What do you think?
Rate this book
270 pages, Hardcover
First published March 3, 2020
Books are time travel. True readers all know this.
I don’t trust narrators any more than I trust the actual people in my life. We never get the whole truth, not from anybody. When we first meet someone, before words are ever spoken, there are already lies and half-truths. The clothes we wear cover the truth of our bodies, but they also present who we want to be to the world. They are fabrications, figuratively and literally.Back in 2004, when he first started working at Old Devils, the mysteries-oriented bookstore that he now runs, Malcolm Kershaw was asked to write a blog post. Eight Perfect Murders was his list of the best, fool-proof murders committed in mystery fiction. He posted and promptly forgot about it. Now, many years later, a killer seems to be using his list as the basis for a series of murders. Is Malcolm a potential target? Or is Malcolm otherwise involved? Special Agent Gwen Mulvey, thirties, blonde, has taken an interest. Seems not only is Malcolm’s list in use by a fan of the genre, someone Malcolm knows is one of the victims.
The Red House Mystery – A.A. (Alan Alexander) Milne – 1922For fans of mysteries this is both a fun puzzle and a docent-led tour of some of the best suspense writing of all time. Be forewarned, if you have not read these already, or seen the films made of some, the book will spoil them for you. Caveat lector. The list of eight is only the beginning. More than any other book I can remember, Eight Perfect Murders offers a cornucopia of fun genre references with a stop or two outside the field as well. It gives you a chance to reacquaint with some of the true whodunit classics, each with unique ways of doing someone in, ways the killer is aping. Swanson has some fun with the list, questioning whether the murders were all that foolproof and whether this or that other book should have been included instead. It is a delightful element, and you can imagine the discussions that went on in selecting this or that and excluding some others. It will certainly provide considerable fodder for your already mountainous TBR lists.
Malice AforeThought – Anthony Berkeley Cox – 1931
The ABC Murders - Agatha Christie – 1934
Double Indemnity – James M. Cain – 1943
Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith - 1950
The Drowner – John D.MacDonald – 1963
Deathtrap – Ira Levin - 1978
The Secret History – Donna Tartt – 1992
It’s hugely important. I think Boston is a good location for a thriller, but I write mainly about Boston because that’s where I live. In Her Every Fear, [published in 2017] I wanted to write something that felt like a gothic thriller, and to me, a large apartment building in Beacon Hill just felt right. That section of Boston feels a little bit trapped in time. It has cobblestones, and narrow streets, and several of the buildings still have stable doors.He was going for something along those lines this time too, I expect, an old-timey specialty bookstore with familiar but infrequent customers, and scads of references to old books. This would have felt out of place in a Barnes & Noble on a large public square.
It was impossible for me not to think of Clarice Starling,…from Silence of the Lambs. It was where my mind almost always went, to books and movies. It had been that way since I first began to read, And Mulvey, like her fictional counterpart, seemed too tame for the job. It was hard to imagine her whipping a gun from a holster, or aggressively questioning a suspect. She did question a suspect, though. She questioned you.Mulvey keeps Kershaw involved, even if his motives might be less along the lines of providing a public service than they are keeping informed of her progress in order to better protect himself. But what is he protecting? Thus, the quote that opens this review. Is Mulvey a good actor, intent on seeing justice served, or is he Dr. Lecter, serving up bits of information to someone he likes and respects, in service of some other plan?
I heard the ticking sound that meant Nero was coming toward us along the hardwood floor. Agent Mulvey, who heard it as well, turned and looked at the store cat.Hearing cat claws clicking on the floor is not a thing. My wife and I care for many cats, and have had many more over the years, none lacking claws, and never have we ever heard the click-clack that is described here. It is possible, I suppose, that there are cats that might provide such a sonic announcement of their arrival, but natural selection has seen to it, as Carl Sandburg can attest, that little cat feet are silent. A jarring item like this takes one out of the story, and I bet there are many readers in the target demo for this book, graced with feline presence, who might hack up a hairball on reading about such a cacophonous cat. A small, nerve-jarring bit. Swanson tosses in an impending storm, fills the streets with snow, but other than showing us a bit of Boston in winter, it did not seem that the weather motif added much, really, to the feel of the tale.
“I felt closer to Claire than I’ve ever felt to anyone before or since,” I said.” But sometimes I didn’t know her.”
Tess was nodding. “I feel the same way about Brian, close, I mean, then every once in a while, he’ll say something, or else I’ll read something he wrote, and I wonder if I know anything about him at all.
Being an avid mystery reader as an adolescent does not prepare you for real life. I truly imagined that my adult existence would be far more booklike than it turned out to be. I thought, for example, that there would be several moments in which I got into a cab to follow someone. I thought I'd attend far more readings of someone's will, and that I'd need to know how to pick a lock, and that any time I went on vacation (especially to old creaky inns or rented lake houses) something mysterious would happen. I thought train rides would inevitably involve a murder, that sinister occurrences would plague wedding weekends, and that old friends would constantly be getting in touch to ask for help, to tell me that their lives were in danger. I even thought quicksand would be an issue.