Rich Westwood's favourite reads of 2014
5. Margery Allingham - Hide My Eyes
Paperback: 224 pages (2007) Publisher: Vintage ISBN: 0099506092
Margery Allingham, one of the crime queens of the Golden Age, is probably one of my favourite writers. 1958's Hide My Eyes, a story of blind faith and unearned forgiveness, is by no means her best, but it earns a place in my top five by being a pleasant surprise - somehow I had managed not to read it. A plausible small-time conman has turned his hand to murder, and is getting away with it. The colourful policeman Charlie Luke is the only one who believes he even exists. Truly sinister.
4. Jasper Gibson - A Bright Moon for Fools
Paperback: 368 pages (July 2014) Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd ISBN: 1471138828
I read this and thought 'cult classic'. Harry Christmas, a boozy, pugnacious and unattractive Englishman, blazes a sorry trail of destruction across Venezuela. He is hunted by the unbalanced son of his latest conquest, who somehow contrives to be more unpleasant than his prey. Funny and sad.
3. Len Deighton - Mexico Set
Paperback: 416 pages (2010) Publiser: Grafton Books ISBN: 0586058214
The second of the Game, Set and Match trilogy featuring robustly ordinary spy Bernie Samson, whose greatest strengths are his paranoia, the massive chip on his shoulder, and a wife who understands him. These are also his greatest weaknesses. In Mexico, Bernie tries to 'turn' his KGB opposite number but discovers wheels with wheels (and they have their own wheels). I can't remember why I scored this more highly than Berlin Game or London Match, so you should probably read all three.
2. Francis Beeding - The Norwich Victims
Paperback: 256 pages (2013) Publisher: Arcturus Publishing ISBN: 178212442X
A little gem of a Golden Age mystery. Miss Haslett, the spinsterish housekeeper at a Norwich prep school, wins a fortune and falls straight into the hands of a dodgy investment advisor named John Throgmorton. Inspector Martin investigates when her body is found in a train-yard. Very readable, and the inclusion of photos of the main characters adds a certain charm.
1. Michael Sims (Editor) - The Dead Witness
Paperback: 608 pages (2012) Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks ISBN: 1408822008
I love short story collections, especially when they revive forgotten gems. In The Dead Witness, Michael Sims has collected together early crime stories from the UK, US, Australia, Canada and France. The usual suspects are here – Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, C. Auguste Dupin – but they are outweighed by rarities, including a new candidate for the first published mystery story. For me, the Bible-bashing frontier lawman Uncle Abner was the stand-out character. A brilliant read for historians of the genre.