Review : Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads ) :

A chilling tale of psychological suspense and an homage to the thriller genre tailor-made for fans : the story of a bookseller who finds himself at the center of an FBI investigation because a very clever killer has started using his list of fiction’s most ingenious murders .

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders , those that are almost impossible to crack — which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders ” — chosen from among the best of the best including 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 .

But no one is more surprised than Mal , now the owner of the Old Devils Bookshop in Boston , when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February . She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list . And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading . The killer is out there , watching his every move — a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal ’ s personal history , especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife .

To protect himself , Mal begins looking into possible suspects — and sees a killer in everyone around him . But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake . Suddenly , a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead — and the noose around Mal ’ s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

My thoughts on the book

Rules for Perfect Murders started off very promisingly with a great setting and an interesting premise . I especially enjoyed reading the book store descriptions and scenes which brought to mind the traditional bookstore ( not the retail chains which have taken to selling games , stationery and even accessories to cash in on our consumerist frenzy ) . Malcolm ‘ s narrative tone with his frequent references to suspense fiction titles and life of a bookseller in this digital age was very engaging . Often he threw up some very obscure authors and titles ( like Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout ) and these references had me checking out the Wikipedia page or the Goodreads page . ( While there are some books which I will be checking out , several seem to have seen the last of their heyday and I am not planning to check them out ) . Swanson has maintained the suspense quotient high throughout the book but that does not save the book ‘ s ending from becoming an absolute disaster . .

Let me explain why I hated the ending – I don ‘ t understand our crime authors ‘ obsession with ” psychological suspense ” . A random character who had seemed sane till the previous chapter turns out to be the serial killer who had discovered the joy of killing people . Duh !! Till the previous chapter , the same guy was a decent chap who seemed to have everyday problems and a regular life . Now suddenly he reveals the Mr . Hyde side and I can ‘ t buy the downright joke of a reason Mr . Hyde came into existence in the first place . I can excuse a book if it is not working out for me from the beginning – I will plod on till the 100th page to see if it shows any signs of working out . If it does not , it goes to the DNF pile . But with this book , I felt cheated . It ‘ s a sin for any crime writer to keep the reader hooked with the most delicious twists and turns and finally giving it a ludicrous finish like the one Swanson had given for this one . . .

Rating : 2 . 5 / 5

This is my first Swanson read . As this book seems to be the first in the Malcolm Kershaw series , I don ‘ t think I will be giving Kershaw a second chance . Speaking of second chances reminds me of a recent read and why second chances might not work every time . . .

A quick rant about Lucy Foley ‘ s The Guest List

I recently gave Lucy Foley a second chance seeing that she seems to be a favourite with a book blogging community . However , I was disappointed once again with her writing and the characters reminded me too much of the characters in her debut . Except for the change of setting , the characters and the group dynamics seemed to be pretty much a rip off from her previous outing . There were one or two glaring plotholes and the ending reminded me very much of the ending from Tides of Memory ( Sidney Sheldon & Tilly Bagshawe ) . The problem with Foley ‘ s writing is that she seems to pay more attention to the narrative structuring than writing – there are multiple POVs , the timeline jumps and “guess – who – is – the – victim ” style of narrative ( which Foley first introduced in her debut ) which do NOT work with the run – of – the – mill writing . . . She seems to be under the impression that the inclusion of ” mass – appeal ” elements like sexually explicit scenes , the everyday slangs and the over – the – top drama will work like a charm on her readers . And I concede that it seems to be working big time . . .

There would not be a third Lucy Foley read for me . . .

If you have already read Rules For Perfect Murders or The Guest List , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the books  . Hopefully I will have some reads which I can actually recommend when I post the next time . Until the next review then . .

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