Classic mystery–lovers will devour Eight Perfect Murders, Peter Swanson’s clever homage to masters of the form. But those who can’t tell James M. Cain from Michael Caine shouldn’t be put off—you don’t have to be a connoisseur to be seduced by this gripping novel. Its narrator, Malcolm Kershaw, runs a mystery bookstore in Boston called Old Devils. At first, Kershaw comes off as a typical mystery nerd, mildly disaffected and solitary, devoted to imported beers and just squeaking by with the store.
One dreary winter day follows another for Kershaw, a 40-ish widower, and he seems O.K. with that. But when an F.B.I. agent drops by Old Devils to question him about “Eight Perfect Murders,” a list he once posted on the store’s blog, his musty routine is disrupted. The agent suspects that someone has been replicating the ingenious murders from classics on his list, by Patricia Highsmith, John D. MacDonald, Agatha Christie, and others. Did some random homicidal mastermind just happen to stumble upon the blog post, Kershaw wonders, or is there a more logical explanation?