Reviews: Eight Perfect Murders / The Hotel Neversink
Updated: Jun 4, 2022
4/5 stars - Eight Perfect Murders, by Peter Swanson (2020)
3/5 stars - The Hotel Neversink, by Adam O'Fallon Price (2019)
Two very good murder mysteries! I recently took a trip downstate, and always like to have a "page-turner" to listen to on a long drive. So, I listened to Eight Perfect Murders on the way down, and The Hotel Neversink on the way home.
Eight Perfect Murders
(There's a lot I cannot say if I want to avoid spoilers!)
Malcolm (Mal) co-owns Old Devils Bookstore, specializing in the murder mystery genre. When he first started working at the store, he wrote a blog post called "Eight Perfect Murders" - a list of the best, most unsolvable murders in literature. Now, many years later, an FBI agent shows up at the store asking questions about the list. It turns out there are a series of unsolved deaths that seem to be mirroring those eight murders.
Unsure if he's a suspect or just being involved because he's an "expert" on the murders, Mal attempts to track down the clues. All the while, as the narrator, he doles out small, misleading truths about himself and his own background, leading the reader to wonder if he is really the victim in all this. How much does Mal already know about these deaths? And is the killer someone closer to him than he realizes?
There are multiple twists in this book, and while some of them were predictable, there were definitely others that completely surprised me. It's an inscrutable puzzle, and a great thriller!
Note: There ARE spoilers in the book for the "eight perfect murders," so if you'd rather read those first, they are:
The A.B.C. Murders, by Agatha Christie
Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith
The Red House Mystery, by A.A. Milne
Malice Aforethought, by Anthony Berkeley Cox
Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain
The Drowner, by John D. MacDonald
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
Deathtrap, by Ira Levin
The Hotel Neversink
TW: Sexual abuse, Discussion of suicide
This book is technically a murder mystery - there's a murder, and we don't find out until the end who committed it - but it's really a saga about multiple generations of a family living in the Catskill mountains of NY, and of the rise and fall of the hotel they own.
Polish Jewish immigrant Asher Sikorsky buys an old mansion in the Catskills and renames it The Hotel Neversink (after a nearby stream called Neversink). His daughter Jeannie takes over as he ages, leading the hotel into prosperity, but also overseeing some of it's toughest years - a young boy goes missing on the property. Through the years, other children in the nearby town also disappear. By the time Jeannie's son Len takes the reigns, the hotel has started to decline, and no one is any closer to finding out what has been happening to these children.
Told in interconnected chapters, the book is narrated by different members of the family and others with ties to the hotel, like the "hotel detective" (never really understood why that was a thing), a maid, and some of the regular guests.
I thought the writing was disjointed - too many narrators, not enough meat to their stories - and the plot ran a bit thin. (Also it wasn't at all believable that basically no one did an official investigation into this slew of missing children!) However, the ending was a total shocker (to me, anyway), so I had to up the star-rating just for that! Overall I quite enjoyed it, despite the fact that the Audible reader was horrible (so if you're inclined towards this book, read rather than listen to it).
UP NEXT: Lanny, by Max Porter