The Woodcutter is a brutal and unforgiving story that leaves you in a cold sweat as you try to navigate the deception, threats and continuous revelations around the Dayton criminal empire.
Daniel Dayton is hiding out in Scotland from his father and his brother when he is eventually tracked down and presented with a compelling reason to return to Newcastle Upon Tyne and help his family. A killer (Fairbanks) is systematically dismantling the Dayton Empire by killing off main figures and cutting off protection and extortion routes. Most importantly Daniel’s daughter Eisha has been left in a coma following an attack. All 6ft 8in of Daniel is back for revenge and he has no compunction in wreaking havoc.
The plot delivers a stereotypical ruthless demanding father (Ed) that drives his sons to rule someday by fear, and he creates a son (Scott) that embraces his methods and the other (Daniel) that rebels and runs away. All the characters are interesting and well developed, including the minor ones. Family secrets and relationships are intriguing especially between the wives – current and ex. Daniel, whom you can’t help siding with, is described by his father as “You’re gifted, but you’re also dumb, you can’t see what’s right in front of your eyes.” The gift is that he can tell when people are lying, he’s dumb because he doesn’t understand the game being played behind it. The characters and their personal motives and duplicity all reinforce the sense of menace and a previously feared and violent empire being defeated by a motivated, intelligent and skilful killer.
The story is really gripping especially if you enjoy an unrelenting edgy and dark thriller where there are surprises at every turn. I would expect this debut book to be a success and we’ll hear more from Shaun Baines. Scotland certainly has a number of great young authors coming through.
Many thanks to Thistle Publishing and NetGalley, for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.