A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson- Feature and Review


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.



Eight Perfect Murders (Malcolm Kershaw, #1)Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson is a 2020 William Morrow publication.

A mystery lover’s delight!!

Malcom Kershaw is a bookstore owner whose main area of expertise happens to be crime fiction.

Several years back, Malcolm wrote a blog post in which he listed eight books he considered perfect fictional murders.

What books made the cut?

The Red House Mystery, Malice Aforethought, The A.B.C. Murders, Double Indemnity, Strangers on a Train, The Drowner, Deathtrap and The Secret History.

The blog post in question is still floating around in the internet stratosphere, evidently catching the attention of a fiendish murderer, who is now using Malcolm’s list as a guide, duplicating the methods employed in the eight books on the list.

The list has also caught the attention of the FBI, bringing them straight to Malcolm's door- which is where our story begins...

Once the FBI made the connection between Malcolm’s blog and the murders, the investigation naturally draws Malcolm into the center of it.

As we follow Malcolm's narration, a tribute to mystery novels develops alongside the intriguing and puzzling plot, touching on many of the various representations of crime fiction over the years.

Even if you are only moderately familiar with the books on this list, you can see how diverse the list is. The eight books listed range from whodunits to inverted mysteries- and of the three books I’ve read, all were absolutely genius!

Malcolm’s narration is a brilliant touch, as the reader finds themselves caught up in his saga, especially when it becomes clear that he’s gotten himself into a real jam, going from quiet bookstore owner to a man with his own secrets, with danger lurking around every corner...

Personally, I thought Swanson did a great job with weaving a mystery around the eight novels on Malcolm’s list, showcasing their magnificence, while supplying a sly dose of irony and satire that often made me smile.

The thing that makes this story work, is the same thing that makes all mysteries work. My appetite for a good mystery never wanes. I can never go too long without reading some form of crime fiction.


Because mysteries are an addicting diversion, because they challenge my mind while I try to work out all the angles. Because mysteries make my heart race, as the suspense mounts and the twists leave me breathless and stunned!

Because crime fiction is fun and entertaining in a way no other genre can match- and Peter Swanson pushed every one of those buttons- knowing his audience, knowing the elements we avid fans enjoy about crime fiction, and weaving them into this story in subtle, shrewd ways, just the way we like it.

Now, to be honest, I wouldn’t go into this book with a super serious mindset. If you do, you might miss the all the deliberate little Easter eggs planted here and there, which are meant specifically for mystery buffs to discover.

It’s supposed to be lighthearted recreation, a tribute to the best crime writers, and gift to readers who love the genre, but it’s also everything a mystery novel should be- engrossing, intelligent, crafty, and....



It is not necessary to read the books on Malcolm’s list to enjoy this book. However, I’ve still added the books I haven’t read to my TBR pile. Can’t wait to read them- plus, I am mightily tempted to re-read the three books on list I have read.... especially The Secret History!



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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