Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
Happy St David's Day or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! I do hope that the translation is correct and I haven't mortally offended anyone. I've decided to put in 'Spring' on the blog. This weekend has been glorious, think blue skies, an abundance of purple crocuses and plenty of snowdrops. I also saw my first daffodils, appropriate for the day. One of my best friends is getting ready for lambing. I'm calling Spring now.
I'm starting off this season with a great book. If I'm really honest I'm not sure how this came onto my radar but I'm so pleased it did. It has the most marvellous plot. which brought back happy memories of being a bookseller and the customers that one would encounter (but with a whole lot less murder obviously!) At the bookshop, we had a wide variety of customers, most very lovely and some with very specific quirks. One gentleman who we imaginatively christened 'Travel Man' came into our shop at 4.30pm every day on the dot, would sit exactly for one hour reading the Lonely Planet Travel Guides in alphabetical order. He never spoke, even when we said hello and at 5.30pm precisely, just as the shop was closing, would carefully place whichever Lonely Planet book he was reading back onto the shelf and shuffle off. I like to think he enjoyed his 'happy hour' with us in a foreign land....either that or he was a travel agent and doing a bit of research. But enough preamble. On with the book! We discussed this as part of our family book group mainly because we were all intrigued by the plot.
Malcolm Kershaw, manager of the 'Old Devil's Bookshop' based in Boston is visited by FBI agent Gwen Mulvey. She is investigating a spate of mysterious murders based on a blog post that Malcolm wrote for the Bookshop called 'Eight Perfect Murders'. The post details the most ingenious murders ever committed in crime fiction novels and Agent Mulvey believes someone is recreating each one. As Malcolm delves back into his posts and assists Agent Mulvey by delving into each perfect murder he starts to wonder if the murderer is known to him a friend, a customer maybe? As secrets come out, Malcolm questions everything and everyone around him, including himself as he races to find a killer. Could he be next?
I think the first to say is BEST PLOT EVER! Pick a host of ingenious and beloved crime novels, think The Secret History by Donna Tart, add in a smattering of Agatha Christie recreate a murder based on the plot lines, talk about books and bookselling. oh and don't to forget to set it just before Christmas. I'm sorry, but what is not to love here! The plot is the star of the show for me.
Malcolm is an interesting character, not really very likeable at all. Following a tragic accident involving his wife, Malcolm remains an island, remote and solitary, he knows little about the staff who have worked for him for years. Gwen is a great character, but as Malcolm becomes more paranoid, I found myself becoming more and more suspicious of her.
As the novel twists and turns, the journey through the novel becomes like a rollercoaster as secrets spill out and revelation follows revelation. The pacing is great and I found myself wanting to read just one more chapter.
The setting is also wonderful - a snowy Boston at Christmas time, an ancient bookshop. All add to the atmosphere of bare trees and malevolence. The bookshop brought back so many happy memories for me. The way it was written, evoked the smell, scent and noises of the bookshop, the customers we got to know very well, the budding authors, the reps, and the excitement of a new delivery.
If I'm honest I felt the second half of the book wasn't quite as strong as the first half, it just didn't feel as crisp. But maybe this was a plot device echoing the point that the wheels were really starting to come off Malcolm's quiet life. I was so invested by this point though, that the author could have rewritten Peppa Pig and I genuinely wouldn't have cared, I enjoyed it that much.
This book would be perfect for fans of crime fiction, a snowy day and a big mug of Yorkshire Tea. The plot is stunning, and thanks to that plot, I now have a massive list of crime fiction novels I really want to read. And that is what this book feels like, a love letter to crime fiction. I found myself jotting down book titles or checking a book really did exist. It's clever, accessible and for me brought back many happy memories of my bookselling years. Brilliant!
I will publish a post about the 8 Perfect Murders that Malcolm mentions in his post. I can already feel a book challenge coming on.
Have a great day xx