Excerpt from Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Eight Perfect Murders

by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson X
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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Chapter 1

The front door opened, and I heard the stamp of the FBI agent's feet on the doormat. It had just begun to snow, and the air that rushed into the store was heavy and brimming with energy. The door shut behind the agent. She must have been just outside when she'd called because it had only been about five minutes since I'd agreed to meet with her.

Except for me, the store was empty. I don't know exactly why I'd opened it that day. A storm was forecast to drop over two feet of snow, beginning in the morning and continuing through until the following afternoon. Boston Public Schools had already announced they were closing early, and they'd canceled all classes for the following day. I'd called the two employees who were scheduled to come in—Emily for the morning shift and early afternoon, and Brandon for the afternoon and evening—and told them both to stay home. I logged on to the Old Devils Bookstore Twitter account and was about to send out a tweet saying that we were closed for the duration of the storm, but something stopped me. Maybe it was the thought of spending all day in my apartment alone. And besides, I lived less than half a mile from the store.

I decided to go in; at the very least I'd be able to spend some time with Nero, straighten up some shelves, maybe even pack up some online orders.

A sky the color of granite was threatening snow as I unlocked the front doors on Bury Street in Beacon Hill. Old Devils Bookstore is not in a high-traffic area, but we're a specialty bookstore—mystery books, used and new—and most of our customers seek us out or simply order directly from our website. On a typical Thursday in February I wouldn't be surprised if the total number of customers barely reached double digits, unless of course we had an event planned. Still, there was always work to do. And there was Nero, the store cat, who hated spending the day alone. Also, I couldn't remember if I'd fed him extra food the night before. It turned out I probably hadn't because when I stepped through the front door, he came racing along the hardwood floor to greet me. He was a ginger cat of indeterminate age, perfect for the store because of his willingness (his eagerness, really) to put up with the affections of strangers. I turned on the store lights, fed Nero, then brewed myself a pot of coffee. At eleven, Margaret Lumm, a regular, entered.

"What are you doing open?" she asked.

"What are you doing out?"

She held up two grocery bags from an upscale grocery store on Charles Street. "Provisions," she said, in her patrician voice.

We talked about the latest Louise Penny novel. She talked, mostly. I pretended I'd read it. These days I pretend I've read many books. I do read the reviews from the major trade publications, of course, and I go to a few blogs. One of them is called The Armchair Spoiler and it includes reviews of recent titles that discuss endings. I no longer have the stomach for contemporary mystery novels—sometimes I reread a particular favorite from my childhood—and I find the book blogs indispensable. I suppose I could be honest, tell people that I've lost interest in mystery novels, that I primarily read history these days, poetry before I go to bed, but I prefer to lie. The few people I've told the truth to always want to know why I've given up reading crime, and it's not something I can talk about.

I sent Margaret Lumm away with a used copy of Ruth Rendell's Shake Hands Forever that she was 90 percent sure she'd never read. Then I ate the lunch I'd packed—a chicken salad sandwich—and was just about thinking of calling it a day when the phone rang.

"Old Devils Bookstore," I answered.

"Is Malcolm Kershaw available?" A woman's voice.

"Speaking," I said.

"Oh, good. This is Special Agent Gwen Mulvey of the FBI. I'd love a little bit of your time to ask you a few questions."

Excerpted from Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. Copyright © 2020 by Peter Swanson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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