in an accident. His eventual release is facilitated by
a female psychiatrist who falls under his spell. Thereafter he plots his revenge. The only reservations I have are the difficulty of imagining the apparent attractiveness and the physical ability of the hero given his horrific injuries and trying to picture the psychiatrist
as a black woman with naturally blond hair.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 14 August 2011
As I say in my title, I was gripped for the first 500 pages or so then the plot and the believeability began to unravel a lot. There are monstrous holes in the plot and many of the characters become parodies of themselves but my main niggle is the set piece ending which stretches credulity too far and is quite frankly laughable. I feel really annoyed by this book to be honest as the majority of it is so, so good yet the ending lets it down too much. I think Mr Hill has tried too hard to make a very good plot fit into his beloved and beautifully described Lake District and rather like a runner who sets off too quickly in a race, has "hit the wall" before the end and struggled over the finishing line. What a shame.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The wronged protagonist seeking his revenge provides a common basic structure for many novels, but `The Woodcutter' is anything but common or basic - it is exceptional and complex. Reginald Hill's cunning combination of psychology and pragmatism fashions a crime thriller cum love story of betrayal and loyalty to create an intriguing narrative that skilfully obscures accusations and accusers, and intermingles innocence and guilt. From the first page `The Woodcutter' captures attention and it will keep readers gripped throughout. The setting is largely Cumbria embracing accurate descriptions of Wastwater, Pillar Rock etc. plus wonderfully emotive illustrations of the beauty and grandeur of the area. This is erudite and entertaining writing of the highest order - it is superbly constructed and everything has meaning. The plot may appear to be unevenly paced with some events occasionally only inferred, whereas others are described in detail from more than one viewpoint - yet always there is credible and convincing purpose - and always the reader is compelled to learn more. Central figures range across wide social strata and disparate personalities, but all are plausible and persuasive with their commentaries looking both forwards and back for events taking place between 1963 and 2018. The author introduces various periods with witty insights to headline news items of the day, and his humour percolates and strengthens numerous diverse situations embracing subjects of compassion, concern, sympathy and understanding as well as collusion, confusion, fear, greed and cruelty. All this makes for an enthralling and entrancing read of expected revenge, rational recrimination and potential redemption that continues right through to a fitting finale. `The Woodcutter' is a brilliant 5-star novel that deserves to be a best-seller.
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The novel tells the story of Wilfred "Wolf" Hadda, a self-made millionaire, son of an estate woodsman who marries the estate-owner's daughter. All does not remain a fairytale story as Wolf Hadda is accused of fraud and child abuse. To say much more would spoil the plot.

The beginning of the story I found a little confusing and was deliberately fairytale like. I found parts overlong and didn't find the story really gathered pace until well over half-way through. Although I did want to read the book to its conclusion, I wouldn't say it was a great page-turner. The central character of Wolf was not particularly likeable or someone with whom you could feel great sympathy - he was prone to violence and did not help himself due to his own actions when first arrested. However, in the book Wolf Hadda is supposedly charming and others always like him. The plot is complex but not particularly surprising. The most dramatic revelation towards the end, whilst being unexpected, does not really ring true (again saying too much would spoil the story).

All in all this was a good book but not the best thriller I have read.
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