Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review - The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is described as an “electrifying tale of romantic noir.” The book is the story of a man named George Foss and his interactions with a mysterious woman who seems to always be in the middle of some intense trouble. George first met Liana in college and had an intense relationship with her for one semester after which she completely disappeared from his life. Even now, two decades later, he still can’t get her out of his mind and is constantly watching for her and comparing other women to her. When she finally shows back up in his life and asks for his help, the logical part of him knows she is dangerous and warns him to run away. But George has built up a nostalgic fantasy in his mind and finds he cannot say no to Liana even with all of the alarms ringing in his face.

The book has three main narrative timelines. We have the story of when George and Liana meet in college and how their relationship progressed and eventually ended with her vanishing without a trace but with indication of her involvement in some crime. We have the present-day story of Liana walking back into George’s life with a random meeting at his local bar followed by a string of dangerous intrigue and adventure. And we have the intermediate story told in flashbacks and flat dialog telling the story of what each of them has been doing over the past twenty years.

I really enjoyed the narrative style of this book. The way the story is laid out sets for a pair of mysterious thrillers to be solved. First there’s the case of Liana’s disappearance twenty years ago and whatever strange crime she may or may not have been involved with back then. Second we have the thrilling adventures that Liana and George are working through in the present day. Because we have these two stories, the author is able to bounce us back and forth between them and keep them both pacing along nicely while keeping the answers just out of reach. The college mystery is less a suspenseful thriller than a methodical mystery to be solved. The “modern day” mystery is definitely a suspenseful thriller with strange and interesting characters and motives driving George deeper and deeper into danger.

As I read, I was often distracted/annoyed at the use of vulgarity…primarily the F-bomb. I know that I’m somewhat in the minority as a person who doesn’t swear and doesn’t approve of swearing. I fully acknowledge that some people swear profusely and I’ve been briefly around people who can’t seem to communicate without vulgarity. I also acknowledge that in some of the intense situations that George finds himself in, it is likely that a person like that would curse. I tried to overlook it and just skip by it, but even in fairly normal, low intensity conversations the F-bomb was dropped again and again and just felt extraneous and unnecessary as it didn’t (to me at least) make the characters or situations any more believable or intense in any way.

The story had its share of violence and murders and I was pleased that they were not overly graphic in the depiction. I also liked that even though this was presented as a thriller and our protagonist was in the center of the action much of the time, the author kept us distanced enough to pose a good mystery as to what was going on.

As the novel finally started to wrap down there was a very fast unraveling of clues and situations. Even that close to the end it was still difficult to pinpoint the exact answer to the problems being posed. Who was the mastermind? Who was the murderer? What was the motive? What was the plan? Cruising down the last 50 or so pages, the author keeps us guessing as we turn page after page and end up with more twists and turns to navigate. When we finally get to the end of the main story plot, George has an epiphany and presumes that there’s actually a different answer than supposed. He sets out in search of the “TRUE” answer to the problem…and the book abruptly ends. It’s unclear whether this is intended to be the first part of a series or if the author is just trying a semi-Hitchcockian ending that leaves the reader off balance and in a position to evaluate and reassess the story to try and determine the true conclusion. The quick wrap up and then the unwrapping of the tidy wrap-up left me a little dissatisfied but also intrigued and left me thinking about the ending for a bit after finishing the book.

I had a hard time fully believing George as a character. After all of the trouble that Liana put him through again and again, it was hard for me to believe that he kept jumping at her requests. Still, it’s crazy the things a man will do for a woman. Liana’s character was intriguing. I’m not a particular fan of the title of the book. It is used once in the book as a reference to Liana and while I agree she has seemingly no morales or no real emotion not driven by her own selfishness, I think I was expecting something different with the “clock for a heart” title. Maybe I’ve just had too much steampunk on the brain *grin*. Generally I think the “clock” metaphor works as she is definitely methodical and meticulous in her planning and she has certainly removed emotion from the equation.

Generally I enjoyed the story. It had nice pacing and I liked the way there were multiple mysterious story paths progressing and slowly revealing Liana’s character to us in different ways. I really didn’t care for the swearing and would have enjoyed the book a lot more without it. I thought the mystery was wrapped up nicely..maybe not wholly believable in every aspect but I’m sure it’s really hard to create a fully believable thriller. I am still a little torn on the ending but I liked the way it made me think and re-evaluate the situation. Overall I did enjoy this book and recommend it to an audience who is mature and not adverse to vulgarity and is looking for a fun and twisted thriller.

3 out of 5 stars

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1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

huh...never heard of this author...will see if they have a copy at the library...the name seems a play on the Larrson books, which would have been an initial turn off for me thinking it might be another rip off book, which has oft left me disappointed...