The Story Behind Eight Perfect Murders

Join Peter Swanson as he discusses how books have affected his life, shaped his characters, and inspired his latest novel Eight Perfect Murders.

Bonus: Comment on this post to enter for a chance to win a FREE copy of Eight Perfect Murders!

Most of the ideas for my books come in dribs and drabs. A premise will occur to me, then stick in my brain for a couple of months before another idea joins that first one. More often than not, these imagined novels wither on the vine. But sometimes they flower. It can take a year, sometimes more than a year. But with my newest book, Eight Perfect Murders, the idea dropped in my lap as close to fully formed as a book idea can be.

I was out walking, so I supposed the idea didn’t drop into my lap, per se. I was taking my usual loop around Walden Pond in Concord, a locale made famous by another writer, one with higher aspirations than thinking up perfect murders. I try and walk every afternoon, and in the summer times I do much of my walking at Walden Pond. It’s beautiful, but it also has the added advantage that if I get hot walking, there’s a lovely pond for swimming.  

On the day that I conjured up Eight Perfect Murders, I had just begun my walk and I was trying to come up with a clever idea for a murder in a short story that I was writing. As usual, when I’m searching for inspiration, I don’t think about real life. I think about books and movies. As I was going over fictional murders in my mind, trying to remember some of the best ones, I had two thoughts in a row. The first was: What if someone made a list of the best fictional murders? And then my immediate second thought: What if someone else used that last to commit actual murders? 

And there was the book. For the remainder of my walk I began to plot. And by the time I was back in the air conditioning of my car I knew almost the entire story. I knew who wrote the list, and I knew who the killer was. I knew their relationship, and I knew what many of the plot points in the book would be. This had never happened to me before, and it was both exhilarating and terrifying. I felt like I was carrying an overly-filled drink across a rambunctious party, worried I was going to spill it.

Of course, it only felt as though I had the whole story in my head. In the end I had to go back home and write the thing, putting in all the pesky details that make up a 300-page book. And things changed, of course, as they do. One thing that surprised me once I was deep into the novel was just how much the book was actually about reading. I already knew that I was writing a book about books, but when I began to think about my main character, Malcolm Kershaw, and what had formed him, I thought as much about the act of reading—of his relationship to reading, and the books that influenced him—as I did about any other biographical details.

It turned out that Malcolm’s reading habits, not entirely surprisingly, were also mine. He was an introverted kid who found enormous pleasure in reading books, especially crime novels. When he was around ten, he started pilfering any books he could find from either of his parents, and later on discovered a nearby used book store called Annie’s Book Swap (they were a franchise chain back then. Still are, but there are far fewer of them). It was there that he began buying up mid-century paperbacks. John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, Alastair MacLean, Agatha Christie. Anything that had a cool, creepy cover. And pretty much every book in the mystery section at Annie’s Book Swap had a cool, creepy cover, so there were plenty of books to read.

Now that it’s coming out in the world, I like to think of Eight Perfect Murders as the closest I’ll ever get to writing an autobiographical novel. For those of us who are readers, we know that the books we read, especially the books we read at a certain age, form an integral part of our story. They are part of our experience. And one of the nicest things about books is that they don’t leave us. We can pick them up and dip back into them. We change, but they don’t.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

Eight Perfect Murders Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) February 21, 2020. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 a.m. ET March 6, 2020. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

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  3. Jody Darden

    I too, read MacDonald and MaLean. My local bookswap was called the Bookworm. This sounds like a great book idea, would love to win one! Thanks for having a giveaway.

  4. John Smith

    These startling plot twists sound great!

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  6. Thomas Walker

    Sounds like a great story!

  7. Daniel M

    looks like an interesting one

  8. Sarah

    I love Peter Swanson books!

  9. Mary Katherine Kearney

    I would love to win a copy. New author for me.

  10. keelz23

    I love the concept of this book because it applies books to life instead of the other way around. Can’t wait to read!

  11. Burma Turner

    I love this author’s books. This one sounds amazing!

  12. Lacy B

    This sounds like an interesting read!

  13. amy mara

    looking forward to this one

  14. Jennifer Drake

    This looks like a page turner ! My favorite genre .

  15. Jackie Wisherd

    I would love to win this book and read it and report on it at my book club.

  16. Shirley Evans

    Ohhh, chillingly suspenseful. Would love to win!

  17. Janis Rich

    This book was just recommended to me today by a friend who knows it is so my kind of read. I can only imagine all the thought and research!

  18. Del Deleon

    Even the title sounds fascinating!

  19. Brandy Ybarra

    I cannot wait for this book!

  20. C

    Great original concept, this sounds like a very good book!

  21. LuAnn Morgan

    This book sounds fascinating.

  22. Joanne Mielczarski

    I have read and enjoyed all of your other books and I hope to win a copy of this one. Thanks for the chance.

  23. Nancy Kommer

    This book sounds like all time favorite mystery writers collaborated to write a great story. Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians in modern times. I’d love to receive this book.

  24. Jesse Lankford

    Interesting premise for a novel. Sounds like an exciting, fun read.

  25. Anne

    Intriguing novel. Thanks.

  26. Pearl

    Creative and great author whose books are fascinating.

  27. carloshmarlo

    Excellent plot idea. The book sounds quite wonderful, thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  28. Karey L. Newton

    Psychological thrillers are up my alley. Sounds like a great read.

  29. Darlene Slocum

    Your new book sounds like it belongs right beside the one that I have read many times.

  30. Diana Hardt

    The book sounds very intriguing. Thank you for the chance.

  31. Michael Carter

    This looks good.
    Please enter me in this sweepstakes.

  32. Alice Glover

    Sounds like a great book. I would love to read it.

  33. dragondawn

    I grew up introverted with my nose always stuck in a book. My mother swears that I used to do the dishes with my book propped above the sink!

  34. Jamie Rasmussen

    This book sounds really good.

  35. Toni A Laliberte

    I’ve been seeing this book all over Instagram and I’m dying to read it! It sounds like the perfect thriller! Thanks for the chance!

  36. Lori P

    Interesting premise. Already creeped out!

  37. ravensfan

    I would love to win a copy.

  38. Deb Philippon

    Thank you for sharing this. I found it really interesting.

  39. Betty Smith

    I am a fan of mysteries and am always reading them

  40. Jackie

    I love thrillers and mysteries, I can’t get enough of the to read.

  41. Karen H

    Sounds like something I would think about on a walk. Can’t wait to read it!

  42. LeMinou

    Sounds so fascinating. Definitely on my TBR list. Thanks for the chance.

  43. Amy Morris

    Looks like a great read.

  44. Savanna Bergheger

    This is definitely on my TBR list. Thank you for the chance!!

  45. Gail Coulson

    This book could be a future classic. Love the references to all of the other books.

  46. Betty Levenson

    Really looking forward to this one! Please keep them coming!!

  47. susan beamon

    I remember reading every mystery I could get my hands on when I was young, mixed in with my science fiction. L still remember many of them. Some have joined with other books so I’m not sure exactly what Travis MaGee did and what I should blame on Perry Mason. Looking forward to getting my hands on this book.

  48. Dianna Young

    I love hearing how authors get their inspiration for the stories they write. Thanx for the chance to win a copy!

  49. Mary Woods

    I do some of my best thinking and problem solving while I’m on my daily walks.

  50. mkc1

    Looks like another winner for my TBR list. Thanks for the chance to win.

  51. Daniel Weber

    I love to have this book.

  52. Michelle

    I already had this on my TBR. Now I’m even more excited after reading this interview 😉

  53. Dawn

    Oh I am so waiting to read this book

  54. SeattleReader

    I’m a huge fan of mysteries and thrillers, so a mystery book about mystery books is right up my alley! Thanks for the chance to win!

  55. garyrej

    Sounds intriguing

  56. Linda Henderson

    A main character that loves to read? I’m in.

  57. sue

    Looking forward to this one!

  58. Julie

    Love Mr. Swanson’s writing and would love to win a copy of this one!

  59. Sally

    I look forward to reading his book. Nice to know how he came up with the premise of the story.

  60. Autumn Trapani

    This sounds like such a great premise and a fun story. Thanks for the chance to win!

  61. Michelle Willms

    It’s always fascinating to find out how a story emerged in an author’s mind. I can’t wait to read this so I can not only enjoy a great book, but also get a glimpse into your head. Thank you for sharing.

  62. Sally Schmidt

    I like the concept. Sounds like a good read.

  63. Emily Catan

    Have loved Peter Swanson’s HER EVERY FEAR and ALL THE BEAUTIFUL LIES – such great suspense thrillers!! Truly would love to read his latest EIGHT PERFECT MURDERS! Thank you for the giveaway.

  64. Karen Mikusak

    Sounds great! Would love to win.

  65. Melissa Loggans

    Happy to know about this book. Thanks for the opportunity.

  66. Melissa Loggans

    Thanks for the chance – this sounds like a great read.

  67. Teresa Young

    You wouldn’t think walking around Walden Pond would inspire a book about murder, let alone 8 of them!

  68. Susan Morris

    Thank you for sharing how you come up with ideas for your books. It sounds like just what a book lover would write. I am a sucker for those classic crime/mystery novels!

  69. Tammy Brasic

    This sounds like a very interesting read. I like that just walking can inspire a novel and this is a great premise for the book.

  70. downeaster

    I have seen some good reviews of this book

  71. Saundra K. Warren

    Ed McBain is one of my favorite authors!!!

  72. Rebecca Joy Mensinga

    This sounds really good! I am really excited about this book. I have see some really good reviews for people who had got an early copy of it!

  73. Karen Minter

    This is the type of fascinating book I love to read!

  74. Mary Ellen Anaka

    This book sounds very intriguing and right up my alley. I grew up reading Agatha Christie. I would love a chance to read your new book. I love a challenge.

  75. Carolyn

    I have read all of Peter Swanson’s books and am looking forward to reading Eight Perfect Murders!

  76. Sally Hunt

    Intriguing insight. You are a new author for me to read. Eight Perfect Murders sounds like a good place to start. 🙂

  77. Teresa Warner

    Sounds like a good one!

  78. Stephanie L Nelson

    This sounds like a great book! I would love to win a copy!

  79. KathyNV

    Ok..Malcolm’s reading habits were mine too as a kid! OMG, it’s kinda creepy! The idea for “Eight Perfect Murders” is such a simple and elegant premise. It’s thrilling to see that a intriguing story can evolve in such a short span and be so organic! I’m looking forward to reading Malcolm’s story and seeing how the spark for your book ignites! Thanks so much for sharing your process!

  80. Colleen Morvay

    Sounds very suspensful! Love Peter Swanson books.

  81. Darcia

    I’ve seen nothing but praise for this book. Can’t wait to read it!

  82. Debi K

    I love the backstory to this book which answers that so common question, where did you get the idea for your book? I’m always in for a Peter Swanson book

  83. Kimberly

    I love thrillers that center around a bookstore and Peter Swanson’s books are always a treat.

  84. Doris C. Losey

    can’t wait to read!!

  85. Debbie Flynn

    I would love to read Peter Swanson’s book.

  86. Pat Hoffarth

    Sounds like my kind of book.

  87. Jane Schwarz

    Isn’t wonderful when all our daydreaming, actually is beneficial. Yours seems to have worked out quite well. Congratulations. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of your newest endeavor, Eight Perfect Murders. Sounds intriguing.

  88. Janet Gould

    So you wrote this book about yourself?

  89. theresa norris

    Loved reading about your walking and ideas.

  90. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  91. Tiffany

    This looks good

  92. Sally

    I’m looking forward to reading this.

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  97. Shaheen Shah

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