“Eight Perfect Murders”

“Eight Perfect Murders” by Peter Swanson is destined to become a classic crime fiction book. Its premise? If a person wanted to commit the perfect murder what better guide than murders in classic literature?

In a first person narrative, Malcolm Kershaw introduces himself as a bookseller, good at it, and that is enough. He talks directly to readers in astonishing and intriguing ways, surmising that readers might guess that he knows more about the crimes than he is disclosing. He also talks to himself, wondering if he has made a mistake.

Swanson creates a tale right out of Agatha Christie’s classic playbook. A series of unsolved murders have occurred that follow the plots of classic books, books from Kershaw’s blog titled “Eight Perfect Murders.” Someone is using Kershaw’s list as a guide. Readers become part the narrative with page after page of clues, names from great mystery books, and references to countless mystery writers. Evidence is everywhere, and hints are revealed quietly, mysteriously, and casually. Signs point directly to the plots of the mystery books, and yet every revelation is a surprise. In a classic final scenario, just when readers think it is all over, it is not.

“Eight Perfect Murders” is joy for readers. Just reading the books mentioned in the narrative could provide months of perfect mystery reading. (Of course, after finishing this book.) I enjoyed Swanson’s previous books, but “Eight Perfect Murders” stands far above the rest. He has demonstrated that his books are worthy of a place next to the great classics he referenced. I purchased my signed copy of “Eight Perfect Murders” at my local independent bookstore, and I am not letting anyone borrow it.