Eight Perfect Murders

Title: Eight Perfect Murders

Author: Peter Swanson

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020

Format:  Hardcover

Genre: Mystery

Sub Genre(s): N/A

Summary: 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. The 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.


What I Liked: The premise for this mystery is VERY clever and I loved the idea of someone recreating fictional murders and hoping that someone would catch on to their game. While Swanson uses the unreliable narrator trope that so many mystery books now seem to use, I liked how Malcolm, the narrator tells the audience very early on that he’s unreliable. This was a fun way to keep the reader guessing as to what is real and what is fiction. I really loved how many other mystery novels are mentioned in this book and how the discussions of these books fit into the overall story. And even though I guessed the killer, there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested until the very end.

What I Didn’t Like: I felt like I didn’t learn enough about the side characters to ever question them as suspects or to care about what happened to them. This made guessing who the bad guy was a lot easier than it should have been (even though it took me longer than I would like to admit). In particular, I would have liked to have known more about the bookstore employees, Brandon and Emily.  And while I should have seen this coming, the ending of every single mystery that appears on Malcolm’s perfect murder list is revealed so hopefully I will have forgotten “who dun it” if I ever decide to pick up the books I haven’t yet read.

Who Should Read It: Fans of mysteries with unreliable narrators and anyone who likes books about books.

Review Wrap Up: This was a fun book that I think most mystery fans would enjoy and bibliophiles will absolutely adore all the references to mysteries, both new and old that make up a large portion of this book. While this wasn’t the best mystery I’ve ever read, I enjoyed the story and writing and will read more from Swanson in the future.

Favorite Quote: “Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books don’t just take you back to the time in which they are written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself.”


thespinsterlibrarian

State of Terror

I’m a huge Louise Penny fan (both of her writing and of her!) so when I heard she was not only writing a book outside of her Inspector Gamache series, but her co-author was Hillary Clinton, I was excited. I assumed I would like the book but how would her writing translate from a cozy style to a more thriller-esque mystery? While I had some minor issues, overall I enjoyed this book and I would read another one by her and Clinton if they decide to continue their collaboration.

As far as thrillers go, State of Terror succeeded in keeping me in suspense, anticipation, and excitement with a compelling story and interesting characters, despite the story being based on real events and characters clearly based on actual politicians. The story starts with several bombs being detonated in cities across the world, with the implication that these attacks are only the beginning of a wave of increasingly larger and more deadly attacks. Tasked to investigate and stop the terrorists is the new Secretary of State, Ellen Adams who has surprisingly accepted the position despite President Douglas Williams being her political rival. On the surface, this seems like a shrewd move by Williams and an attempt to heal the divide in their party, but Adams knows the truth-he wants her to fail so all the blame will fall on her when he can’t repair the damage the former President inflicted on the country and the world. Penny and Clinton don’t attempt to hide that the former President in this book is based on our actual former guy, just as Secretary Adams is based on Clinton herself. While I understand why they chose to do this, I sometimes found this distracting because I couldn’t stop thinking about the real people these characters were based on. (As it turns out, there were several more characters based on real people, as revealed in the acknowledgements at the end but they are minor so I didn’t notice). The original characters, and there were a lot, added to the story in ways that made sense and I was given time to get to know them so when they found themselves in dangerous situations, I found myself caring about what happened to them. There’s nothing worse in a thriller than not caring when you should because that takes you right out of the story. It could have been confusing with so many characters but the decision to change the points of view frequently helped me to not forget who each person was and kept me invested in each person’s storyline.

Where this book really excels is the story, which manages to avoid playing into stereotypes while being accurate to the real threats the world is facing right now. You can tell this was Clinton’s time to shine and her expertise shows. The threats in this book feel real and that must be thanks to Clinton’s knowledge in foreign affairs. My main issue with this book, and honestly with most thrillers, is that it was just too long. Pages could have been cut without sacrificing the story and it still would have been a hefty size.

This was a decent thriller written by a great writer and a woman with exceptional government knowledge. The story kept me engaged the whole time and I thought it wrapped up well. I think most people would find it an easy to read, enjoyable book and I recommend it.

Authors: Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton

Release Date: October 12, 2021

Rating: 4 Stars

The Hunting Party

Lucy Foley is an author that checks out very well at my library and her books receive good reviews, but I’ve never had the chance to read one of her books, so I was excited when a book club I was leading chose “The Hunting Party” as their latest pick to discuss.  The premise to this book was simple: 9 friends gather on New Year’s for their annual vacation and by the end of the weekend, one of them winds up dead.  Who among them is the killer? This is a classic locked room mystery that doesn’t change the genre in anyway, but I liked it and there were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. This was an enjoyable read that I think most mystery fans will like.

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Dear Child

Woo boy was this book a roller coaster.  My family and friends know that I scare easily which is one of the reasons I don’t like horror movies.  It’s also one of the reasons I sometimes have to stop reading a book when the sun sets and the shadows start to look like creepy things haha!  This was one of those books.  As much as I loved it and wanted to keep reading, I had to put it down at night and switch to something more light hearted to ensure I would be able to sleep at night.  Part mystery, part psychological thriller, this book kept me guessing until the very end and I highly recommend it for fans of chilling suspense novels.

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Leave the World Behind

While reading this book, I kept thinking, “did Rumaan Alam think his book would be so timely when he was writing it?”  The topics of race, class, and family would have been enough to make this a very 2020 book but how could anyone have known that a book that discussed those topics AND a global catastrophe would be written pre-2020, only to be released at the end of what feels like the longest year ever?  As much as I loved this book, I would hesitate to recommend it right now, solely based on the content, knowing that some people might not want to read about the beginning of the end of the world while we are still dealing with a pandemic. However, if you feel like you can handle this topic right now, this book is one that you will be hearing about a lot over the next few months (Netflix bought the rights before the book was even released and Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington are already set to star in the adaptation,) and I really enjoyed this one, as much as you can enjoy a sad, semi-apocalyptic book.

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Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead

I host a virtual book club for my library and while there is no specific theme to the club, we have somewhat settled on reading mysteries.  There are so many mystery subgenres that I have been trying to pick a different one each month to give us some variety.  This book was my pick for private investigator but it was unique in ways I didn’t expect and did not read like a typical PI story.  I ended up liking it more than I thought I would and would continue the series.

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The Dime

During pride month, I was working on a list of mysteries and thrillers with LGBTQ+ protagonists for my library. I was pleased to find that more and more authors are choosing to tell stories with diverse characters but there is still a lack of mysteries with gay characters. While I meant to read this book in June, I’m glad I decided to give it a try as I ended up liking it and I am looking forward to reading the second in the series.

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The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient was THE mystery thriller of 2019, with numerous friends and library patrons telling me I had to read it.  I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this one up but I am glad I read it because I was hooked from the first page.  I would highly recommend this book, especially if you like stories with a lot of twists and turns.

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A Dog About Town

A prompt in one of the reading challenges I am working on this year was: “a book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point of view character.”  Having already read the great “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” I could not think of another book that would apply to this prompt. Thanks to a Goodreads group, I found “A Dog About Town” which had an interesting enough premise for me to want to read it.    While the book was entertaining enough, I didn’t find the mystery to be that compelling or enough to keep me interested in whodunit.

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