Peter Swanson’s breakthrough novel was 2015’s The Kind Worth Killing, a twisty, cat-and-mouse crime novel that ended up as one of my favorites of that year. After, I sought out his debut novel The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, another very interesting psychological thriller. Swanson quickly became an author worthy of collecting every book he came up with. The Kind Worth Killing was followed by Her Every Fear and All the Beautiful Lies, and although those books didn’t quite live up to the promise of his first two, Swanson is still a fascinating writer. I actually got the chance to meet him at the Boston Book Festival and walk some of the routes his narratives took. (He sets most of his books there.)
Swanson’s new book, Eight Perfect Murders, is big departure for him, seemingly tailor-made for booklovers and booksellers. If you’re a voracious reader—particularly of classic crime novels—you’ll have a blast with this one. It’s about a bookseller named Malcolm who finds himself the focus of an FBI murder investigation. The reason? He once penned a blog post about eight perfect, impossible-to-solve murders out of classic and contemporary crime fiction, and it seems a murderer is using the list as the basis for his own killing spree. The list of books? Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History.
The fun of this book is that Malcolm gradually becomes revealed as an unreliable narrator—or at least, nothing is as it seems with him. And the same is true of the FBI investigator who comes to befriend him. I’m not going to say Eight Perfect Murders is the tightest of Swanson’s thrillers, but it has that extra benefit of being very appealing to the book lovers among us. It gets into the details of book collecting and the appreciation of great crime stories, and you’ll find yourself searching out a number of old books that Swanson mentions throughout the narrative. If nothing else, Eight Perfect Murders is a great resource for that as well as a fun starting point into Swanson’s unique books.