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 Hunting Party


Author : Lucy Foley

Publication Date : 2019

Publisher(s) : Harper Collins

Plot Summary :

A group of old friends have come together to celebrate the New Year of 2019 in a remote Scottish hunting lodge . There are Giles & Samira – the new parents , Nick & Bo , Julien & Miranda – the ” Golden ” couple , Mark & Emma and finally , Katie – the singleton in the group . Then one of them is found dead . It does not look like an accident . . .

My thoughts about the book :

The Hunting Party is described as ‘ Gripping ‘ by Sophie Hannah . It also has other one – adjective praises by authors like A J Finn and Laura Marshall . I picked up this book on seeing these praises and am resolved in future not to pick up any book based on any author ‘ s recommendations alone . . . The most questionable adjective that can be given to this book is from Laura Marshal – ” Eerie ” .

The narrative covers the period from Dec 30 2018 to Jan 2 2019 . The story has 4 first person narratives  from Miranda , Katie , Emma and Heather ( the Lodge manager ) and a third person narrative  for Doug (  the Lodge gamekeeper ) . There were a few aspects of the writing which did not sit well with me . . .

Too many dandelions :

I seemed to trip upon the dandelions – sometimes a lone one and sometimes in clusters almost in every single chapter . I was trying to make allowance for one or two popping up occasionally , but the more often you encounter them , the less patience you have left to deal with them . When I trip upon a dandelion , my brain goes – ” Here comes the next one . . . Doesn’t it sound . . . “  . I get interested in the choice of words put together for the newly – minted simile / metaphor and for the next 5 minutes this one is going to have my attention .

” And there is a red bloom around her head where it has struck the rocks – a starburst , a supernova of red . . . “

The problem with the current crop of suspense / detective fiction writers  is , they try to emulate the literary fiction in terms of  language & narrative  – with disastrous results . While experimenting with hyper-realistic narratives and flowery language , the current breed of crime fiction writers seem to forget that they are writing for the suspense genre where a good pace is the key to guarantee the reader a great reading experience [ ” the ending that leaves the reader breathless ” , ” the shocker that you can never see coming ” and other similar reactions . . . ]

Thankfully , the author stopped with the flowery language and did not go for the hyper – realistic narrative . Perhaps , none of the characters  are portrayed with a depth that would require a hyper – realistic approach or any innovative narrative technique to actually peel off the layers off the character the reveal the real person .

The usage of  ” millennial ” slang  in the narratives :

While the narrators are millennial , trying to capture that in the slang is not a good idea . I never realized millennial conversations ( with those filler words ) , when put on paper looks so bad . . . There is the liberal mindless usage of the f*** word , the afterthoughts without which some characters can’t seem to finish a sentence – all these were major put – offs . Here is one :

” ‘ But who wants Westminster – all those sweaty bodies pressed together – when you can have this ? ‘ Emma asks . ‘ This place ‘ , she spreads her arms wide , ‘ and best friends . ‘ She links her arm with mine , and smiles at me , a proper , warm smile . I want to hug her . Thank fuck for Emma . ” 

The thing which amused me highly is this one :

There is a chapter which is narrated by the character when she is drunk . ” Being in a temporary state in which one’s physical and mental faculties are impaired by an excess of alcoholic drink ;  intoxicated ” is the definition provided for the word drunk . And here , the narrator is perfectly aware of her surroundings .  Here is a second one from the same narrator  –

” It’s the way he says it : so quiet , under his breath , so that no one else can hear . I suddenly feel cold in a way that I don’t think has anything to do with the freezing air . I take a step back . . .” 

For someone who says ” I feel numb . I’d forgotten I had so much wine before the champagne . My thoughts are jumbled , my mind fuggy . . . “ , she sure has a heightened awareness of self and her surroundings to be able to pin down even the smallest reaction she had to somebody ‘ s words . . .

Frankly , I was so disappointed with this one – I was looking for a solid closed circle mystery  and the setting looked promising for a good mystery . Instead  the average writing and a not-very-convincing solution to the question ” Who is the killer ? ” only made me wish that I hadn’t bothered with this one . . .

Rating : 2 . 75  / 5

Is there something in the post you disagree with ? Feel free to write about it as well in the comments section . . .

Until the next review then . . .

A final note :

This might be the last post for this year – unless I get a short read I need to rave about . . . Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year in advance . . .