Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson | Blog Tour Review |#RulesForPerfectMurders

Published by Faber & Faber
Available in Ebook, Audio and Hardback (5 March 2020)
288 pages
Source: Copy provided for review by publisher


If you want to get away with murder, play by the rules.

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?


A crime story based around a bookstore and a story about books. What could be better!

Malcolm Kershaw is the co-owner of Old Devils, a bookstore set in Boston specialising in mystery and crime books and is a shop which is well known to crime fans. Much to his surprise, FBI agent Mulvey turns up at the store one snowy day and wants to discuss murder.  Some years before, Kershaw had published on the shop’s blog, a list of his ‘Eight Perfect Murders’ as depicted in classic mystery novels. These were murders he thought were the most ingenious and clever to ensure that the perpetrator defeated detection. Mulvey has spotted that there are startling similarities between some recent unsolved cases and the murders on this list. As the curator of the list, she wants to know Malcom’s take on it – and to find out how much Malcolm knows, if anything.

The book starts off quite sedately whilst the various books on the list are being discussed and Mulvey gets up to speed with the plots but then it picks up a pace and the twists come thick and fast.  It is told from Malcolm’s perspective and the reader has to decide just how reliable a narrator he is. He has rather a sad past, his wife was killed in a car accident and the bookshop has become his life, aided by two assistants and the bookshop cat, Nero – yes, there is something here for cat lovers too!

The books on the list are mainly older mysteries and include The Red House Mystery, Malice Aforethought, and Double Indemnity and the plot descriptions for the purposes of this story contain spoilers. I haven’t read any (apart from the Agatha Christie) but I’m so tempted to add some of them to my tottering TBR mountain.

It took me a little while to get into this, but once I did I was hooked. It’s certainly very different to some of the crime thrillers around and I was so intrigued by the complex plot and the surprising and suspenseful turns that the story took.  If I had been paying closer attention I might well have beaten the author to the final reveal but I wasn’t and I was kicking myself by the end.

It is a dark story with various layers to be unravelled.  Not everything is as it seems and that is the joy of the book. If you want a crime thriller that’s a little different, then this comes recommended.

My thanks to Josh of Faber & Faber for the invitation to take part in the tour and for providing the review copy.


Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

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