Summary and book reviews of Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders

by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson X
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2021, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although mystery lovers may be able to pick up on many of the clues, Swanson expertly subverts the usual tropes to create a haunting conclusion that harkens back to one of Agatha Christie's most famous novels. The book stands out among the current field of domestic dramas and foreign detectives as a celebration of the genre...continued

Full Review (716 words).

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(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

New York Journal of Books
Intelligent, twisty, stylish, startling…No matter how well you know someone, you can never fully know what’s in their heart and mind. Eight Perfect Murders proves the point. Which is what makes it perfectly creepy.

Shelf Awareness (starred review)
Readers who enjoy thrillers chock-full of twists and turns will adore Peter Swanson’s meta-mystery Eight Perfect Murders…This superbly plotted novel, thrilling, fast-paced and psychologically complex, makes the perfect book club choice for fans of Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders and A.J. Finn's The Woman in the Window.

Library Journal
The wintry New England setting and eerily cool narration, together with trust-no-one twists and garish murders, will satisfy thriller readers; fans of classic mysteries by Agatha Christie, Ira Levin, and John D. MacDonald will enjoy how Swanson repurposes the plots. While you may not warm to Malcolm, you'll stay to the finish of this one.

Booklist (starred review)
A devilish premise combined with jaw-dropping execution…Mystery fans will be salivating as the plot unfolds, trying to outsmart the confoundingly unreliable narrative…Swanson hits every note in this homage to the old-school crime novel, and the turnabout ending will leave readers reeling in delight.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[D]espite a triple helping of cleverness that might seem like a fatal overdose, the pleasures of following, and trying to anticipate, a narrator who's constantly second- and third-guessing himself and everyone around him are authentic and intense...The perfect gift for well-read mystery mavens who complain that they don't write them like they used to.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Swanson will keep most readers guessing until the end. Classic whodunit fans will be in heaven.

Author Blurb Anthony Horowitz
Fiendish good fun.

Author Blurb Lisa Gardner
Clever and surprising…Swanson rips us from one startling plot twist to the next. A marriage that may not be what it seems [and] friends who may not be what they seem…With mounting tension and fraying nerves, it careens to the final stunning conclusion. A true tour de force.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Locked Room Mysteries

Door with key in lockIn Eight Perfect Murders, bookseller Malcolm Kershaw is contacted by the FBI regarding his list of favorite mystery novels with seemingly unsolvable murders. The oldest book on Malcolm's list is The Red House Mystery, written in 1922 by A.A. Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame). Milne's book is a locked room mystery, also known as an impossible crime mystery, featuring a man who is murdered in a literal locked room, though the genre extends to more expansive locations as well, such as the island in Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. What all books in the genre have in common is that the crime seems impossible, and thus equally impossible to solve, although, of course, it is solved in the end. Locked room mysteries are less about the "...

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