‘Rules for Perfect Murders’ by Peter Swanson
I absolutely loved this novel. It was a book group read, and, let’s be honest about this, book group reads aren’t always the best. But this one was.
‘Rules for Perfect Murders’ is a book for lovers of books and the art of writing generally, and a book for lovers of crime fiction in particular. The setting is a bookshop that specialises in crime and mystery novels – ‘The Old Devils’ in Boston, while the bookshop’s owner – who happens to be our narrator – is, unsurprisingly, a crime fiction aficionado, called Mallory Kershaw. Mallory, some years earlier, posted a list on the bookshop blog entitled ‘Eight Perfect Murders’, inspired by Agatha Christie’s ‘ABC Murders’, Patricia Highsmith’s ‘Strangers on a Train’, Donna Tartt’s ‘A Secret History’, Ira Levin’s ‘Death Trap’, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s ‘Malice Aforethought’, A.A.Milne’s ‘Red House Mystery’, James M. Cain’s ‘Double Indemnity’ and John D. MacDonald’s ‘The Drowner’. Now if you’ve not heard of some of these authors, let alone their books, mark my words, after reading Swanson’s novel you’ll be very familiar with them all as they feature heavily throughout. And before Swanson’s narrator is done, you’ll be tempted to start working your way through them, thereby showing how plausible Mallory Kershaw is as a character: he is the owner of a bookshop that trades in crime fiction after all.
That’s why, when FBI agent Mulvey turns up at the start of the novel hoping Mallory can shed light on a series of unsolved murders that look uncannily like those on our narrator’s list, we know we are in for a treat.
This is a witty, intellectual book where the author hits every possible crime fiction button in the most satisfying and playful of ways as he attempts to work out who is behind some of the murders. Clues are everywhere, as are red herrings, and everyone is a suspect. Deliciously intriguing and wickedly playful, ‘Rules for Perfect Murder’ by Peter Swanson is a delight of a read.