Peter Swanson - The Girl with a Clock for a Heart (3 stars)

A cinematic American noir that's often visceral and compelling, but feels like a lead-up to a sequel

Peter Swanson - The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

(Faber & Faber Crime)

Its title may feel like an opportunistic echo of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, but Peter Swanson's debut novel is much more American noir than Scandi thriller. There are flecks of LA Confidential in its sensuousness, and shades of Vertigo in its mystery – indeed, the whole novel feels cinematic and it's already been acquired for a film adaptation.

On a hot summer's night in Boston, George walks into a bar and sees Liana – a college girlfriend with a murky past – for the first time in 20 years. Still deeply in love with her, George agrees to help Liana with a scheme that seems innocent but eventually threatens his life and makes him a murder suspect.

Swanson alternates chapters between the present and the past, and it's the latter – which tell how George and Liana met – that anchor the story. These flashbacks are visceral and compelling, and the present-day scenes seem like filler by comparison. Ultimately, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart feels like one big lead-up to a sequel – though there's enough intrigue here to leave you with an appetite to read it.

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