Book Review – Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The story follows Malcolm, proprietor and co-owner of a bookshop specialising in crime and mystery novels, both new and second hand. Right from the get-go, we discover that although he purports to be a great reader of crime and mystery stories, the books that have most appealed to Malcolm over the last few years have been poetry. He has had his fill of mysteries. But of course, he can’t let his customers know that (there’s no need to spoil the illusion) and as such, he skims enough to keep abreast of what’s going on in the mystery world.

The reason for his apathy to his former favourite becomes apparent over the course of the novel, but the main action comes thanks to a blog post Malcolm wrote a few years before the story begins. The post, standard fare in the book-blogging world, is his personal selection of the best murders in fiction. That being, the eight ‘perfect’ murders in literature. But when FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey appears at his bookshop, Malcolm has every reason to feel nervous. Someone has been copying the so-called perfect murders, and the only thing that seems to link the disparate cases is the blog post in which they originated. So, is Malcolm a murderer? Or is the perpetrator trying to frame him?

“I stayed behind the counter and checked the phone for messages – there were none – then logged on to the Old Devils blog, something I rarely did these days, but the visit from Gwen Mulvey made me interested in taking a look. There were 211 total blog entries, the last one entered two months ago. It was called ’Staff Picks’ and it was something I periodically forced Emily and Brandon to do: write two sentences on the last book they’d read and loved. Brandon had picked Lee Child’s last Jack Reacher novel, and Emily had written a quick blurb on Dorothy B. Hughes’s In a Lonely Place. My pick had been Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson. I hadn’t read it, of course, but I’d read enough reviews and summaries to feel as though I had; also, I was fond of the title.”
Page 67, Chapter 7, Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Wow. I loved this book. A present from my near-as-dammit sisters-in-law, I read it in two days because I couldn’t put it down. The characters were beautifully rendered, the dialogue practically crackled from the page, and I was left second-guessing all the way through. I will not post spoilers because that would do the piece a disservice, but I’ll say this: I may have to read it again before the week is out.