My enormous thanks to Josh Smith for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for Peter Swanson’s Rules for Perfect Murders.
Out today from Faber and Faber, Rules for Perfect Murders is available for purchase through the publisher links here.
Rules for Perfect Murders
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?
An Extract from Rules for Perfect Murders
I’d worked in bookstores ever since graduating from college in 1999. First briefly at a Borders in downtown Boston, then as both an assistant manager and a senior manager at one of the few remaining independents in Harvard Square. Amazon had just won its
war for total domination and most of the indies were folding up like flimsy tents in a hurricane. But the Redline Bookstore was sticking it out, partly due to an older clientele not yet savvy enough to figure out online shopping, but mostly because its owner, Mort Abrams, outright owned the two- story brick building the store was housed in and didn’t have to pay rent. I was at Redline five years, two as an assistant manager, then three as senior manager and part- time book buyer. My specialty was fiction, and in particular, crime fiction.
During my time at the store I also met my future wife, Claire Mallory, who was hired as a bookseller shortly after she’d dropped out of Boston University. We got married the same year that Mort Abrams lost his wife of thirty-five years to breast cancer. Mort and
Sharon, who lived two streets over from the bookstore, had become close friends, substitute parents really, and Sharon’s death was hard, especially since it robbed Mort of any remaining zest for life. A year after her death he told me that he was shutting down the store, unless, of course, I wanted to buy him out, take it over myself. I considered
it, but at that point Claire had already left Redline, going to work at the local cable access station, and I didn’t necessarily want to take on the hours, or the financial risk, of running my own store.
I contacted Old Devils, a mystery bookstore in Boston, and John Haley, the owner at the time, created a job for me. I would be the events manager, but also create content for the store’s burgeoning blog, a site for mystery lovers. My last day at Redline was the store’s
last day in business, as well. Mort and I locked the front doors together, then I followed him back to his office, where we drank from a dusty bottle of single malt that had been given to him by Robert Parker. I remember thinking that Mort, without his wife, and
now without the store, wouldn’t make it through the winter. I was wrong. He lived through the winter and spring, but he did manage to die the following summer at his lake house at Winnipesaukee, a week before Claire and I were planning to visit.
“Eight Perfect Murders” was the first piece I wrote for the Old Devils blog. John Haley, my new boss, had asked me to write a list of my favorite mystery novels, but instead I pitched the idea of writing a list of perfect murders in crime fiction. I don’t exactly
know why I was reluctant to share my favorite books yet, but I remember thinking that writing about perfect murders might generate more traffic. This was right around the time that several blogs were taking off, making their authors rich and famous. I remember someone doing a blog about making one of Julia Child’s recipes every day that was turned into a book, and maybe even a movie. 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. Claire added fuel to the re by telling me repeatedly
that she thought this blog could really blow up, that I’d find my calling— a literary critic of crime fiction. The truth was that I’d already found my calling, at least I thought I had, and I was a bookseller, content with the hundreds of minute interactions that make up a bookseller’s daily life. And what I loved most of all was to read— that was my true calling.
(And I don’t think any of us would argue with that sentiment!)
About Peter Swanson
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.