Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Bibliophiles will delight to read this murder mystery book written about murder mystery books

Malcolm Kershaw is a quiet, solitary thirty-something bookseller living in Boston. He runs a mystery genre bookstore alongside friend/writer Brian Murray and has a team of two that work there part-time. 

The action begins when a young blonde FBI agent, Gwen Mulvey shows up on his doorstep asking questions about a blog post he wrote many years ago featuring eight fictional unsolvable murders. It appears that a serial killer is mimicking the killings in these famous murder mystery books. Malcolm teams up with Gwen to re-read the books, look for clues, and theorize motives. Malcolm narrates the story and appears to genuinely enjoy the mystery he is now involved in.

Brilliantly weaved into one cohesive tale, we learn from Malcolm about the death of his wife, the life of his friends (Brian Murray, Tess Murray, Marty Kingship), the plots of the murders (real and fictional), and the Old Devils Bookstore where he works. Malcolm slowly unravels this thriller so as to draw in his reader. He reveals a crucial twist about a third of the way in and then continues to knock the reader back with new revelations.

The reader has to consider several times if they are being manipulated by the narrator. Malcolm becomes paranoid that everyone he knows could be the killer. He suspects he is being followed. The investigation continues. The body count grows.

Swanson writes clever dialogue that keeps the reader involved. I absolutely loved the cliffhanger last sentences of each chapter. The phrase “just one more chapter…” was uttered 32 times. Not too violent or gory as most murders occur off-screen.

Classic murder mystery books written by Agatha Christie, A.A. Milne, and Donna Tartt are the basis of the 8 Perfect Murders list. I was delighted to see these real-world favorites meld within its own murder mystery. Malcolm is a true book lover and he does justice to the plot summaries of each book mentioned. He is self-aware and, true to any book nerd, spends an awful lot of time talking about books. Keep your eyes peeled for my favorite character, the bookstore cat Nero.

“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.”

-Peter Swanson, Eight Perfect Murders

I could not put down this suspenseful thriller. Fast-paced, intelligent, elegant. The character development of the narrator grows with each chapter as the reader learns to love him, hate him, fear him, and pity him. The ending left me feeling satisfied that this complex mystery was thoroughly wrapped up and all the loose ends were tied. Murderer, or murderers, brought to justice. FBI agent Gwen gets a bit lost as a character as we near the end. She plays such a role in inciting the action but fizzles out. I wish we saw more of her at the climax.

Eight Perfect Murders is wonderfully written with twists, surprises, and intricately woven plot lines. Peter Swanson has a knack for getting the many threads tied together by the end. I love the strong ending, not too rushed, but answers patiently dolled out while making me eager for more.

I recommend this book to not only murder mystery fans, but for all lovers of literature. You may even find your next book on Malcolm’s list.

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