Title: Eight Perfect Murders
Author: Peter Swanson
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
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.”