Rules for Perfect Murders
by Peter Swanson, Graham Halstead (Narrator)
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.
It’s been a long time since I read ‘The Kind Worth Killing’ by Peter Swanson, so long that I don’t have a review for it, but looking back at my Goodreads, I gave it a solid 5 stars. I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up another Swanson read, but here I am having read his latest, ‘Rules for Perfect Murders’ which I devoured on audio last week.
This book is a refreshing change to some of the crime fiction I’ve been reading recently and it had such a bookish theme that I couldn’t help but fall in love.
”Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books don’t just take you back to the time in which they were written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself.”
Malcom Kershaw co-owns and works in Old Devil’s Bookstore in Boston, a little crime fiction shop that doesn’t see a huge number of customers through the doors, but the ones that do pop in are loyal. Malcom started a blog for the shop years ago, at one time posting a list of his top eight murder mysteries:
- The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne
- Malice Aforethought by Anthony Berkeley Cox
- The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
- Double Indemnity by James M. Cain
- Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
- The Drowner by John D. MacDonald
- Deathtrap by Ira Levin
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Now, several years on, the FBI turn up at the door, having identified some similarities between a series of recent murders and Malcom’s list.
I really enjoyed the first few chapters and found it to be quite addictive at first. The setting of a bookshop during inclement weather was so vivid and really immersed the reader in the story. There’s quite a lot of mention of the books on Malcom’s list, but don’t be put off by that if you haven’t read any of them. I haven’t either and I certainly don’t feel that my opinion was changed because of that. One thing worth mentioning though, is that if you are planning to read any of the books in the future, this one is full of spoilers!
I did find my attention waned a little somewhere in the middle but it did pick up again towards the end. For the most part, I felt that the chapters were very suspenseful and it was hard to put down at times. I liked the characters too and they made for quite an entertaining read, especially the two quirky bookshop employees.
Overall rating: I’d definitely recommend giving “Rules for Perfect Murders” a go if you’ve enjoyed any of Peter Swanson’s other work. It’s quite an easy read, but it’s both fun and mysterious and will keep you on your toes! A good 4 star read for me!