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…
What a terrific way to kick off 2014, a new book and a new author. I couldn’t think of a better way than to sit back, glass of wine in one hand and The Girl with a Clock for a Heart in the other, all the while gorging on a mesmerising narrative, a spellbinding story and left over mince pies. The only negative with this book – it’s over in a nanosecond, gone in a dash. Talk about a quick read, this moves along quicker than a runaway train or Santa delivering presents to one and all on Christmas Eve. Off point slightly but with any luck you know where I’m coming from, I just couldn’t put it down!
Considering this is a debut title from an unknown author it’s remarkable to think that Peter Swanson has hit the veritable nail squarely on the head with his first attempt – one thing is for sure it’ll be hard to match this when he writes his second novel. The book grips you from the very first chapter and doesn’t let go until you close the book following its climactic dénouement, an ending that sets things up rather nicely for the future.
Written across two timelines, both of which eventually morph seamlessly together, we are introduced to a young and impressionable college student called George Foss. When he learns of his girlfriend’s suicide he embarks on a journey to visit her parents in Florida and pay his respects. He doesn’t know what’s in store and the journey doesn’t quite end the way he expects, it does however give us nuggets of information vital to the story. Twenty years later George is enjoying a drink at his local bar when he spots someone he believes is his college sweetheart, his dead college sweetheart. Shaken, he leaves the bar only to return later and confront the woman and so begins a journey he’s frankly unprepared for.
The great thing about George Foss for me is that he’s just a regular guy. Swanson doesn’t set out to make him anything he’s not, he doesn’t try to be clever, and George’s character develops naturally, certainly not forced in any way. He’s not a closeted Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone or Jack Reacher, he’s just an average Joe who finds himself caught up in a situation he doesn’t quite know how to get out of. His decision to help out a friend sets about a chain reaction that appears to be never ending, one decision leads to another and we follow George as he attempts to make sense of it all and stay alive.
Quite often when I read books that are character driven, monopolised by one protagonist making one bad decision after another, I find myself shouting at the book. Well silently shouting at the book, maybe even a head shake or two. Not in this case, I think Swanson nailed George’s traits and characterisation.
Authentic, believable, effortless and simply put – just right. Everything about this book screams quality and if there’s one book you should read in 2014 it’s this one. Get it now before time runs out. Highly recommended.
Also reviewed by Ravens Crime Reads
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 Feb 2014)
- ISBN-10: 0571301886
- ISBN-13: 978-0571301881
- Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.1 x 2.6 cm