Title: Eight Perfect Murders
Author: Peter Swanson
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Source: Library (Libby)
Recommended for Fans of: classic mystery books
“Fiendish good fun.” —Anthony Horowitz
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.
Eight Perfect Murders is written as an homage to classic mystery books, but overall it missed the mark for me.
The story started off strong. I was immediately sucked into the narrative. I found the copycat case compelling. I loved that Mal ran a mystery book store and its blog. I was intrigued by his secrets and his own investigation into the murders. I thought that most of the book was very well paced.
HOWEVER, I really disliked the moments with Mal’s narration broke the fourth wall and he spoke directly to the reader because it pulled me out of the story. The execution of some of the reveals was heavy-handed and overdone as Swanson attempted to emulate classics of the genre. I didn’t predict the killer’s identity, but I was disappointed by it, and the killer’s explanation of how he pulled it off was way too long and reminded me of a Scooby Doo villain monologue. I also disliked the ending.
This book should come with a major SPOILER ALERT for all the books on the Eight Perfect Murders list as well as a handful of other classic mystery novels. It’s not surprising that the books on the list were spoiled, and I wasn’t planning on reading most of them, but I’m still a little salty about all the spoilers.
Even though it wasn’t perfect, this was a very fast and engrossing read, and if you are already familiar with the classic murder mysteries this book is built around, you might enjoy this more than I did.