Readers who dismiss Peter Swanson’s RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS do so at their peril.
This is a whodunnit wrapped in a whydunnit shrouded in a howdunnit. There is some gruesome wheredunnit and suspenseful whendunnit and enough red herrings to turn your page turning fingers crimson.
It’s written as a memoir of Malcolm Kershaw, Boston bookseller, proprietor of the Old Devils Bookshop, and connoisseur of crime fiction. He once upon a time drew up a list of eight books with perfect murders and published them on a blog –
The Red House Mystery by A A Milne.
Malice Aforethought Anthony Berkley Cox.
THE ABC Murders Agatha Christie
Double Indemnity James M Caine.
Strangers on a Train Patricia Highsmith
The Drowner John D. McDonald.
Deathtrap Ira Levin
The Secret History Donna Tart.
After FBI agent Gwen Mulvey sniffs a serial killer may be using the list as a prototype, she comes knocking on Kershaw’s door. They tentatively team up and it becomes evident that Kershaw carries a secret and Mulvey’s interest in him is more than just the list. There is a secret history between them.
Secret histories abound in RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS. A confluence of collusion and coincidence collides with figment, past lives resurrect to impact upon the present and the literary allusions provide both probable cause, plot thickener and psychological motivation.
The literary becomes literal but sometimes the allusions are elusive and illusionary. Dealing death, it seems, can put one in a perpetual dreamscape, denial and guilt running roughshod over reality.
To be fully realised, rules for perfect murders should not be broken, but broken they are, and thus fall foul of human fallibility.
For some, murder is like Maltesers – you just can’t stop at one.
Compulsively clever, RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS is a book that calls everyone’s bluff, the tricks and turns, the suspicions and paranoia, the reveals and the cliffhangers, with a quality of character arc and ingenious plotting that is a continual delight.
Hypnotic and altogether absorbing, RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS is fun to read and serves up artful grist for the armchair sleuth’s imagination mill.
And once you’ve come to its sensational end, you have a ready made list of terrific source material to go on with!
RULES FOR PERFECT MURDERS by Peter Swanson is published by Faber& Faber