Reviewed by Helen Wyatt
Woodcutter is the first in the series of gritty crime novels from Shaun Baines, and is also his debut novel. The story is set in his native North East England and is based around the notorious Dayton crime family. Daniel Dayton has run away from home for mysterious reasons and we enter the story when he decides to return home, learning that he abandoned his daughter when he left. We meet several gruesome characters who are clearly up to no good, and the reader is taken on a journey of discovery through different perspectives, seeing how Daniel works through his family issues, guilt for leaving his daughter behind, and trying to track down the elusive enemy of the Dayton family who is set to destroy their lives.
We get to know Charles to start with, and are immediately thrown in the deep end with a dark situation, drawing the reader in to a gritty torture situation where we learn about the reach and influence of the Dayton family and what lengths their associates will go for them.
We are mostly taken on Daniel’s journey and Shaun’s writing style keeps you guessing from moment to moment, wondering who will cross who and when. We are caught up in gangland family feuding and cleverly made to feel sorry for some of the most mean characters at times.
We also get to dig into the mind of those out to get the family and try and work out their next moves, right along with the Daytons, and mostly you’re wrong, as are the Daytons!
We also learn about the head of the Dayton family and follow along with his struggles to keep himself at the top of the pile, balancing it with family struggles and watching as he copes, or otherwise, with the foundation of his family gradually being eroded away.
This book is a non-stop roller-coaster from beginning to end, hooking you in right from page 1 and not letting you go! Watch out for the body count, which you’ll easily lose count of as you watch the memorable characters destroy themselves and each other in more and more ingenious but gruesome ways.
Shaun brings all the characters to life with ease, and paints vivid storylines to entice the reader. Shaun is particularly adept at describing gruesome scenes played out by despicable people who you can’t believe can be any meaner, and each time you get royally proven wrong. Shaun also deftly describes his native North East England, transporting the reader to those shadier areas you would be reluctant to tread.
This well written debut novel was well paced and thoroughly enjoyable, full of twists and turns in the most gripping way.
I kept having to read this story late into the night to find out what happened next. This really isn’t my usual genre, but I was glad to be kept entertained throughout, and keeping me guessing right until the end.
I would gladly recommend this book but not to the feint hearted!
RRP: £8.99 (Paperback) / £2.99 (Kindle)