Deep down we know that yes, everybody lies. Few of us do it with the frequency and democracy-crushing impact of the admitted liars of Fox News. But we all tell lies.
There are many different types of lies, of course. Friedrich Nietzsche once suggested, “The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.” Lies undermine confidence, trust, and relationships. Lies, as everyone knows, are the bread-and-butter of murder mysteries.
All of which brings me to this month’s selection in my quest to read twelve crime novels this year.
Eight Perfect Murders (2020) by Peter Swanson is full of lies. The trick is figuring out who is lying, and to whom they are lying. Swanson’s book is so full of plot twists that it isn’t an easy task. Almost impossible, one might say.
Early in the book we find out that bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw once wrote a blog post for his store’s website that listed the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack. He titled it Eight Perfect Murders and his selections included 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. He is surprised when an FBI agent shows up in his Boston store to ask questions about the list. She has studied a number of unsolved crimes and has a hunch that someone is working their way through the list and leaving dead bodies in their wake.
It turns out that someone else is interested in the list and in Malcom. A killer is around, and he or she seems to know much more about the bookseller’s life than he’s ever told anyone, including his recently deceased wife. In his investigation into who is committing these murders, Malcolm — to his horror — finds death in places where he didn’t expect it. The plot keeps twisting, and the reader is brought along to see if the killer can literally get away with murder.
It was the Greek tragedian Sophocles who said, “A lie never lives to be old.” And true to form, the lies told in the commission of the eight murders are eventually uncovered. Swanson, who appears to write a new murder mystery every year, is adept at the form, using many of the tools of the trade in this work including the unreliable narrator.
Recommended by a friend who knew of my quest, Eight Perfect Murders is a page-turning thriller where I often gasped out loud at the introduction of some new nugget of information. Swanson has written a real puzzler that satisfies.
More to come…
To see reviews of the other books in my year of reading mystery novels, click here for January and February.
The Weekly Reader links to written works I’ve enjoyed. I hope you find something that makes you laugh, think, or cry.
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