Book Review: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart


George Foss never thought he’d see her again, but on a late-August night in Boston, there she is, in his local bar, Jack’s Tavern. When George first met her, she was an eighteen-year-old college freshman from Sweetgum, Florida. She and George became inseparable in their first fall semester, so George was devastated when he got the news that she had committed suicide over Christmas break. But, as he stood in the living room of the girl’s grieving parents, he realized the girl in the photo on their mantelpiece – the one who had committed suicide – was not his girlfriend. Later, he discovered the true identity of the girl he had loved – and of the things she may have done to escape her past. Now, twenty years later, she’s back, and she’s telling George that he’s the only one who can help her.


ashley | With a title like The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, it’s almost fitting that things start off at a rapid pace, like author Peter Swanson is racing against time to get his story out before it’s too late. It’s written very bluntly, not a lot of distracting imagery and it’s not heavy with the detail. Boy sees college girlfriend in bar after many years. Quick chapter rundown of their sexual exploration together back in college. Cut to her suicide that summer and we have all we need to know.

Of course, what we don’t know is what makes up the rest of the book. A mystery of sorts as George gets pulled back into Liana’s world, desperate for closure on his broken heart but driven more by his desire to help her, help her unravel whatever mess she has gotten herself into now.

While I appreciate the bluntness of Swanson’s voice, I found that sometimes this made things a bit stiff in places, like character’s reciting lines in a play without infusing any emotional drive. I actually found some of the characters very one dimensional, which is not what you expect from a book that is trying to build a complex and layered mystery about someone whose real identity is what you’re trying to discover.

George was a bit too desperate and quick to jump back into his past; it seemed unrealistic to me. I understand a need for closure and the allure of past passions reigniting, but after everything he had already been through with Liana, he was far too willing to throw himself into the middle of her drama again. I find it hard to believe any functioning adult would transport a gym bag of money to a man after already being attacked and doing so because their wanted ex girlfriend who is working under yet another name showed up out of the blue and asked him to.

I’m supposed to believe that this Liana has taken on all these different personas to get herself in and out of trouble, but she is actually a very uninteresting character. She’s supposed to be this kind of femme fatale, but it all kind of falls flat. Actually, I felt that the book itself fell kind of flat. All the elements were there, but it read more like a Law & Order episode with a clean cut, tv-safe storyline that was trying to be more elaborate than it actually was.

The theme of the clock for a heart, racing against time, came up a few times throughout the book but it felt like that clock stopped ticking well before the end of the book.