Reginald Hill has returned to his Cumbrian roots in his latest work, "The Woodcutter." (Harper, 519 pages, July 26)
Though this isn't an Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe mystery, "Woodcutter" is unmistakably pure Reginald Hill with a well crafted plot centered around a complicated character written in Hill's trademark literate style, punctuated with his deliciously irreverent wit.
"Woodcutter" is the old tale of the servant's son who longs for the young lady of the manor but to earn her love, he must better himself.
Wilfred "Wolf" Hadda made something of himself; earning millions in finance and a title as well, as he won the hand of the local squire's daughter, Imogen.
Reginald Hill writes crime novels, and thus, this "fairy tale" take a sinister turn as Wolf Hadda's posh lifestyle comes to a grim halt when he is arrested and convicted of child pornography and fraud.
In an attempt to flee from the police, he is struck by a truck and horribly disfigured.
While in Parkleigh prison, Wolf attracts the attention of the prison psychiatrist who asks him to reveal his inner most thoughts in a journal.
After vouching for his release from prison, the good doctor wrestles with the uncertainties inherent in probing the human psyche as she ponders whether Hadda is truly a "reformed" pedophile or a man wrongfully convicted and bent on revenge. The drama reaches a high point as Wolf learns the facts behind his betrayal.
With his great sense of timing, Hill takes a swipe at the oft times too cozy relationship between the British press and police and the devolutionists who would like to go back to ye olde days of "the floggers and hangers."
While Reginald Hill's "Woodcutter" has a fast-paced plot and is beautifully written with some well-placed jabs at the "upper crust," this reviewer misses the charms of Hill's cheeky Yorkshire detective, Andy Dalziel.