on 2 April 2014
I'm not surprised that the film rights for this novel have been sold. It has that feel about it; rather lightweight but with screen possibilities.
The premise is interesting. Boy falls in love with girl at college, is devastated when he finds she has committed suicide and even more devastated when he finds out the dead girl is not the one he loved. After twenty years he sees her in a pub, and of course cannot leave well alone.
George is an innocent - unkind to call him a complete fool, but Liana rapidly twists him round her finger and he performs for her, for most of the book thinking the best of her in spite of mounting evidence. What he gets up to often seems out of character and indeed his motives seem more plot than character driven.
The rather contrived ending leaves room for further flights of fancy by George. I really don't think I want to know about them.
This was a quick read, and entertaining enough given the mounting implausibilities. I think, given the germ of the story, that it could have been a lot better.
on 25 October 2015
You can’t help liking Boston journalist George Foss, the leading character and narrator of this story. His engagingly downbeat, self-deprecating take on life makes him an irresistible everyman, plunged into a mystery when a girl from his distant past suddenly materialises in his local bar. The writing is another strong plus point; it’s literate, observant, sometimes droll, always confident. There’s plenty to like about this book.
The intricate plot is intriguing, too. The girl, who turns out to have been George’s first and greatest love, asks for his help, but we soon learn that things are not necessarily what they seem. Flashbacks to his college days gradually reveal her strange background, while contemporary events threaten to sweep George into a vortex of intrigue, and he starts to feel he’s the fall guy in some obscure plot of hers.
So why do I give this book only three stars? Well, for all its merits, the story ends up seeming somewhat slight. The focus is on the mystery surrounding the girl’s intentions, and on the way George eventually works things out. It appears at first to be a book about thwarted love (infatuation, almost), but turns out to be first and foremost a detective puzzle.
This becomes all too clear in the course of the long ‘reveal’ section. During a conversation with a detective, George himself fills us in on his analysis of the many convoluted plot points that he has now unpicked. One can’t help being put in mind of some traditional sleuth, calling all the suspects together in the library to unmask the killer. It seems a rather cheap and easy ride to a resolution – and one in which, incidentally, George admits that many of the characters must have based their actions on hope rather than expectation. It just so happens that everything has played out as they intended.
Then there’s the rather strange conclusion, which you may well find unsatisfactory. I certainly did – to the extent that in some ways I was left wondering why I’d gone to all the trouble of reading the book. But then again, George is undeniably likeable. Maybe it was worth it just for that.
'The Girl With A Clock For A Heart' - sounds intriguing, right?
I thought so, and anticipated reading it with some enthusiasm. At first, as the story began to unfold, I thought I'd found another 'Gone Girl', or something as compelling. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The story never really gels for me, the 'flow' seems to be missing. It is an easy, enjoyable read, but I think it could have been so much more. All the components are there, and the plot line IS intriguing, but I wanted more.
I purchased this debut novel by Peter Swanson after being blown away by The Kind Worth Killing which made my top ten reads of 2015 and found myself jettisoned into the world of George Foss, searching a crime scene and feeling triumphant at the sight of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Now I like that book but was a tad confused why it had the starring role in the prologue.
All was to become clear though as chapter one commenced with George meeting his on-off girlfriend Irene in a local bar in Boston, during the evening he sees his college sweetheart Liana. It doesn’t take George long to cut the evening short with Irene and start a conversation with Liana where it becomes apparent really quickly that this is a girl who has caused him a few problems in the past, as well as herself it would seem since she is living under an assumed name.
The plot that follows is well-constructed, engaging and full of action as we learn more about both Liana and George through the split time-line which takes us back to their college days and the events that surrounded their short but intense relationship.
So the readers have been introduced to the protagonists and on the basis of a deep and sincere, albeit brief relationship what comes next will take your breath away – readers be warned, do not question too deeply and you can swing along and be entertained by this superbly diverting debut. There is a lot to enjoy; the pace is fast and furious and this definitely is one of those books which urge you to read ‘just one more chapter’, the writing is accessible with the odd moments of wry humour, particularly in George’s more reflective moments which leads onto the depth of emotion George displays which is very much that of a young man, out in the world for the first time and given his background it is obvious why he is presented in the book as ‘Mr Average.’ However I suspect most men lose that before they hit their late thirties and would be slightly more reluctant to do Liana any favours at all, but hey, like I said, this book is to be enjoyed, not questioned!
Despite the subject matter, I found this a great way to spend a few hours, I enjoyed what is essentially a romp with the broken and damaged where most of the characters have few, if any, redeeming features. There is also a notable absence of secondary characters apart from victims and villains quite probably because these would surely be shouting ‘don’t do it’ from the side-lines!
on 9 August 2016
I was very disappointed in this story, especially Mr. Swanson's writing style of alternating chapters of events 20 odd years ago and present day.
One review on here stated "there was no flow to the story". Is there ANY wonder with the aforementioned writing style? Any build up of suspense within a particular chapter is instantly negated by the following chapter that changes the years of events from present day to events of 20 odd years ago and vice versa! THAT is the reason for the story having NO flow, as another critic stated, and also for the lack of continuity and the lack of suspense.
How can Mr. Swanson, or ANY author for that matter, expect continuity to flow and suspense to be "page-turning" when they hop between present day and events of years ago with EVERY page?
There were many times I had to re-read previous chapters to keep up with understanding the story lines and by page 267 I just gave up
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 to read his second one and give this a miss.
A girl? With a clock for a heart? Its fantastic fairy-tale-esque title is pretty much the only thing this poorly-written debut thriller has going for it - and even then, the phrase is dropped into the book and then forgotten, as if the author thought of a good title then realised that his story didn't really fit it. George, our supremely boring and dim protagonist, has never forgotten Liana Dexter, his college girlfriend who faked her own death and disappeared. When Liana comes back into his life, he is drawn into her machinations against his better judgement. But who is Liana and what does she really want?
The Girl With A Clock For A Heart seems to be striving to be the next Gone Girl, but it's really not of that calibre. Firstly, it's not remotely well-written. The prose is plodding and weak, and the cliffhanger endings used in several chapters pretty cliched. The overall concept is also nothing new, and many of the situations that George gets himself into are fairly unbelievable. The climax of the novel, in particular, reads like a trashy Hollywood blockbuster. Liana is supposed to be alluring and addictive, but Peter Swanson fails to convey what's so unusual about her, and especially why George would risk his life for her after all these years.
So why two stars rather than one? The early scenes with George and Liana at college are rather more readable, as is his unravelling, as a teenager, of the initial mystery that surrounds her. I was unsurprised to read that this was the original seed for the novel, and that Swanson was persuaded to 'flash forwards' and tell a story about these two characters decades later - a decision that I don't think works. The first third of the novel was relatively enjoyable, before it all began to disintegrate. Nevertheless, I won't be reading anything else by Swanson, and I do think this is a waste of a brilliant title.
on 3 March 2016
I was disappointed with this. I read The Kind Worth Killing first, his second book, and really enjoyed it. A book full of reasonably sympathetic psychopaths, with the main one almost heroic. Very entertaining. This book tried the same thing. Well told but I found neither of the main protagonists sympathetic, especially the leading female psychopath who was not likeable at all - as she was supposed to be. But it was his first book and the second one was much, much better. I look forward to his third.
on 21 March 2015
To begin with I quite enjoyed this - George bumps into Liana in a bar 20 years after they'd had a 3 month fling at university, after which she'd disappeared. She has a favour to ask of him and as he starts to get embroiled in her latest shenanigans we are given flashbacks to the days of their affair at the start of their university lives.
All well and good. But as the story of the past and Liana's disappearance started to unfold I became less and less able to believe George's infatuation with her. He just came across as naive and stupid to be honest. And the ending was awful.
But 3 stars (just) as I did like at least half of it until I stopped believing in the characters.
on 26 April 2015
Amateurish writing, cardboard characters, implausible plot, ridiculous ending. I feel I`ve wasted 6 hours of my life.
Amazingly, I had read some very good reviews of this book. If you enjoy a good well written thriller then don`t waste your time with this one.