Book Review

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

rules for perfect murders

If you want to get away with murder, play by the rules

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

Malcolm Kershaw runs the Old Devils Bookstore.  In the early days of his employment, he wrote a blog post entitled “Eight Perfect Murders” – examples of eight (almost) perfect murders from the crime fiction genre – the ones where the culprit (almost) got away with it.

the cleverest, the most ingenious, the most foolproof (if there is such a thing) murders in crime fiction history

Now the FBI is asking for his help as a string of unsolved murders appears to be following the methodologies featured on his list of books, and they are indeed proving to be examples of the perfect crime.

I absolutely love the concept behind Rules for Perfect Murders – it’s a brilliant whodunnit that will appeal to fans of the genre.  It’s an intriguing and original idea, and it works brilliantly.  Before reading, I wasn’t sure how well the concept would work – I was worried that it might become forced in order to stay true to its premise, but Swanson pulls it off with ease.  I read Rules for Perfect Murders in a single day and was absolutely gripped throughout.  It’s a fantastic novel with plenty of twists to keep the reader on their toes, and while I worked out some elements of the plot, other parts took me by surprise.  This is a novel where you feel clever (or smug, in my case) for working it out before the reveal, and this is a feeling that only the best novels evoke.

Rules for Perfect Murders is something of a homage to crime fiction – modern and golden age – with several novels mentioned within its pages, some more well-known than others (by me, at least).  It’s worth noting that there are some spoilers for some of the novels mentioned.  I think that this is inevitable given the context in which they are discussed, but some people will undoubtedly find this off-putting.  If this bothers you, I’d suggest giving it a miss until you’ve read the novels referenced.  That said, it does feature novels that I haven’t read (or even heard of, in a couple of cases) and I’ve now added several new books to my wish list as a result of reading this – I’m intrigued by what I’ve read about them, and I think that the end is only part of the story.

Rules for Perfect Murders – published by Faber & Faber – is available now in hardback and digital formats.  Highly recommended for booklovers, particularly those with a penchant for crime fiction.


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