Review | Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

An entertaining puzzle mystery tailor-made for bookworms. 4/5 stars.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson book cover

Thank you to Faber & Faber for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

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?

My take:

This is such a hard book to review without giving anything about the plot away… but I’ll do my best!

Firstly and most importantly, take a look at the list of books on the main character’s ‘Eight Favourite Murders’ list. If you haven’t read any of the titles and would like to read them at some point without having the endings spoiled, please read them before you read this book! The story here pulls no punches and reveals exactly who did it and how for each of the books on the list.

Rules for Perfect Murders is an entertaining puzzle mystery which plays with a lot of the most popular tropes of the murder mystery genre. It will instantly be of particular interest to bookworms: the main character is a book seller, a lot of the story takes place in a specialist bookshop and the plot revolves around the plots of other books. You’re sure to find this an interesting read if you are a fan of classic whodunnits in the vein of And Then There Were None.

The plot throws out a decent number of dead ends and red herrings to keep the reader interested. That said, I found my concentration waning from about three-quarters of the way through, which is when I cottoned on to who had done it and why. The narrator breaks the fourth wall a couple of times to tell us to pay attention to the detail of his story, and if you pick up on the right clues you can figure out what’s ahead.

The first-person narrator, Malcolm, is a fairly complex character. His gradual personal revelations help to hold our interest and keep the narrative moving forward. However, I did find his voice rather detached and didn’t think he was the most charismatic character to lead us through the plot. This isn’t a criticism of the book’s style, as it makes complete sense in the context of the story and is in keeping with other first-person narrators in the genre, but it didn’t help to keep me gripped.

Overall: an entertaining puzzle mystery tailor-made for bookworms with a particular love of the classic whodunnit. But please note the spoiler warning!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

11 thoughts on “Review | Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

    • It is as long as you don’t mind having eight other books completely spoilt! I did stop when I saw the list and check whether any of them were things I’d planned to read someday before I carried on. Luckily I’d either already read them or wasn’t planning to! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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