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  • TITLE: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
  • AUTHOR: Peter Swanson
  • GENRE: Crime Thriller




In 1935, it was

In 1981, it was

in 2014, it is


Well, they are fair comparisons where subject elements are concerned. The real gem cache, however, lies inbetween the two, earlier works. I'm noting the paperback pulp explosion of the 40s-50s-60s, with such authors as Gil Brewer, Bill S. Ballinger, John McPartland. And, of course, Cornell Woolrich. There are literary hundreds of femme fatale captivation books, most of them out of print, natch.

The most unique strategy of The Girl With A Clock For A Heart is the dual time structure. The novel's timeline has our victim-hero George Foss in a small, private collage in New England. He fallsalong with his pantsfor a girl named Audrey Beck. At Christmas break, she goes home to Florida and commits suicide. Grieving and looking for closure, George forces his Saab southward. At Audrey's home, the pictures on the mantel look nothing like the girl George pines for. He decides to stick around and see what shakes out.

Twenty years later, George Foss is an untethered 40-something in a nowhere job. He comes home to a shitty apartment in Boston where his only company is Nora, a furious, furniture-scratching cat. When you search "loser" in Google, his photo appears. He's barely involved in a tepid romance with Irene, a smoky-brained waitress who, apparently, has nothing else going. One night while sitting in his local bar XXX with her, he gets his memory squeaked when he thinks he sees his old girlfriend from college. Taking the bait, he sets out to meet up with her again.

Now this is Act One. The present-George knows how the past-George storyline ends, but we don't. If we did, it would be Suspended Belief Bigtime, because as you mull over what happens in present time while absorbing the peeled-back reveals of his past antics with Liana Decterwho called herself Audrey back thennot many sane people would continue to go forward. Even back then there was serious death, beatings, major intrigue and masses of lying. Going forward in present time, George is looking at more murder, millions in stolen diamonds, more beatings, becoming a police suspect, and a seriously unreliable siren of a woman.

George has as much of a chance with Liana as Wil E. gets with the Roadrunner.

I mean, really? This guy's barely ambulatory on a conveyor belt of a life. I know the victim hero is usually an unwitting sap, but a crybaby to boot? It takes a talented author to make a below-average Joe rise on credible legs to confront such intricate duplicity. Another factor is how well the femme is drawn, because this style of bauble must be overwhelming to all rationality and so desirable the mind gloriously goes south and bloats and stays that way. She's gotta be Kitty Collins from 1946's The Killers(1).

Maybe out of incredulity, but I followed the plot breadcrumbs to the end. And, I gotta tell yaI can't help myselfit ends, well, open this link if I've persuaded you not to read the book. Otherwise, accept all the borrowings and paste-ups from the historic canon of Film and Roman Noirlook at them as homagesand sidesaddle this twister for pure indulgence.



1) Played by Ava Gardner in her 1st major role. If I get a 2nd go'round, let me come back as Mickey Rooney, who married Ava when she was 19.

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