Apr/May 2014  •   Reviews & Interviews

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

Review by Ann Skea

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart.
Peter Swanson.
Faber. 2014. 360 pp.
ISBN 978 0 571 30189 8.

Oh, my! What a man will suffer for love. George Foss fell for Audrey Beck in his first freshman semester at college. It was his first real love affair. So, he was shattered when he learned that she had committed suicide during the Christmas break. Longing to know more about her seemingly inexplicable death, he searches out the home where she had told him she grew up and visits her parents, only to discover that the girl he had fallen in love with was not Audrey Beck at all, and that he had no idea of her real name.

Poor, smitten George decides to investigate further. He is beaten up by the real Audrey's ex-boyfriend and a pal; discovers the "real" name of his girlfriend; is beaten up again by a strange man when he tries to contact her; and learns that his girl is now a criminal wanted by the police for murder... possibly even two murders. You would think that would be enough to cool any man's ardor. But no, George's lost love undermines his life for the next 20 years. Then, out-of-the-blue, Audrey/Liana/Jane (her name changes along with her identity) turns up in his local bar. Poor, obsessed George, in spite of knowing she is "trustworthy as a startled snake," cannot refuse to help her when she asks.

George is a likeable character completely out-manuevered by a subtle and dangerous woman. In alternating chapters, we learn of Liana's history and of the ways in which she again manipulates and endangers George. The pace of the book is fast and the plot twists unexpected, but the ending, although gripping and dramatic to read, is on reflection totally implausible. Is that a bad thing? Were Ian Fleming's Bond novels plausible? If you enjoyed the book, as I did, that's all that matters.

This thriller is a fine debut novel for Peter Swanson. But please, let's have no more copycat "Girl with..." titles.


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