EXCERPT: ‘You think these murders are related to the book?’
‘I do,’ she said. ‘It’s too fantastical for it not to be.’
‘Is it you think someone’s copying the books in order to get away with a murder? That someone wanted to murder Robin Callahan, for example, but then murdered the other people to make it look like a serial killer obsessed with birds?’
‘Maybe,’ Agent Mulvey said, and she rubbed a finger along the edge of her nose, up near her left eye. Even her small hands were pale, the fingernails unpainted. She was quiet again. It was a strange interview, full of pauses. She was hoping I’d fill in the silence, I guess. I decided not to say anything.
Eventually she said, ‘You must be wondering why I came to talk with you.’
‘I am,’ I said.
‘Before I tell you, I’d like to ask you about one other recent case.’
‘You probably haven’t heard of it. A man named Bill Manso. He was found near the train tracks in Norwalk, Connecticut, back in spring. He was a regular commuter on a particular train, and initially it looked as though he’d jumped, but now it looks as though he was killed elsewhere and brought to the tracks.’
‘No,’ I said, shaking my head. ‘I didn’t hear about it.’
‘Does it remind you of anything?’
‘Does what remind me of anything?’
‘The nature of his death.’
‘No,’ I said, but that wasn’t entirely true. It did remind me of something, but I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. ‘I don’t think so,’ I added.
She waited again, and I said, ‘Do you want to tell me why you’re questioning me?’
She unzipped her leather bag and removed a single sheet of paper. ‘Do you remember a list you wrote for this store’s blog, back in 2004? A list called ‘Eight Perfect Murders?”
ABOUT THIS BOOK: If you want to get away with murder, play by the rules
A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.
The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.
Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?
MY THOUGHTS: I don’t think my heart has ever lurched in my chest before. I have been breathless, actually stopped breathing, had marks in the palms of my hands from my fingernails, and had my heart pound, but never before has it actually lurched. It definitely did in Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson when the killer revealed himself. The circumstances in which he does so deserves to have a musical score written for it.
This is a clever book. It is not fast paced; instead the tension builds slowly, imperturbably. There is only one narrator, Mal, the owner of a bookshop specialising in mysteries. There is a lot of dialogue, something I don’t usually enjoy, but it works well here. There is a lot about this book that is different – in the very best of ways. I loved every moment of this read.
The eight books Mal has listed for ‘Eight Perfect Murders’ are ones a lot of us are familiar with, but there were a few there I hadn’t read (I will remedy that). Swanson continues to refer to other mysteries throughout the book – I have come away with a huge reading list! This is a bookish book, for bookish people, and one I will be buying a hard copy of. I expect to read it again. If I could nominate this as a modern classic murder mystery, I would. This deserves to be with the Agatha Christies, which is exactly where it will be being placed on my library shelves.
‘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.’
THE AUTHOR: Peter Swanson is the author of six novels including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year, and his most recent thriller, Eight Perfect Murders. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.
A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Faber & Faber via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of Rules For A Perfect Murder by Peter Swanson for review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3222187146