The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I love Reginald Hill's mysteries - be they Dalziel/Pascoe or Joe Sixsmith. This is less mystery and more psychodrama a la Count of Monte Cristo, and just as good as the mysteries.
Wilfred "Wolf" Hadda (isn't that a great Scottish name?) is the son of a woodcutter who's married the daughter of the manor (ok, it's really a castle). There are a few mysteries in Wolf's life, such as what happened during his five year absence. Sounds a little like Heathcliff, doesn't he? And Imogene, the fair maiden in question, has her Cathy-esque moments, too. They marry, have a beautiful daughter named Virginia, and then it all falls apart when Wolf is accused first of paedophilia and then of financial fraud. Flash forward to him in prison, where he somehow decides that cooperating with his psychologist will get him out of jail early... and thus the revenge drama starts.
Wolf is often described as a very likeable man, one people like despite his background, his alleged crimes, etc.. And Hill has made him likeable, more so that virtually any other character in the book. Everyone else seems to have motives wrapped in plots and tied with deception - with two exceptions. Elf (aka Alva), his prison psychologist, and Sir Leon, Lord of the Castle, aren't as likeable, but they're reasonably honest in their motivations. The revenge Wolf exacts does, of course, go slightly awry, but that's to be expected.
Readers of Hill's works and those who prefer Dumas or Barbara Vine will enjoy meeting The Woodcutter.