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 . .

Review : The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads )

In a peaceful retirement village , four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings .

But when a local property developer shows up dead , ‘ The Thursday Murder Club ‘ find themselves in the middle of their first live case .

The four friends , Elizabeth , Joyce , Ibrahim and Ron , might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves . Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late ?

My thoughts on the book :

The retirement home setting where the everyday pace of life is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and the bunch of amateurs eighties – pushing sleuths is such a refreshing change from the deranged murderers , psychological profiling of the disturbing characters , cliques with secrets , unreliable narrators and everything in between that the current gen suspense fiction can ‘ t seem to do without . What is even better is the fact that the gang has two murders to solve . . .

The narrative is highly engaging and the author manages to keep the suspense quotient up despite the easy tone of the narrative . A good two – thirds into the novel , the author starts playing with the reader by throwing the red herrings left , right and centre and except for very few , the reader wouldn ‘ t guess them for what they are ( atleast I didn ‘ t identify several of the red herrings . But , it did not bother me at all and I was only too happy to let the author surprise me . . . ) .

Another thing I loved about the book is it ‘ s character sketches – especially those of the eighty plus amateur sleuths . Richard ‘ s amateur sleuths are not spry just because they happen to be the protagonists – they have their own fears about possible memory decline and concerns about each other ‘ s physical and mental well – being .Only a brave author could do what Richard has done with these four – creating characters with weaknesses and showing the readers how they have learned to live with them . Aside from the sleuthing , the dynamics amongst the residents of the retirement home offers a poignant picture into old age and it ‘ s hopes , fears , regrets and everything else it entails . . .

It is a breezy read – there is suspense but without the tension that comes with the regular supense fiction narrative . In these times , I think we would like a mood booster read and I guarantee you that this IS one . If you are a hardcore suspense fan who is loath to pick up any other genre but still need a change from the gore , police procedurals and detectives with egotistic tendencies , unreliable narrators , shades of disturbing psyches etc etc , then this is the book which you didn ‘ t know you needed . . .

I am looking forward to #2 and #3 in the The Thursday Murder Club series . If you are checking out Audible version , it has the author interview by Marian Keyes as a bonus . . .

Rating : 4 . 5 / 5

If you have already read The Thursday Murder Club , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . . . Until the next review then . .

Review : Playdate by Alex Dahl

Plot Summary ( from Goodreads )

It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover. Now it’s an abduction .

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie . Later that evening , Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight .

That was the last time she saw her daughter .

The next morning , when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up , the house was empty . No furniture , no family , no Lucia .

In Playdate , Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation . Who has taken their daughter, and why?

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Alex Dahl read . Having seen the positive reviews and award nominations for her debut , I picked up her latest when it became available on Audible . Play Date has multiple POV narrative with even Lucia Blix narrating some chapters . While having a child narrator seems to be a great idea ( considering that the abduction of this narrator set in motion the events which the other narrators are currently narrating ) , the execution of little Lucia ‘ s voice had me thinking if the novel could have done without her narrative . Perhaps Dahl could have had a third-person omniscient narrator . The problem with Lucia is that she is a 7 year old who at times talks like a 5 year old and at times talks like a 11 year old ( which is even worse . . . )

Selma , the investigative journalist is clairvoyant which brings something fresh to the story instead of yet another what ‘ s – her – name investigative reporter who is an amalgamation of several other investigative reporters in previous reads that you are only concerned that he or she does not die during investigation and would not give a second thought once you turn the last page of the book . While Selma would not stand a chance of being memorable if we get another suspense fiction heroine like Salander , still Selma deserves mention for being probably the first clairvoyant sleuth in suspense fiction . The downside of Selma ‘ s clairvoyancy is that it allows the author to pin few interesting suspicions to her gut feeling ( without going into the trouble of PROPER sleuthing ) which she then follows up to give the readers the next big twist . Sometimes , it seemed to me that the author was using clairvoyance as a escape hatch from laying out detailed on – the -ground sleuthing procedures . The Norwegian setting also brought in something new ( atleast for me ) . . .

The story is simply superb and just when I was thinking I had figured it all out , Dahl had to introduce another literally jaw dropping twist and end the story on a high note . While several plot points become predictable as more characters start to talk and despite the previous mentioned fails , the ending is something that you would not see coming . . . A word of caution about the blurb – Dahl has not put a microscope on the kidnapped child ‘ s family – you get the regular family drama with the alternately grieving and hoping parents of the kidnapped child , the strain on the marriage following the disappearance of the child , one ( or both ) the parents having secrets and every other drama you have seen already when it comes to the missing child premise . . . #SettingTheExpectationsRight #NoGreatExpectations

Spoilers Ahead . . .

Why would Selma come to the conclusion that one of the Blix parents has done something in the past when she spills some soup and the soup stains bring to mind blood which turn her thoughts towards crime and possible retribution when she could do some proper on – the – ground work ? Also her explanation of taking an interest in a particular accident in town when there are several others that same year in the same town are not very convincing . . .

Rating : 3.5 / 5 **

** The rating would have been a 3 if it had not been for the simply superb finish . . .

Interestingly , I had another thriller dealing with the missing child premise – Little Lies by Jennifer Hillier . You can check out the review here . If you have already read Playdate , let me know in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . . . Until the next review then . .