Eight Perfect Murders
by Swanson, Peter

Years after establishing a literary career through his compilation of the mystery genre's most unsolvable classics, an unsuspecting bookseller is tapped by the FBI for help solving murders that eerily mimic the books on his list. 75,000 first printing.

*Starred Review* Swanson hits the mystery writer's daily double: a devilish premise combined with jaw-dropping execution. Boston bookseller Malcolm Mal Kershaw finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation when a blog post he wrote about eight perfect murders in mystery fiction becomes a serial killer's playbook. Mal learns what's afoot when an FBI agent questions him about three unsolved murders, connected only by their parallels to novels on the list. It quickly becomes apparent that the killer not only knows his crime fiction, but is also way too familiar with the facts of Mal's life, including the death in a car accident of Mal's wife. To protect himself-naturally, Mal is a suspect-he begins to look for the killer, finding no shortage of suspects and eventually exchanging emails with the apparent perpetrator. We gradually learn that everyone in the novel, including Mal himself, is hiding secrets. Mystery fans will be salivating as the plot unfolds, trying to outsmart the confoundingly unreliable narrative and, of course, relishing the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the classic books, which range from A. A. Milne's The Red House Mystery (1922) through Donna Tartt's The Secret History (1992), including along the way, inevitably, Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train (1950). Swanson hits every note in this homage to the old-school crime novel, and the turnabout ending will leave readers reeling in delight. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

A ghoulish killer brings a Boston bookseller's list of perfect fictional murders to life—that is, to repeated, emphatic death. The Red House Mystery, Malice Aforethought, The A.B.C. Murders, Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Drowner, Deathtrap, The Secret History: They may not be the best mysteries, reflects Malcolm Kershaw, but they feature the most undetectable murders, as he wrote on a little-read blog post when he was first hired at Old Devils Bookstore. Now that he owns the store with mostly silent partner Brian Murray, a semifamous mystery writer, that post has come back to haunt him. FBI agent Gwen Mulvey has observed at least three unsolved murders, maybe more, that seem to take their cues from the stories on Mal's list. What does he think about possible links among them? she wonders. The most interesting thing he thinks is something he's not going to share with her: He's hiding a secret that would tie him even more closely to that list than she imagines. And while Mal is fretting about what he can do to help stop the violence without tipping his own hand, the killer, clearly untram meled by any such scruples, continues down the list of fictional blueprints for perfect murders. Swanson (Before She Knew Him, 2019, etc.) jumps the shark early from genre thrills to metafictional puzzles, but despite a triple helping of cleverness that might seem like a fatal overdose, the pleasures of following, and trying to anticipate, a narrator who's constantly second- and third-guessing himself and everyone around him are authentic and intense. If the final revelations are anticlimactic, that's only because you wish the mounting complications, like a magician's showiest routine, could go on forever. The perfect gift for well-read mystery mavens who complain that they don't write them like they used to. Copyright Kirkus 2019 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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