Eight Perfect Murdersby Peter Swanson (Website, Facebook, Twitter)
Published by William Morrow on March 3, 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Crime, Murder, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon • Book Depository • Goodreads
I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
From the hugely talented author of Before She Knew Him comes a chilling tale of psychological suspense and an homage to the thriller genre tailor-made for fans: the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fiction’s most ingenious murders.
Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.
But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. There is killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.
To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.
Peter Swanson’s last novel Before She Knew Him was stellar in my book, so I was eager to dig into his latest thriller, Eight Perfect Murders. Within just a few pages, I could see that this was a very different book from his previous novel, featuring a bookstore owner named Malcolm who was quite content to sell books and keep to himself outside of work. But a surprise visit from an FBI agent who is investigating seemingly unrelated deaths/possible murders of people that Malcolm didn’t know, with a tenuous link to a list of eight perfect murders in fiction that he posted years ago on his mystery book store’s blog.
Now Malcolm finds himself helping the FBI while also being a possible suspect in the murders, and he’s also keeping his relationship with a few of the victims a secret. As he does some digging of his own into the crimes and takes a new look into the eight books that made his list and inspired the crimes that are occurring and seemingly pointing towards himself, Malcolm finds that he just might be in danger as well as those around him. His personality isn’t the type to just let it go and watch what happens. He needs to see things through to the end.
Eight Perfect Murders pays tribute to the eight books featured in the list, but it also spoils the plots and ending of those books. Many more classic mysteries and thrillers are also talked about throughout the course of the book, especially Agatha Christie novels. If you haven’t read these, just beware that you will be spoiled. And you can’t go wrong by having a bookstore with a cat that lives at a store full of first editions, autographed books, and tons and tons of paperback mysteries…
Malcolm’s love for books really shines through, and as part owner of The Old Devil’s Bookstore he’s able to bring the joys of reading to his customers. But you can tell that it’s wearing on him, and his co-owner doesn’t do much of the work except for putting in the financial backing. The side characters were pretty memorable and unique though, from Malcolm’s hired bookstore help, to a few of his long-time customers, to his co-owner. It wasn’t hard to keep everyone straight. Even his late wife was very three-dimensional even though she’d died quite a while before the events of Eight Perfect Murders started off.
I give Eight Perfect Murders a four out of five. Honestly, the cast of characters is small enough that it wasn’t too hard to figure out who the main murderer was if you’ve read mysteries long enough. But the thing that Peter Swanson does best is unreliable narrators, and he’s written a perfect example in Malcom Kershaw. You have to wait until the very end to see just how much he’s lied or told the truth over the course of the book, and that kind of reveal was very satisfying for me as big fan of this genre. I also loved the setting in the Boston area, and when it’s so well written that you can just picture everything in your head–that’s some great writing. I was hoping for a bit more thriller out of this, but it was more of a slow burn than anything.
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About Peter Swanson
Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Before She Knew Him. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. He lives outside of Boston, where he is at work on his next novel.
Connect with Peter Swanson
Peter Swanson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS:
Tuesday, March 3rd: Instagram: @tbretc
Wednesday, March 4th: Instagram: @downtogetthefictionon
Thursday, March 5th: Instagram: @megsbookclub
Friday, March 6th: Instagram: @wordswithrach
Saturday, March 7th: Instagram: @basicbsguide
Sunday, March 8th: Instagram: @readingbetweenthe__wines
Monday, March 9th: Instagram: @crystals_library
Tuesday, March 10th: Instagram: @storiesandcoffee
Sunday, March 15th: Instagram: @momandmadread
Monday, March 16th: Instagram: @readingwithmere
Tuesday, March 3r: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, March 4th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, March 5th: Instagram: @mamajustwantstoread
Friday, March 6th: Books and Bindings
Monday, March 9th: Instagram: @jess_reads_books
Tuesday, March 10th: Instagram: @bookapotamus
Wednesday, March 11th: Write – Read – Life
Thursday, March 12th: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_
Friday, March 13th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader
Monday, March 16th: Instagram: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark
Tuesday, March 17th: Reading Girl Reviews
Wednesday, March 18th: PhDiva
Thursday, March 19th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, March 20th: Always With a Book
Monday, March 23rd: Instagram: @katieladyreads
Tuesday, March 24th: Into the Hall of Books
Wednesday, March 25th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats
Thursday, March 26th: Instagram: @the.magicalpages
Friday, March 27th: Instagram: @babygotbooks13