Book review: The Girl With a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

If your life was mired in mind-numbing but safe mediocrity, could you throw it all away and risk death in the process?

The Girl With a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson
The Girl With a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

This is the conundrum facing accountant George Foss in Peter Swanson’s blistering debut thriller which has already been optioned for its film rights and features a fiendish femme fatale who would give Hitchcock’s Marnie a run for her money.

Conjuring up all the romantic noir of Body Heat and Double Indemnity and with more red herrings than a trawlerman’s net, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart is the pulsating story of a man swept into a vortex of irresistible passion and murder when an old love mysteriously reappears.

Sexy, intriguing and dazzling in the sheer scope and complexity of its plotting, this is a tale of love, loss and compulsion which propels readers into a thrilling world of double dealing and Machiavellian scheming.

‘!t 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…’

When George first met Liana Decter, they were both 18-year-old college freshmen and it was more or less love at first sight. They were inseparable all through that first autumn term and parting at the beginning of the holidays was hard to bear.

Even harder to accept was the news that Liana had committed suicide over the Christmas break. George became determined to find out what had happened but, when he turned up at the Florida home of her parents, he made a discovery that nothing could have prepared him for.

Twenty years later he’s approaching 40, in a dead-end job and a dead-end 15-year relationship with girlfriend Irene and his world feels as though it has been slowly drained of all its colour.

His problem is that he’s still in love with Liana and he has spent the last two decades both dreaming of and dreading the idea of seeing her again.

And now she really is back… sitting at the bar of his local tavern in Boston and telling him she’s in serious trouble and he’s the only one who can help her.

Liana has assumed a new identity and she wants George to help her in an act that puts both him and those closest to him in terrible danger.

No-one knows better than George that the enigmatic Liana is trouble but he can’t say no and so he makes a choice that will plunge him into a terrifying maelstrom of lies, secrets, betrayal and murder from which there is no sure escape.

The Girl With a Clock for a Heart is a bold and ambitious debut written with all the skill and assurance of a master in the making. A crisp, clear narrative, an unfathomable line between good guys and bad guys and bucketloads of suspense ensure that the mystery continues to the very last page.

Don’t miss out on a tantalising treat…

(Faber, hardback, £12.99)