Book Club Kit: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson | Jo Linsdell

Book Club Kit: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson


Book Club Kit Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Book Club Kit

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Please be aware going into this post that it is for people who have read the book and therefore contains some spoilers.

Eight Perfect Murders was also published under the title Rules for Perfect Murders.

About the book

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Serial Killers, Thriller, Bookshop, Psychological Thriller, Murder Mystery

Number of pages: 288

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0062838202
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0062838209

Published: March 2020

Purchasing links:  Amazon - Barnes and Noble 

Book Covers

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson book covers

Book Synopsis

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 Bookstore 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.

About the Author

Peter Swanson author of Eight Perfect Murders

Peter Swanson is the author of six novels including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year, and his most recent thriller, Eight Perfect Murders. 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.

Author Interviews

You could say this about all of my books, but in this case, my inspiration truly was my love of reading. And specifically, my love of crime fiction. The idea for Eight Perfect Murders came to me as I was mentally cataloging some of my favorite murders from books I’ve read. I imagined a fictional character compiling this same list, then imagined another fictional character using that list to commit actual crimes. And that was how the book was born. Los Angeles Public Library's Interview With an Author: Peter Swanson 

In almost all of my books I am making things up as I go along but for this particular book I knew the entire plot when I began writing. In fact, I knew the entire plot within an hour of coming up with the premise. The Stand Magazine Q&A with Peter Swanson


For a lot of us who read mysteries, our love for the genre began when we were young. And for a lot of us the books we first read were classic whodunits, books by Agatha Christie or books similar to her’s. Because of this, there’s something comforting in an old-fashioned mystery novel, one that includes all the classic elements of red herrings, multiple suspects, and a big reveal at the end. Author Q&A with Peter Swanson by Crime by the Book 


Book Reviews

Swanson is brilliant, and his love for the mystery book genre is extremely evident. Not only would I read this book again, but I also want to read all of the books that Swanson uses throughout this novel! Highly recommend! Read the full review by The Gloss Book Club

EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS is a love letter to the crime fiction genre. It’s a story steeped in genre history and present-day in-jokes, and it’s one that no crime fiction reader will want to miss. I haven’t had this much fun reading a crime novel in ages. Put on your amateur sleuth hat and join Peter Swanson on this delightfully nostalgic, utterly clever journey through the greatest murders in crime fiction. Read the full review by Crime By The Book

This was my first Swanson novel and I appreciated how he didn’t hold back. This was completely wild and over-the-top. It was full of unbelievable things, but that’s what made it so fun. Read the full review by Megs Book Rack
Twisted and well paced, I was quickly pulled into the narrative. This was my first soiree with author Peter Swanson, but it won’t be my last. Read the full review by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Discussion Questions

If you were writing a list of books with eight perfect murders, which books would you pick and why?

Do you think there is such a thing as "the perfect murder"? 

Do you think any of the nine novels has a perfect murder?

Which of the titles have you read? After examining the list, which are you most eager to read? Which of them would make the ideal book group novel and why?

Did your opinion of the main character Malcolm Kershaw change by the time you reached the end of the book?

Why do you think he decided to keep the cat? 

Old Devils Bookstore in the novel was famous for its specialty in crime fiction. Do you visit specialty bookstores when you travel? Do you buy books or souvenirs from bookstores?

How did you feel about the end of the book? 

Quotes from Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Old Devils Bookstore is not in a high-traffic area, but we’re a specialty bookstore—mystery books, used and new—and most of our customers seek us out or simply order directly from our website.


I no longer have the stomach for contemporary mystery novels—sometimes I reread a particular favorite from my childhood—and I find the book blogs indispensable. I suppose I could be honest, tell people that I’ve lost interest in mystery novels, that I primarily read history these days, poetry before I go to bed, but I prefer to lie. The few people I’ve told the truth to always want to know why I’ve given up reading crime, and it’s not something I can talk about.


I was starting to wonder why she had come to me. Was it just because I owned a mystery bookstore? Did she need a copy of the book? But if that were the case, then why did she ask for me, specifically, on the phone? If she just wanted someone who worked in a mystery bookstore, then she could have come inside and talked with anyone.


She unzipped her leather bag and removed a single sheet of paper. “Do you remember a list you wrote for this store’s blog, back in 2004? A list called ‘Eight Perfect Murders’?”


I think I must have had some delusions of grandeur that my blog platform might turn me into a public and trusted aficionado of crime fiction.


I waited for comments to appear, allowing myself brief fantasies in which the piece would start an online frenzy, blog readers chiming in to argue about their own favorite murders. NPR would call and ask me to come on-air to discuss the very topic. In the end, the blog piece got two comments.

I knew I should have told Agent Mulvey this at the time, but I didn’t, and until I felt I had to, I didn’t plan on telling her. I was sure she was withholding information from me, so I planned on withholding this information from her. I had to begin to protect myself.

Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books don’t just take you back to the time in which they were written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself.

I read the list of mysteries I’d selected, all ones that took place in wintertime or during a storm. At this point in my blog-writing career I was happy to just list books, and not describe them. 

Old Devils is not a famous store, but we are famous to a certain kind of reader.


Brian told me once that the reason he dedicated almost all his books to her was because she’d sulk for days if he didn’t. He told me that divorcing her was good for many reasons, but mostly because he was now free to dedicate books to other people in his life.

The latest comment was posted less than twenty-four hours earlier, at three A.M., from a user named Doctor Sheppard, and read, I am halfway through your list. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, done. THE ABC MURDERS, finally finished. DOUBLE INDEMNITY, kaput. DEATHTRAP, saw the film. When I’m finished with the list (it won’t be long now) I’ll get in touch. Or do you already know who I am?

All poems—all works of art, really, seem like cries of help to me, but especially poetry. When they are good, and I do believe there are very few good poems, reading them is like having a long-dead stranger whisper in your ear, trying to be heard.

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.

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.

I’ve always been suspicious of literary writers, with their attempts at immortality. That is why I much prefer thriller writers, and poets. I like the writers who know they are fighting a losing battle.

I’ve always felt that being with people, as opposed to being alone, can make you feel loneliness more acutely.

IT’S A FUNNY THING grieving for someone you’ve murdered. In the beginning my sadness was coupled with an enormous guilt.

I WROTE THAT I burned Claire’s entire diary after reading it. That’s not entirely true. I saved one page, probably because I wanted some proof that she had loved me, something in her own handwriting. 


Book Club Kit: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

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