Title: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
Author: Peter Swanson
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: 4 out of 5
George Foss is comfortable in his steady job at a failing magazine and his on-again, off-again romance. His life is predictable and boring, and he likes it that way. But when George sees the love of his life, Liana, sitting in a Boston bar, he knows that things are about to change. Liana was George’s college girlfriend, and the intensity of their relationship was only matched by its abrupt end. But now, Liana needs George’s help, and while he suspects she’s not being completely forthcoming, he allows himself to be dragged into her world, with lasting repercussions for George.
An absolutely unconventional thriller, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart introduces an unreliable narrator in George, and readers must deduce what is fiction and what is fact in this slow-paced read.
The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is an interesting sort of thriller. The main character, George, is not your typical thriller hero. Everything about George screams plain, boring, and simple—not really the person you want to be reading about, especially since he doesn’t change much over the course of the novel. He makes some really bad decisions, especially in trusting Liana, and though he knows she’s probably taking advantage of him, he doesn’t care. He’s been intrigued by her ever since the day he met her. Readers will likely find this frustrating, as even George knows he should come clean to the police and protect himself, and yet he doesn’t.
This hesitancy actually introduces the question of an unreliable narrator into the mix; the author, Peter Swanson, gives the reader as little information as possible. The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is told from George’s point of view; there’s no reason he shouldn’t be absolutely candid with the reader. But yet, he’s not. So that leads to the reader questioning his trustworthiness: Is George actually as innocent as he claims, in love with Liana and therefore willing to do anything for her, no matter the cost? Or is he a willing participant in Liana’s schemes, aware of exactly what he is doing and why?
The plot of The Girl with a Clock for a Heart moves slowly, as George muddles his way through one scheme after another. This novel is very much a “telling, rather than showing” as George narrates his actions. In the end, the overarching story is revealed as George discusses what he thinks actually happened, at which point the reader must ponder George’s true role in the entire series of events. This style will not work for everyone; that’s why it’s such an unconventional mystery novel. Most of these types of novels thrive on showing, on action. This isn’t necessarily a quiet book, but it’s very different. It’s worth the read, but it’s not going to be what you expect.
If you enjoy exploring new types of novels, then give The Girl with a Clock for a Heart a try. It’s enjoyable, if slow, and the main character is absolutely befuddling. He makes the worst decisions…but is that the plan? Is he playing a role? This layering works well for the novel and gives it a depth it wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s unconventional, but if you enjoy that, then it is worth the read.