Ed McBain's The Mugger is the second of his well-regarded 87th Precinct series. Unfortunately, this one shows its age a bit; it feels a bit derivative of Chandler here and there. It's not a bad novel, but also not a great precursor of good things to come.
The Woodcutter, on the other hand, is by an author
with a long career, and here Reginald Hill is almost at the top of his
form. I think that the final climactic revelation is a little too
melodramatic, but it's also almost irrelevant to the story, and, up till
that point, the book is pitch-perfect. As usual, Hill is very aware of his literary antecedents, in this case The Count of Monte Cristo. Although he's not in way aping Dumas, it's clear that he knows that story well, while putting a more modern twist on it.
first part of the story (the unfair incarceration) is communicated to
us through essays that Wolf Hadder is writing for his prison
psychiatrist. So they're not in particularly chronological order, and,
of course, Wolf has every reason to be careful with his revelations,
since his parole will depend on her evaluation of his progress. Also
like the Count, Wolf finds a secret hoard of cash, and he will take his
revenge in indirect ways, eschewing direct violence. Dumas's Count,
though, comes to a moral clarity in his actions toward Mercedes. Does
Wolf do the same for Imogen, his Mercedes? The contrast between Imogen
and Mercedes is probably one of the biggest structural differences
between the two books. (Obviously, the addition of the psychiatrist is
This is a much more straight-forward suspense novel than the Dalziel and Pascoe series, and it was a nice break from those.