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The Girl with a Clock for a Heart: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 247 customer reviews

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Length: 309 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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"The Short Drop" by Matthew FitzSimmons
Meet the assassin The Washington Post calls "a doozy of a sociopath" in this debut thriller from Matthew FitzSimmons. Available on Kindle and in paperback.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Liana Dector, the title character in this debut thriller, is a master at reinventing herself, and, early on, her boyfriend, George Foss, becomes ensnared in her schemes. George and Liana—then known as Audrey Beck—became a couple in their freshman year at college in Connecticut, with their semester-long romance ending when Audrey presumably committed suicide at home in Florida during winter break. When George learns that Liana and the real Audrey have switched identities, and that Liana may have killed her cohort, he continually watches for her until, nearly 20 years later, he spots her at a bar in Boston. Liana, now known as Jane Byrne, asks for a favor, trusting that George will help her rather than turn her over to the authorities; George, both smitten and curious, is hooked. In alternate chapters, Swanson unreels the story of the teenage lovers and advances to the present-day quagmire into which George steps. Driven by the power of first love, this dangerous mix of sex and lies tumbles to an inevitable conclusion. Optioned for a feature film. --Michele Leber


“The book has pace to burn. It feels like a throwback to Ross MacDonald’s flawed but relentless work . . . glimmers with bright and original moments.” (USA Today)

“In The Girl with a Clock for a Heart a long-lost lover resurfaces, with chaos in her wake. A must read!” (Harper's Bazaar)

“[A] roller coaster thrill-fest of a ride, filled with deliciously wicked moments of mystery, murder, and mayhem, double-cross and deception. A cerebral noir thriller debut.” (New York Journal of Books)

“Swanson gives readers an adrenaline rush through all the hairpin turns.” (Publishers Weekly)

“The pace is fast . . . and the plot genuinely twisty . . . [It is] seemingly pre-measured for the movies . . . often to good effect; all in all, a quick, deft, promising first crime novel.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“The labyrinthine plot here has a grip of high-tensile steel.” (Financial Times (UK))

“What do you say when a woman who broke your heart years ago and is wanted for questioning in connection to a murder pops back into your life to ask a favor? If she’s as alluring as Liana Dector, you say, ‘Yes.’ And hope you survive . . . The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is a twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride.” (Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author)

“An edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that dares you to turn the next page . . . This novel burns faster and hotter than a lit fuse, and you’ll be feeling its heat long after the explosive ending.” (Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home)

“The parallel stories unwind relentlessly with audacious and spectacular twists . . . An intense mix of noir, pulp fiction, and fun . . . The most unsurprising aspect of this book? It’s already been optioned for a film.” (Boston Globe)

“Who are literature’s most lethal women? . . . Here’s a new contender: Liana Decter, who causes endless heartbreak and occasional death in Peter Swanson’s compulsively readable [The Girl with a Clock for a Heart] . . . should be a contender for crime fiction’s best first novel of 2014.” (Washington Post)

Product Details

  • File Size: 854 KB
  • Print Length: 309 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; Reprint edition (February 4, 2014)
  • Publication Date: February 4, 2014
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DB39ZZE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,995 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Peter Swanson has degrees in creative writing, education, and literature from Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College. His stories and poems have appeared in the Atlantic, Mysterical-E, Vocabula Review, and Yankee Magazine. He lives with his wife in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he is at work on his second novel.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Beth on September 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book has several mysteries, which are engaging, but it is not, as Dennis Lehane claims, a "thrill ride" or "sexy." Instead, it is irritating throughout.

Yes, the mysteries are "twisty," as the reader learns, through alternating present dilemmas and flashbacks, as George learns that his long-dead girlfriend is not dead after all. But why is she suddenly back in George's life? Poor George is confronted by that and all sorts of other unknowns.

But there are problems.

First problem: THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART has an unnecessary prologue. Why is that prologue? Nothing is being set up. It makes for no suspense. It does nothing. It is part of the story and belongs with the rest of it.

Second problem: THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART takes too long to get interesting.

Third problem: George, who is in his 30s now, is just as stupid as he was when he was 18 (as the reader sees in the flashbacks).

Fourth problem: the end. The story just stops. It makes the reader think she got a defective copy that is missing the last few pages.

I won this book through
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is a very formulaic story with an implausible plot and little character development. Even the ending was a disappointment.

George, the central character is the business manager of a literary magazine. He is in an “on-again- off again” 14 year relationship with an old colleague, Irene. George spends most of his days in a “haze of disinterest” It is not surprising that George is ripe for the pickings, when a femme-fatale from his college days turns up one evening at his local bar. George has not seen Liana for over 20 years, however, when she asks him for a favor, he is only too ready to come to her rescue.

The story unfolds in two time frames: freshman year at Mather College and present day Boston. Some of the surprise is lost as we learn early on that, Liana has a “clock for a heart”. George on the other hand has mush for brains, so they make a perfect combo. All could be forgiven, if this book possessed any of the sexiness of the movie it appears to model “Body Heat”. It is perplexing to understand Liana's appeal and George is the type of character who you could sell the Brooklyn Bridge. All in all a quick but uninspired read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ehhh - while on the surface, this is an interesting and fast-paced thriller, it ultimately falls a bit flat. The initial premise - a man reconnects with his college sweetheart after twenty years have passed - intrigues at first. The woman - Liana/Audrey/Jane - clearly has a curious and dangerous history and her current situation embroils George Foss, the milktoast narrator, into her affairs right away. But George’s status as the book’s hero never feels convincing. While he is perfect for the situation, he never really feels sympathetic. He is downright dull (despite some exciting circumstances) and the torch he carries for this woman from his past crosses the line into sheer idiocy. Even when he believes that he is about to die, he continues to flirt with this femme fatale!

Overall, the plot definitely twists into some unpredictable scenarios, but the George of the flashbacks to his freshman year of college shows no growth to the 38-year-old George of the current plot. Its his general pathetic nature that really spoils the book. Perhaps adding another perspective to this outlandish scheme would have made the book a bit more palatable. My disdain for him just prevents me from finding this to be a truly satisfying read. It’s average at best.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The idea of having a clueless protagonist is not new in the thriller genre. But normally, as the plot proceeds, the clueless hero wises up, providing a narrative arc and also a protagonist that the reader can identify with. However in this plodding, thrill-free thriller, the clueless hero remains clueless from beginning to end - and even when he knows that he is behaving like an idiot, continues to do so.

We meet George Foss, the rather colorless business manager for a failing magazine in Boston - and soon are made aware that the only interesting thing that ever happened to him was a brief, adolescent love affair the very first semester of his college life 20 years before. Through flashbacks, we get to know his alluring lover -- or at least the author tells us many times how alluring she is. And now, she has shown up again in George's pallid life, luring him to do inexplicable, illogical, dangerous and just plain stupid things. Was there ever a hero so willing to behave like a moron in exchange for one night of sex?

The book stands and falls on the character of Liana Decter, a femme fatale in the best traditions of noir. We've seen her before in many novels and movies - but rarely has she seemed so lifeless. She's supposed to be the kind of temptress that makes men lose their minds. In her hands, George is putty - but then, he's putty all the time as far as one can see.

This is a thriller that doesn't thrill and the writing matches the plotting and characters - strained, false, unnatural. There's never a sense of who these people are and what they're like. I knew this book wasn't going anywhere when in the opening pages I read about the "dusty floral smell of mothballs" and a body where "the skin had turned the color of not skin.
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