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The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

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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...

289 pages, Hardcover

First published September 10, 2014

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About the author

Peter Swanson

16 books9,085 followers
Peter Swanson is the author of six novels including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year, and his most recent thriller, Eight Perfect Murders. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.

A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.

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Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,295 reviews120k followers
October 27, 2022
George had imagined this moment many times but had somehow never imagined the outcome. Liana was not simply an ex-girlfriend who had once upon a time broken George’s heart; she was also, as far as George still knew, a wanted criminal, a woman whose transgressions were more in line with those of Greek tragedy than youthful indiscretion. She had, without doubt, murdered one person and most likely murdered another. George felt the equal weights of moral responsibility and indecision weigh down upon him.
There are lies, damned lies and then there is Liana Dector, falsehood on feet, the sort of dame who puts the fatale in femme fatale. Of course she was also George’s long lost sweetheart from college, the one. George is a decent sort, an unexceptional guy who had the misfortune to cross paths with the wrong woman at a tender age, and never really recovered. She is the one who has been haunting his dreams ever since, the one for whom he would drop all others, the one for whom he would do anything, really, anything. When she walks back into his life what she asks does not seem all that much, really. Of course if it hadn’t been all that much, then George might have been spared a whole lotta trouble.
He’d known he was going to say yes to Liana even before he knew what it was that she wanted. He’d known the moment he’d let her into his apartment. He also knew that Liana was as trustworthy as a startled snake.

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity - from britannica.com

I am sure there are more than a few of us, particularly we gullible guys, who have a page of our private books dedicated to one person in particular, the one who broke our hearts the worst, the ones who came into, or more likely passed through, our lives at a point when the people we were becoming had not yet formed, when the clay was still damp, and left an impression, like a teen tagger in wet concrete. How does that scarring affect the rest of our lives? What directions do we take, or avoid, as a result? Two words work to describe George Foss once Liana returns to wrapping her desires around his dreams, poor bastard.

Peter Swanson - image from his Instagram pages

The story is told in two time lines. The earlier covers the time when Liana and George first got together, in college, and George’s attempt to find out what was really going on with his gf of a semester when she takes a powder. This includes learning about Liana’s life in her Florida home. The latter, and larger stream is contemporary, and includes a crooked ex boyfriend from whom Liana snatched half a mill, an impressively violent enforcer sort, George’s on-again-off-again gf, a mysterious house well off the beaten path, and a payload of diamonds.

There is indeed a mystery here. Can anything Liana says be believed? What is the truth of her tales, both now and in the past? What is the nature of her relationship with her erstwhile bf and with the thuggish Donnie Jenks?

Mary Astor and Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon - Image was taken from Oscars.org

A few cops cross the stage but there is no primary PI in this noir tale. This book is less Raymond Chandler, and more North by Northwest. Liana’s favorite book is Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and you might extract some value by keeping that in mind. George has a cat named Nora, which might be a nod to The Thin Man, which featured Nick and Nora Charles. But I expect that one is a stretch. Are the references to hot and cold calculated nods to The Postman Always Rings Twice, or are we going all taffy-like again?

Liana is a person with several aliases, and that always makes one suspect there is content in here about identity. How do we become who we are? Can that change? What if people cannot or do not accept us for who we are? Can we ever get away from who we were? Notions of this sort abound.
I had become this different person, this person I’d rather have been—you know, in school, doing well, with a boyfriend, a boyfriend like you—but it was like I had a secret disease, or there was this clock inside of me, ticking like a heart, and at any moment an alarm would go off and [the girl I was then] would no longer exist. She’d die and I’d have to go back to being Liana Dector.
There are always some hesitations. I thought the notion of the book’s title was less than meets the eye. Few of the subsidiary characters come to life, much. But when you are flipping through pages as fast as I did and you will, such things generate as much concern as notions of morality to a sociopath. The Girl With a Clock For a Heart is a must-read thriller. Once you pick it up you will not be able to put it down, unless of course, that special someone from that special time all those years back should show up at your favorite reading spot and ask you for a favor. One look in those eyes and you know you won’t be able to say “no.”

Lauren Bacall - From noirwhale.com

Peter Swanson graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his book. The responses here have been only minimally edited:


How important is place in The Girl
What’s most important is the difference, class and otherwise, between New England and the fictional Sweetgum, Florida. Liana wants to reinvent herself, and part of that is leaving the town she lived in and never coming back. And when George visits Sweetgum it is important that he is out of his element.
Could it have taken place in locations other than Connecticut, Boston/New Essex, Florida?
The important thing would be the differences between the locations. The book is currently under option by a British film company, and writer/director James Marsh is working on an adaptation. I spoke with him about setting the story in England, which is his plan right now. He wants to substitute Oxford for Boston and a seaside town in East Anglia for Sweetgum. I thought this completely worked.
Why Tulum, and not, say Rio, Cancun, or the French Riviera?
The short answer is that I’ve been to Tulum and haven’t been to Rio or the French Riviera. The longer answer is that I just think there’s something incredibly evocative about Tulum, those Mayan ruins hovering above the ocean.


On your blogger profile, you list yourself as a writer of crime fiction and poetry.  Which came first?
Poetry came first. I’ve been writing it since I was a kid, and for most of my twenties and thirties I worked very hard at becoming the best poet I could be. I’m not sure that worked out quite the way I had planned, but I wrote a few poems that, when I read them today, don’t make me physically ill. So that’s good.
Do they get equal time or is one dominant?
Right now, fiction is entirely dominant. I only write poetry now when I get an idea for a poem, and that happens very infrequently. I think I’m tapped out on poems. I don’t really write confessional poetry—e.g. Grandpa’s funeral, running into ex-girlfriend, etc.—so I sometimes feel like I’ve said all I can say in poetry form. This is one of the reasons I decided to do The Hitchcock Sequence, a sonnet for every Hitchcock film. It gave me a subject matter
You have written a lot of short crime fiction. Have you considered other genres, say police procedural, or horror or sci-fi?
I’ve written some horror short fiction and a little bit of sci-fi. It’s a matter of ideas, more than anything, and almost all of the ideas I get fall into the realm of mystery/crime. I like the idea of writing a solid police procedural but that involves a lot of research, and I’m pretty lazy about research.
When did you decide you wanted to write novels?
I started writing novels about ten years ago. At first, I just wanted to see if I could do it. I wrote a classic whodunit in which the amateur detective is a visiting writer/poet at a university. It was hard work, but more than that, it was a lot of fun. I loved spending a year in one fictional world, and I loved the feeling of finishing the novel, getting to the last page.
When did you start working on this one? Was it a prolonged gestation?
The Girl with a Clock for a Heart began life as a novella. It was essentially the college-years section of the book. My agent was the one who suggested that it could be turned into a book. The whole process probably took about two and a half years.
You are writing sonnets for all of Alfred Hitchcock's films. Is that project complete?
All the sonnets are written, although a few them definitely need to be tweaked, or even re-written. I’ve been sending the poems out individually to journals and online magazines, and several have been published. At some point I’ll see if I can find a publisher for the whole sequence.
What impact did Hitchcock's work have on your writing in The Girl?
Hitchcock is my favorite filmmaker, and he’s a big influence for that reason alone. Out of his 53 films there are at least ten or so that I re-watch frequently so they just seep in. James Marsh commented to me that he thought there was a real Vertigo vibe going on in The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, and that was news to me, although maybe he’s right. Definitely Irene is based on Midge, the Barbara Bel Geddes character from Vertigo.


What was the spark that started your engine in writing The Girl?
I was thinking about the difference between going to college now and going to college when I did, back in the 1980s. Nowadays, most teens have an established online identity. When you arrive as a freshman and meet someone new you probably run back to your room and look them up on facebook and find out everything about them. But in the olden days all these kids arrived in college, and they had a real opportunity to reinvent themselves. No one knew anything about anyone. That was the spark that led me to wondering how far a freshman year re-invention could go.
When you were writing did you have particular faces in mind, people you know, relatives, neighbors, actors?
I do and I don’t. Usually, when I start writing a character, I picture what they look like, often using actors, but as I keep writing that connection seems to fade. As I said before, when I pictured Irene in this book I was picturing Midge from Vertigo. Short blonde hair, glasses. But she’s the only character in the book that I had a real specific person I thought about.
Barbara BG
Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge in Vertigo

I heard that there is a sequel in the works,
There actually isn’t. The book I’m working on right now is a new standalone thriller. I would write a sequel but I would need to come up with an idea first that would get the characters back together, and that hasn’t happened yet.


What is your physical writing methodology re when and how long?
I work at home in the morning, on my computer. I write 500 words a day on whatever it is I happen to be working on. That makes it sound like I’m incredibly disciplined but I do a whole lot of procrastinating before I start to write. Sometimes it’s reading, and sometimes it’s looking at mindless stuff online, or playing Candy Crush on my phone, but after doing that for a while, I eventually settle down into writing. I write my 500 words and then I quit. The most important part for me is that I’m writing every day, plus I think it’s important to read what you’ve written that day before you fall asleep. A lot of work can get done during a good night’s sleep.

In that case there are a lot of us who are incredibly productive. Thanks so much, Peter, for so generously offering your time.  Best of luck with The Girl. I hope a lot of people get a chance to read it.  

Publication Date - February 4, 2014

==============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter, Instagram and FB pages

Swanson’s web site has a cornucopia of samples of his Hitchcock poems, other poetry, short fiction and non-fiction, and is well worth checking out

Armchair Audience is Swanson’s site for writing on “Books read. Movies seen. TV Watched”

A fun site that deals in you-know-what, noirwhale.com, which includes a lovely list of further links
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
January 15, 2019
”I always knew it was temporary. Being Audrey was temporary. I had become this different person, this person I’d rather have been--you know, in school, doing well, with a boyfriend, a boyfriend like you--but it was like I had a secret disease, or there was this clock inside of me, ticking like a heart, and at any moment an alarm would go off and Audrey Beck would no longer exist. She’d die and I’d have to go back to being Liana Decter. God, it’s like a dream now….”

 photo the-girl-with-the-long-green_zps0577ccb9.jpg
With this book title Peter Swanson was paying homage to other noir books.

I have a crazy girlfriend story.
I have an even better crazy stalker story, but I’m not going to tell you about either one of them because George Foss has a better story, a tale of deceit, a yarn woven with woe, a first love that might have lasted forever, and murder most foul.

George is an ordinary guy, maybe so ordinary that you might even think he is extraordinary. He is in his early forties. He keeps the accounting books for a Boston literary magazine. He made himself indispensable, so even when the inevitable downsizing started to leave empty desks and tragically orphaned coffee mugs in it’s wake, he survived.

He has a girlfriend named Irene though girlfriend might be imprecise. They have been friends a long time, but somehow in the long arc of their relationship things never quite came together for them to get married. They are more than friends with benefits, more like ex-spouses who still like each other and fool around with each other between attempts at relationships with other people. Although even when they are seeing other people there is no let up with seeing each other. One could say their relationship is complicated, but really it is rather uncomplicated.

 photo GirlGoldWatch_zps9cb8743e.jpg

George has this rent controlled attic apartment with slanted walls and too many, just enough, bookshelves stuffed with...wait for it...books. Exactly what BOOKshelves were designed to hold. He goes to the same bar, maybe not everyday but most days, and watches the Red Sox. Irene usually meets him there and they give each other updates on the small matters of their well organized lives.

And then he sees her...in his bar.

The girl he’d tried to forget about.

The girl that was unforgettable.

Audrey Beck/Liana Decker or she could have just as easily been Phyllis Dietrichson (Double Indemnity) /Kitty Collins(The Killers)/ Brigid O'Shaughnessy (The Maltese Falcon)

 photo doubleIndemnity_zpsa9cdf477.jpg

She is a witches’ brew of femme fatales. She is the Mata Hari of George Foss’s life. He knew her as Audrey first until he discovered she was Liana. It is now becoming nearly impossible to shed our skins and assume new identities. We used to be able to ride the train from Kansas to California and somewhere around Arizona start to call ourselves by a different name. Those days are long past as we are compressed more and more into our own identities. We are stuck with ourselves unable to shake off our past or ever really get a fresh start.

Don’t get the impression that I’m feeling any sympathy for Liana because that would be a mistake.

Like a moth to the flame he has to go talk to her, after all, she was sitting in HIS BAR.

She needs help. She needs the kind of help that at first you laugh about and then she convinces you with glistening tears and a series of beautifully manipulated body signals that she is desperate. Thus, it became perfectly logical that George was going to return nearly half a million stolen dollars to her ex-boss, ex-lover for her.

That is crazy!

Why would you even contemplate such a thing George?

It is embarrassing for me to reveal this, and it is hard to explain it in such a way that it doesn’t seem stupid, but ultimately, he did it, because he wanted to get laid. Sex and gasoline make the world go around so don’t discount the importance of such a potential event in a forty something man’s life. And it isn’t as if we are just talking about sex, ordinary sex, this was mind blowing sex...fireworks, brass band playing, howling at the moon sex. This was one of those moments that when we are on our deathbed and the sepia tone memory of this event floats into focus that we will grin. It might even take some of the sting out of dying.

Was it worth the punch to the kidneys compliments of Donnie Jenks?

No, of course not.

Yes, yes, of course it was. So you piss blood for a week. It will heal.

 photo AvaGardnerKillers_zps9d32eba7.jpg
Ava Gardner in The Killers. A man would do a lot of foolish things for a woman like that.

This is a plot driven novel, so I can’t talk about the plot. Let’s just say that George Foss gets taken on the ride of his life and if he survives it you will buy the beers for him all night long to hear the story. You will remember Liana Decker’s name for the rest of your life. Every time she swims into your memory you will shake your head, shiver, and thank all that is holy for your amazingly pedestrian significant other. This was a terrific, perfect Sunday afternoon read. I kept muttering to myself and kept flipping pages. The ending will wake you up in the middle of the night and have you exclaiming...no, it can’t be!

Peter Swanson hit the Hollywood lottery. The movie rights have been sold. James Marsh will be directing. Chris Coen will be producing. It should make a spectacular movie.

***4.25 stars out of 5 and rising.***

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for j e w e l s.
309 reviews2,367 followers
January 31, 2018
Peter Swanson is one of my favorite psychological suspense/thriller writers working today. Two of his books have been optioned for film, including this one. His newest book All the Beautiful Lies is due out April 3, 2018. I have the galley sitting on my Kindle and cannot wait to dive in! Before I start that one, I wanted to go back and read the only Swanson I've missed: THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART, his first novel.

Swanson tends to write very strong female characters into his tightly woven stories and this is no exception. Hooray! In this case, we have a kind of bumbling, sleepy protagonist, George Foss, who somehow has to get himself out of a messy entanglement with his ex-college girlfriend.

Liana Decter is no ordinary ex either. You might look at her as a black widow who changes her appearance and her identity whenever necessary and uses men for her own gain. Or is she really a misunderstood, hot date that our boy George has always dreamed about meeting again?

George does, indeed, get caught in Liana's web of lies and it is so much fun trying to figure out this sticky story. The even pacing of the mystery had me flipping the pages like fire.

I've read some interviews with the author and he says that Hitchcock films are one of his great loves. You can really feel the Hitchcock vibe in this timeless story with a definite Swanson twist.

Totally engrossing, I inhaled this book. As with all Swanson books, I adore the cleverly worded title . I can't give it 5 stars though due to THAT ENDING!

I literally was reading the end over and over...saying NO, NO, NO. Rats! I'm really not a fan of that kind of ending. Curious, now? No more hints, you gotta check it out yourself!
Profile Image for Holly  B (Short break!).
812 reviews1,861 followers
January 31, 2019

I did enjoy this one, just not as much as his others that I've read (3). I love the way Swanson writes suspense and have read all his novels except Her Every Fear, which I plan on reading.

The first half of this one was fascinating and I was caught in the sticky web of what was happening between George and a girl from his past ~ Liana.

I was invested enough to finish, but the story became a bit too bogged down with the past story of Liana. I felt it slowed the pace and wasn't holding my interest. I wanted to now what was happening NOW. The ending didn't really change my opinion of this being ~ just ho-hum.

Be sure to check out the author's newest book, Before She Knew Him. It was a five star for me!
Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews397 followers
June 6, 2015
I'm sure fans of mysteries will really like this one. I think I'm getting an education on mysteries vs. psychological thrillers. I've discovered I prefer the latter, so for me, I was happy to finish this one. I will say the plot was a good one, and the characters were well drawn out. Overall, though, it felt too drawn out, as characters were described right down to the clothes they wore. Also, the story was told to me, instead of giving clues for me to figure out. I suppose that is what a mystery does though. It is an engaging read, but I found the ending to be somewhat lacking. Mystery fans...go for it!
Profile Image for Christine on hiatus, see “About me”.
589 reviews1,135 followers
June 13, 2015
Peter Swanson's The Girl with a Clock for a Heart grabbed me right away because of the cool title and the fascinating blurb. When it came up for a group read in one of my Goodreads groups, I happily jumped it ahead of 1000 others on my to-read list.

It took me a few chapters to get into the book, as I wasn't initially connecting with the protagonist, George. He seemed rather phlegmatic and downright boring. I guess that was because that is how George felt until things started to click. It soon became clear that George was really a decent soul who bit off more than he bargained for. It was imperative that I liked George as there were not a lot of likeable characters in this novel. His friend Irene and Roberta James, who was a woman detective, were also appealing, but they were minor role players. I never connected with Liana, but maybe the reader wasn't supposed to, I'm not sure.

Once the story got going, I was really enjoying it. I couldn't wait till it was time to read. I was engaged by the author's strong character study of George, and there were some good creepouts along the way. As things built to a crescendo in the second half of the book, I kept reading just one more chapter, one more chapter, one more chapter. In the last 2 chapters, however, the story fell apart for me. I ended up being really disappointed. I do not want to ruin this for anyone so will leave it at that. The reviews are all over the place on this book, and many readers really loved it. For that reason, I encourage people to read it for themselves if they find the blurb enticing.

Would I read another book by Mr. Swanson? I would consider it as I was very entertained by the "meat" of the book. Because of that, I struggled between 2 and 3 stars. I would have given it 2.5 stars if possible. I ended up grading it a 3-star read as it is really better than a 2.

Profile Image for Victoria.
2,512 reviews53 followers
November 16, 2013
Ehhh - while on the surface, this is an interesting and fast-paced thriller, it ultimately falls a bit flat. The initial premise - a man reconnects with his college sweetheart after twenty years have passed - intrigues at first. The woman - Liana/Audrey/Jane - clearly has a curious and dangerous history and her current situation embroils George Foss, the milktoast narrator, into her affairs right away. But George’s status as the book’s hero never feels convincing. While he is perfect for the situation, he never really feels sympathetic. He is downright dull (despite some exciting circumstances) and the torch he carries for this woman from his past crosses the line into sheer idiocy. Even when he believes that he is about to die, he continues to flirt with this femme fatale!

Overall, the plot definitely twists into some unpredictable scenarios, but the George of the flashbacks to his freshman year of college shows no growth to the 38-year-old George of the current plot. Its his general pathetic nature that really spoils the book. Perhaps adding another perspective to this outlandish scheme would have made the book a bit more palatable. My disdain for him just prevents me from finding this to be a truly satisfying read. It’s average at best.
Profile Image for Hannah.
289 reviews51 followers
February 6, 2014
If you are thinking about reading this book, please, please, don't read any of the summaries floating around, because they give away important plot twists.
That said, I would recommend The Girl with a Clock for a Heart to anyone who enjoys thrillers with a bit of action, romance, and atmosphere. This debut novel does all these things adequately, but, given the high praise it has received from writers like Wiley Cash and Dennis Lehane, as well as being described as having "shades of Hitchcock," I was a little disappointed by what to me was simply a passable thriller. I think that perhaps the superlative praise used in promotion of this novel led me to have high expectations which unfortunately, were not fulfilled.
The Girl with a Clock for a Heart follows the relationship between George, an ordinary, good guy, and the mysterious and beautiful Liana, his onetime college girlfriend who he lost, but has never forgotten. When Liana reappears unexpectedly in George's life 20 years after he last saw her and asks him for help, he is irresistibly drawn into her dangerous world.
The story takes place in Boston and Florida, and I enjoyed the author's descriptions of the steamy summertime, of dark old pubs, and of abandoned, creepy, houses buzzing with flies. At times, the descriptions reminded me of a movie (which I think this book could be very successfully adapted into) such as Along Came a Spider. As well as the strong sense of place, the author also creates a well-paced story that is never boring.
However, although, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart was a fun, effortless read, unfortunately, for me, it was nothing more than that. I was especially disappointed by the character of Liana, who was billed as being a deeply mysterious, complex, intelligent femme fatal, but who didn't seem to me much more than a troubled and selfish woman. She wasn't especially brilliant or conniving. So the relationship between George and Liana wasn't psychologically compelling for me. Secondly, after seeing the novel described as "electrifying," "twisty," and "nonstop," I found myself waiting in frustration for a big reveal that never materialized. And third, some of the scenes, while enjoyable, reminded me so much of blockbuster thrillers, that I felt like what made the book work was more that the author was relying on tried and true genre tropes, rather than on new ideas.
So in the end, while there was nothing really wrong with The Girl with the Clock for a Heart, for me, it didn't live up to the hype surrounding it. The plot was nothing exceptional, and the characters were not especially unique or complex. It was pleasant to read, but definitely not thrilling.
I would like to thank the publisher for my advance reader's edition of The Girl with a Clock for a Heart.
Profile Image for Terri Wino.
671 reviews60 followers
July 24, 2015
A decent story, but no where near as awesome as his book The Kind Worth Killing.
This story switches back and forth in time periods, and while I didn't have any problem with that, I found that I really didn't like the characters in either time period. Nevertheless, it was a good enough story that it kept me reading.
This book was okay, but I can't help feeling a little let down because The Kind Worth Killing was just so good. I'm glad I read it first because if I had read this one first I don't know that I would have been impressed enough to read more from this author.
If you read this book and weren't very happy with it, do yourself a favor and don't let it stop you from reading The Kind Worth Killing. If you read this book and liked it a lot then you will absolutely love The Kind Worth Killing.
Profile Image for Gary.
2,614 reviews368 followers
November 28, 2020
While shopping in my local Waterstones I saw this book and something about it drew me in. I am not sure if it was the book title or the write up but I knew I just had to read it. I finished it within 2 days and thoroughly enjoyed it. Fast paced full of action and a touch of romance. Full of twists and turns and cliff hangers at the end of chapters.
Profile Image for William.
675 reviews324 followers
January 13, 2019
2.5 stars
Honestly, a real disappointment. No clocks in this book, neither literally nor figuratively, (I'm not convinced the femme fatale is even "heartless" or mechanical in spirit or behaviour), so the amazing title is just false marketing...

Pacing and prose were pretty good, and the plot had real possibilities, unrealised.

George is less than a hero, not a real man in my opinion. Not evil, just wishy washy. Very watered-down version of 😊 Body Heat, as said in Zoeytron's review. The characters are pretty flat, but the femme fatale excels at lying, and the thug's motives are never made clear. Plus the book suddenly ends with no resolution to the main plots. Ugh.

The only tiny shred of redemption is in the femme fatale's hope

“Did he hurt you? You’re hurt. I can tell.”
She took two steps up toward George and put a hand on his arm. “What can I do?”
“I want you to leave here, that’s what you can do. I’ve been beat up three times in my life, and each time it was by someone you knew."

Kind of rambles along, two time frames. The present and 20 years ago as teens. The main character, George, seems pretty clueless and passive throughout, like a passenger on a bum road trip.

A collection of unfortunate events, both in the present story and the past one, both kind of flat and emotionless, a laundry list of events and people. Even the central mystery seems unimportant.

George and Irene seem somehow clueless about what might happen to them in their situation, as if they'd never seen a gangster or detective show in their lives. It's frustrating.

After the grand climax, it appears we're going for some closure in the plots, and then the book just suddenly ends. Ugh.

Profile Image for Liz.
411 reviews42 followers
April 24, 2018
I really adore Peter Swanson. Unfortunately for me when I tend to love an author I dig up all their previous novels and devour them. This can prove to be a let down. Authors grow and develop their style through years and years of writing. I need to remind myself just because they wrote something absolutely thrilling and could-not-put-down-for-the-life-of-me...doesn't mean their earlier works will do the same. I found this out with The Girl With a Clock For a Heart. It was kind of a let down for me..because I so love Peter Swanson's other novels. It was good. But that's about as far as I will go. I enjoyed his back and forth through past and present but unfortunately I never connected with the characters in either their past nor present lives. It did keep me reading till the end, but let's just say I am so glad I didn't start with this novel of Swanson's or I may not have gone on to read his more brilliantly thrilling work! **3-unenthusiastic stars**
Profile Image for Carla Palmeiro.
252 reviews25 followers
June 15, 2015
Another book suggestion that came to my attention, highly recommended, that I decided to read mainly because of the strange and now after finishing, stupid title. By the way, what’s up with all the book titles starting by “The Girl…”? Marketing ploy or lack of imagination? Also, still talking about book titles, what’s up with the name Alice, I keep seeing books with this name on the title everywhere.

All rants aside, I must confess that I did not like this at all. I found the plot weak, the characters completely uninteresting and flat, and even the writing somewhat sloppy and unoriginal, lacking some distinguishing quality to it. And that ending, after all Audrey/Liana did to him, almost getting him killed several times, framed, used and so on, he leaves everything and goes after her?? That’s why I disliked this George guy so much, makes me want to say, grow a pair of balls will you!!

But because I’m a reader full of contradictions, my next read will be the author’s newest title “The Kind Worth Killing”. Maybe this one will impress me more, I sincerely hope so.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
December 24, 2019
fulfilling my 2019 goal to read (at least) one book each month that has been digitally moldering, unread, on my NOOK for years and years and years.

this brings my 2019 NOOK project 'round full-circle, as i started it off in january with The Kind Worth Killing, a different book by this guy...
Profile Image for Faith.
1,843 reviews516 followers
April 16, 2021
George is reunited with a woman from his college days. Everything about her reeks of trouble yet he can't seem to stay away or say no to her and the reader is pulled in right along with him. Like in the film noir movies Body Heat and Double Indemnity, the protagonist has a huge blind spot that makes him act in an incredibly stupid manner much of the time yet I still liked him. Terrific book.
Profile Image for Jan.
424 reviews252 followers
December 19, 2017
Oh what a tangled web we weave...
Not my favorite Swanson novel, but still very entertaining.

Full review to come
Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,848 reviews231 followers
June 10, 2017
I'm new to Peter Swanson's books and have read them in backwards order this year starting with his latest, Her Every Fear, then The Kind Worth Killing and finally this one, his first. I've enjoyed all three--obviously I've been hooked by his suspenseful style or I wouldn't have bothered to read them all, right?

Something about the eponymous girl, Liana Decter, has haunted George Foss for twenty years. He met her on his first day of college and soon they were inseparable. But after Christmas break, she's gone and his heart is broken. Even after he learns the nasty truth about her, he unconsciously watches for her everywhere, thinks he sees her in crowds, on the street, on the beach.

So when, twenty years later, he sees her sitting on a stool in his favorite Boston bar, looking as beautiful and alluring as ever, he can hardly believe his eyes. He leaves the bar with his date but returns alone and finally gets up the nerve to approach her. She is not there by accident; she has a favor to ask of him. Will he meet her the next day to talk about it? And slowly but surely he finds himself drawn into her web of deceit and lies.

A great page turner! I enjoyed the way the author unfolded the back story slowly while the suspense built in the present. Poor George! I am reminded of the Robin Williams quip: “The problem is, God gave man a brain and a penis and only enough blood to run one at a time.”
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews668 followers
October 19, 2014
Poor George Foss. He is fast approaching 40 and his life has not turned out to be as he wishes. Indeed, for all practical purposes his world has lost its color and appeal. Feeling life has passed him by, he works a boring job and the only family he goes home to at night is Nora, his cat. George has an on-again-off-again relationship with Irene, a perfectly nice waitress in a bar close by. One evening in the bar, he espies who he thinks is his old college sweetheart, the proverbial one-who-got-away. Just like that, sweet Irene fades into the background 'in all her average glory'.

Profile Image for Julie Parks.
230 reviews63 followers
November 17, 2017

Twisty, dangerous, full of intrigue and very well told. "The Girl with a clock for a Heart" is like a pitch black coffee that's bitter but enriching, strong and captivating - a jolt that drives you through the most stressful day on skinny, scurry, scary fast spider legs while flipping page after page.

Peter Swanson definitely knows how to wrap a reader's attention into never-ending plot development. Even at the very end, when you're on your last page and supposedly almost done with the story...a whole new chapter of imagination begins. SHE is the kind of woman every man wishes to meet, and every woman wishes her man had met before meeting her.
Profile Image for Anna K. Amendolare.
589 reviews6 followers
July 10, 2014
Terrible. From the get-go, the premise is hard to suspend disbelief. You mean to tell me that even after he was apprised of her sketchy character, hstill waited around, for 20 years, making no life for himself, hoping she'd come back into his life, maybe, someday? Really? Really? Even if you swallow that, the writing is annoying. Alternating chapters of what's going on currently with flashback, as the history is revealed, every chapter ending in a cliffhanger. Oh, and, not wrapped up. Explained, at the end, but either part 2 is left to your imagination, or, (ugh) he feels a compelling desire to write a sequel. The characters were two-dimensional, unlike able, and unbelievable. Not good, at all.
Profile Image for Colleen Fauchelle.
494 reviews59 followers
March 8, 2017
George (main character) What were you thinking .Ok so you meet this girl in your first term at university , you get on and have fun together and that is great. Then after holidays you come back to Uni and find out something had happened to her and you go and find your own answeres,(sure why not, you liked her, I understand that) which brings you a whole heap of trouble (You do remember that dont you.) You come back to Uni and get on with your life.
What the fish were you thinking!!! To let this woman, who caused you so much stress the first time round, back into your life. She gives you the runabout again and gets you into all sorts of trouble again. (you crazy George, you should have kept on enjoying your quiet life)
Profile Image for Metodi Markov.
1,303 reviews301 followers
May 9, 2023
Пътуването със самолет на средни дистанции си е неприятно изживяване, особено ако трябва да минеш 10 000 км за 3 дена...

Тук обаче отново на помощ ми се притече Питър Суонсън, с чудесния си криминален роман "Момичето, с часовник вместо сърце". Абсолютно не забелязах, как се изтърколиха два часа и половина в единия самолет.

Майсторска интрига и естествено една фатална жена, това е специалитетът на автора, който няма как да остави равнодушни читателите!

P.S. Не е лошо преводачът да започне да прави разлика между миди и мидени черупки. ;)
Profile Image for Monnie.
1,400 reviews764 followers
August 20, 2015
It's not an issue on my own book review blog, but other websites at which I post reviews don't have an option of fractional ratings, so for them I rounded off my real rating of 3.5 stars to 4 instead of going the other direction - although to be honest, the latter crossed my mind. What didn't I like? For one thing, everything that happened seemed more than a little too contrived. For another, I can't imagine a real-life grown man being so gullible - time after time after time - no matter how head-over-heels in lust he thinks he is.

Apparently, the book has been optioned for a motion picture, though - and when I envision that, I'm pretty sure it would make a decent one. Looking back, most of the scenes would, I think, translate well to the silver screen (I'll vote for Ben Affleck as love-struck "boyfriend" George Foss.

I put "boyfriend" in quotes, BTW, because the word barely qualifies. Back in college in Boston, George had a brief fling with fellow student named Audrey - a fling he clearly took far more seriously than she. Now, 20 years after she vanished from his life, he sees a woman who looks like her and flips out all over again. Surprise: Turns out it's really her, although she now goes by the name of Jane. The bigger problem is that she's wanted by the police as the prime suspect in a long-ago murder (yes, George has known that fact for years but - another surprise - he shoves it aside in the hope that he can rekindle the college relationship that flamed out when she disappeared).

From there, for George, at least, it's downhill all the way. Not just once, but several times, Jane (who George now knows really is a woman named Liana from Florida) begs him to help get her out of a bind - and he agrees despite knowing that the long-ago murder he's now convinced she really did commit may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The chapters shift from present to that brief college fling, and I found myself almost looking forward to the earlier periods. On reflection, I decided that anticipation was in part because I could understand the college-student hormones that were in play back then and wasn't constantly mumbling, as I did in the present, "For God's sake, George, grow a set!" each time Audrey/Jane/Liana made her latest demand and he quickly acquiesced.The ending, which in a very real sense isn't an ending at all (another bit of a sore point), was totally predictable.

Still, as I said at the beginning, the book is very well written and it all flows smoothly (well, except perhaps for those college-year chapters that are in all italics and thus more of a chore to deal with on the Kindle). It's definitely worth reading - keep in mind it's relatively short as books go - and it's for sure I'll be among the first to go see the movie if and when it happens.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,209 reviews
June 28, 2018
An enjoyable thriller / mystery. I have liked The Kind Worth Killing by this author and this is a similar style.

(Sorry for the rubbish review - this is not a reflection of the book but of my own tiredness...It's always best to go into thrillers blind I reckon!)
Profile Image for Susan.
334 reviews24 followers
November 27, 2016
Like "The Kind Worth Killing", I could not put this first novel of Peter Swanson's down once I picked it up. A college girlfriend turns up 20 years later in the narrator's corner bar and basically you're off and running. Terrific psychological thriller with a sociopath on one hand and a guy who never got over her on the other.

My only quibble with this story is the ending. Seemed a little tacked on or forced...like Swanson tried a couple of different endings and finally said, "Ok, there." Like he wasn't sure HOW the story should end. Minor issue. The rest was so good. His books have this very noir feeling...He writes in an interesting tense I think. Looking forward to his next novel for sure.
Profile Image for Shannon.
279 reviews253 followers
July 2, 2017

A good heist-based thriller with lots of twists along the way. I've recently become a fan of conman fiction, because I don't think I have the brain power equipped to actually develop and carry out cons myself haha. I am always surprised by them. I do understand the monologuing at the very end, but it was unfortunate how everything had to be spelled out to the reader. This is the second Peter Swanson book I have read, and my question so far for him is: What woman hurt you??
Profile Image for Sue.
2,690 reviews170 followers
September 8, 2014
What a fab read! I'm a sucker for a good psychological thriller, throw in some romance and past history and you have this fabulous read.

Its been over 20 years since George saw the only girl who broke his heart. As time went on, he realised he never really knew her, just who was she this girl he had fallen head over heels in love with.

The lead up at the beginning of the book was enthralling, it kept me turning pages. If I say much about this book I would be giving a lot of it away, so I don't want to give spoilers as there are enough in some other reviews.

Just to say, I sat in the garden and read this from cover to cover this morning.

Its a bit dark in places, it has its unique form of funny moments in too I thought, thoroughly thought out and well written book.

Thank you to Faber and Faber Ltd via Net Galley for allowing me a copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Judith.
451 reviews67 followers
September 9, 2016
Having thoroughly enjoyed Swanson's second novel “The Kind Worth Killing” I was eager to read this, his first. What a load of unbelievable mish-mash! Even the title is contrived.

Boy meets girl, boy immediately smitten, apparently so is girl. Boy learns of girl's suicide, is devastated so decides to go to her home town for the funeral, only to discover the dead girl isn't his girl. Twenty years later he thinks he sees her in a bar in Boston, and, even though he now knows about her shady past, he is still smitten– yes, really, - and becomes involved with her again. Apparently he has lived the past twenty years in a sort of non-life – done nothing, gone nowhere, just a big blah. Boy is George (Boy George?), girl is known by various names depending on where and when she is.

Told in alternating chapters of present day and past history, this is a convoluted, over-detailed, meandering tale of Murder, Mishap and Mayhem. All that's missing are the Keystone Cops ��� oh wait a minute – yes, there they are, unable to solve the mystery without our hero, George's help. There is far too much detail, so much so that it becomes tedious, and is not particularly well written – so downright clunky in some places I had to read some sentences two or three times before they made sense.

The final chapter could be straight from a Perry Mason mystery, and without giving away any spoilers suffice to say everything is explained, and our hero goes off into the sunset in the most abrupt end I've ever come across. Please don't tell me there's going to a Part Two; I for one, will not be reading it.

If you haven't read either of Swanson's novels, I urge you to read his second one and give this a miss.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,967 reviews1,499 followers
August 6, 2019
This is an intriguing story about Liana Decter/Audrey/Jane and George Foss. Who is Liana? What is she up to? George meets ‘Audrey’ at college and they fall in love. Well, he did. Did she? Who knows. Without revealing the story after one term they don’t see each other for a long time when she reappears into George’s life and asks for his help which he duly gives. What follows is like an episode of Hustle and instead of the handsome Adrian Lester you have Liana etc and her sidekick ‘Donnie Jenks’. Although the storyline stretches credulity, it is none the less very enjoyable and well written with a good ending that leaves you hanging and wondering!
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