I have recently finished reading Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson and I really enjoyed it, in this book review I will give star ratings for four categories and write a little about each of these. I will try to keep it as spoiler free as possible. I hope you all enjoy reading my book review!
This is a cleverly plotted, fast paced, whodunnit full of twists and secrets. It focuses on a man called Malcolm Kershaw who works at a bookstore that specializes in selling mystery/thriller books. Then he becomes involved in a murder investigation. This novel contains elements of the great Golden Age era of crime fiction like Agatha Christie yet still manages to make itself unique in both it’s premise and structure. The reader follows the POV of Malcolm, following both the present and the secrets of his past that slowly emerge throughout the novel.
This novel is an entertaining plot that kept me guessing from the very beginning. It was well thought out and from the technical point of view every scene led into the next in a brilliant and clever way. The secrets were hinted at and clues were sprinkled throughout leading to a (in my opinion) satisfying ending. I am usually pretty good at managing to guess the ending before it happens but with this novel I had no chance, the story swept me up and so many theories were spinning around my head. That is one of the reasons I gave this novel 4 stars for plot.
As for characters there are a lot of them, but the main ones are Malcolm Kershaw, his two bookstore employees, FBI Agent Gwen Mulvoy, his old friend Marty Kingship and married couple Brian and Tess Murray. Although each of the characters had very defined personalities from each other for me it felt like they were lacking in some way. Malcolm, was not a very likeable character I didn’t particularly have strong feelings for or against him but I was still engaged in his story. The two bookstore employees I feel could have been developed further, they are distinct and personally I felt they were likeable – the only two characters who I felt were likeable in this novel – but they weren’t that interesting. I would have liked to have seen more of Agent Gwen Mulvey, she features more in the first half than the second half and I felt her character could have been explored better. The other three characters I didn’t find to be all that likeable either but again they were well thought out and had an impact on the story.
Dialogue and writing:
I became invested in the novel because of the dialogue in the very first scene. It helped to heighten tension when it was needed and it helped lighten the tone when the novel needed balance as well. The dialogue, or lack of from some characters, provided personality and created an image of the characters for me. The writing style was easy to navigate, it flowed well in my opinion and it didn’t feel forced in any way. That was one of the main reasons I enjoyed the novel, usually I am a fan of character driven novels rather than plot driven novels but because of Swanson’s writing style and the engaging dialogue I found myself enjoying the read.
So, overall I rated this novel four stars because even though I wasn’t invested in the characters I truly couldn’t put the book down, I had to know how it ended. If you enjoy novels where you aren’t sure who you can trust then I would recommend Rules For Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson. (One note I will make is that if you want to read The Red House Mystery by A A Milne, Malice Aforethought by Anthony Berkeley Cox, The A B C Murders by Agatha Christie, Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith, The Drowner by John D MacDonald, Deathtrap by Ira Levin or The Secret History by Donna Tartt I would recommend reading them first because Malcolm is fond of giving spoilers to these books).
Years ago Malcolm Kershaw wrote a list of his ‘Eight Favourite Murders’ for his Old Devils mystery bookshop blog. Among others it included those from Agatha Christie’s The A.B.C Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.
Now just before Christmas, Malcolm finds himself at the heart of an investigation – as an FBI Agent believes someone may be re-enacting each of the murders on his list.