In my review of Reginald Hill’s latest, The Woodcutter, at rte (see I concluded  “Do I think THE WOODCUTTER is in the highest rank of the Hill canon? No. Is THE WOODCUTTER a terrific mystery, a truly compelling novel and a must-read? You bet.”

Very fairly someone on the BritishMysteries list put me on the spot by asking me what I would put in the ‘highest rank of the Hill canon’. That needed a bit of thinking about but I came up with the following….

“I think my list of the books in the ‘highest rank’ of the Hill canon are as follows (in chronological order)….

Exit Lines
Bones and Silence
Recalled to Life
Pictures of Perfection
The Wood Beyond
On Beulah Height
Arms and the Woman
Dialogues of the Dead
Death’s Jest Book
A Cure for All Diseases

I tried to get it down to 10 but could not do so! It goes almost without saying that all these are in the Dalziel and Pascoe series : much as I have liked some on the other books I don’t think they have ever quite challenged DandP. This is not necessarily a list of all my favourites (An April Shroud would be there if it were), but it does include my personal absolute favourite (Pictures of Perfection). Many would disagree with this list which is heavily weighted in favour of Hill’s most literary efforts (Pictures, Arms, Dialogues, Death’s, Cure) but then that is the side of Hill which I most love, which no living writer comes close to matching (or at least none I have ever read or heard of), and which is most individual. But for some people this is just what they dislike about Hill – it is a matter of taste. After all Pictures is really a lovely shaggy dog story – although it has a hard political edge – and some people do not really consider that as the most desirable feature of a mystery!

Thanks for making me think about this – of course what I really need to do is to go back and re-read every book…………….”

I subsequently added….

“I should have added that there are no books in the DandP series which I dislike but if I had to pick the weakest and my least favourite (I think they do coincide here) it would definitely be Ruling Passion. Although even there who knows if I re-read it  ?:)”