In Peter Swanson's novella-length piece, A Girl with a Clock for a Heart, George Foss embarks on a search for answers. This is a pretty standard device, but the protagonist--and the plot that follows--are anything but a stock mystery. Foss, a student at a Connecticut college, takes a bus trip from New England headed for Florida, where his girlfriend, Audrey Beck, apparently committed suicide only days earlier. He goes with the intention of talking to her parents and friends, and finding out why this seemingly normal college student decided to take her own life over Christmas break.
He quickly discovers that all is not as it seems with Miss Beck and gets mixed up with forces no teenager is prepared to deal with. Swanson has a series of clever plot twists in store, along with crackling dialogue and entertaining side characters. He clearly knows this remote corner of Central Florida--the setting is finely detailed and integrated into the storyline.
But what really stands out is George. He is a complex, likeable character with a strong voice, who feels forced to navigate extremely uncomfortable circumstances. And the way he changes is measured--I didn't even notice it until the last line--yet central to the emotional impact of the piece. It's one of several outstanding stories in the summer 2010 issue of Mysterical-E.