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In "When Time Is A River," teenager Brandy wants to be an actress more than anything. But her dream may have been dashed before it was even formed: she has a noticeable scar on her cheek from a childhood accident. Now she's going through plastic surgeries and trying not to feel resentment towards her pretty young stepmother and her perfectly beautiful little sister, Emily. When Emily is kidnapped while Brandy is babysitting her, Brandy finds herself digging into the past to try to rescue her before it's too late, while her family threatens to crack up around her.
"When Time Is A River" is a child-snatching suspense story, and it works very well on that level, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat as everyone races to find Emily, with surprise plot twists and a couple of genuinely nail-biting moments.
At the same time, it's more than just a simple suspense novel. The real story is about Brandy, as she is in the process of transitioning from a girl to a young woman, and her struggle to get past her physical and mental scars, her guilt over what has happened to Emily, and to make other people take her seriously. The question of what will happen to Brandy and her family is just as tense as what will happen to Emily, and the two stories are intertwined without making the connection overly heavy-handed. "When Time Is A River" is a detective novel, but it's also an examination of the pressures that can hold families together or crack them apart, written in a simple, affecting prose style that allows the characters, especially the teenage Brandy, to shine through.
My thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
Review of Susan Clayton Goldner’s WHEN TIME IS A RIVER A five star study of family relationships fought out against a desperate timeline
By Helen M. Hogan
Ms. Goldner juggles two plots with expert skill as they commingle. The obvious plot for Detective Radhouser is the disappearance of two-year-old Emily Michelson from the restroom at Lithia Park. And of course that is the immediate problem for eighteen year old Brandy Michelson who had taken her baby sister into the restroom in the stroller. Someone had stalked little Emily enough to know what temptation to use to gain her acceptance and whisk the child out of the stroller while Brandy was in the stall. But always underlying Brandy’s struggles is the underlying plot of her relationship with her father who refuses to tell her details about her mother and has recently married one of his students, Christine, Emily’s mother, and only four years older than Brandy. In the course of searching for the baby sister she feels so guilty over losing Brandy also uncovers facts about her mother and the childhood accident with an escalator that left Brady’s face scarred, a problem for the aspiring actress. Goldner uses the girl’s acting skills to help her uncover facts. Brandy has catered to the little girl’s love of Pooh Bear and Tigger for the child’s whole life. She interviews a very observant if slightly alarmist old lady and empathizes with her loneliness. She gets the woman to trust her and confide meaningful facts about a person in a bear costume loading an child in a stroller into a dark Volvo. It takes a while for Radhouser to accept these clues because of the old lady’s history of reporting inconsequential events. The second plot moves in as Brandy discovers her parents’ wedding album and sees her mother’s picture for the first time. Radhouser relates personally to the crime because of his second marriage and his young child nearly Emily’s age.. He grudgingly accepts Brandy’s help. The climax involves violence and danger for Brandy and Emily. Clayton Goldner uses sensual details to keep the reader feeling every experience. As Emily drives over the wooden bridge on a country road the boards rattle under the wheels and she feels a shiver of danger Her sometimes metaphoric language also enhances the prose, “new softness toward her step-mother as if they were survivors in the same life raft.” In the process, Professor Michelson realizes his deception has hurt his daughter rather than protecting her. The family unit holds despite the rivalry of Brandy and Christine and the anxiety of all. The story reinforces the value of family and questions the value of absolute truth when love can strive to protect with dubious means. I did receive a free book in exchange for this review, but lost it before I could finish the review and spent an hour on the phone with a wonderful tech from I’ll never guess where getting it back in my library..
The book was well written but I disliked the entire family. At first I felt sorry for Brandy because regardless of her own plans she always got pushed into babysitting for her very spoiled little half sister, Emily. She got unfairly blamed for the kidnapping, when in reality she did the best she could to insure Emily was safe in what was an awkward situation for herself when she needed to use the rest room for a personal emergency. However Brandy blatantly ignored all warnings to leave the detecting to the police. Her help was invaluable in providing background information to the Police but she ignored all warnings and continually overstepped her boundaries. I read the first book in the series and thought it was outstanding. This would have been better if the entire family hadn't been so unlikable. It was still well written, characters well developed, good editing, plenty of suspense with an unexpected but satisfying ending, but I felt cheated by the totally dysfunctional family. I wanted to like someone besides Detective Radhauser and his family and fellow officers. I guess for me it was just a disappointment reading it on the heels of the first book.in the series which was fantastic.
This book was hard to put down once I started reading it. Difficult to believe such a " normal" family on the outside could have so many dark secrets. The author describes the characters very realistic and the settings. I found myself absolutely terrified for how it must be for all concerned when a child is kidnapped. Mental illness is very prevalent everywhere in the world. Detective Radhauser shows much empathy to the entire situation making you feel he always goes above & beyond for his cases. Brandy is a true heroine. You know that whatever career path she persues after high school she will excell at (she would make a great detective!) I can't wait to read more books by Susan Clayton-Goldner!
Once again, I was not able to put the book down! The characters came to life for me. I felt the emotions of each one of them...Brandy, the guilt, anxiety, her depression; and, Christine, guilt, anxiety, anger. Wind Radhauser has come out of his depression, but worked feverishly to help the family find their precious daughter, Emily, quickly before they suffered the loss he did with his son. Very good read and highly recommend it!
When Time Is A River is the second Detective Radhauser novel by Susan Clayton-Goldner that I have read. It's a different kind of murder mystery--with a detective who has a lot of heart. You'll love Brandy Michaelson, the 18-year-old sister of the kidnapping victim. She feels responsible for losing Emily and won't give up until she finds out who took her little sister and why. Brandy is tenacious, often a pain in the neck to Detective Radhauser, but relentless in her search for Emily. You may need a couple Kleenex before you finish, but it's a journey you'll be glad you took.
Brandy's father is a professor at a local college. He gets involved with Christine and she gets pregnant. Brandy ends up babysitting her step sister Emily a lot of her time. Brandy takes her to a park. Brandy goes to the restroom and lets Emily in her stroller outside her stall. When Brandy comes out, Emily is gone. A lot of emotion with blame going around. Detective Radhauser is investigating the missing child. Brady feels guilty and wants to help find her step sister. Secrets are revealed to help find Emily.
When Time is a River is book 2 of the Winston Radhauser mystery series. Emily, a 2 1/2 year old, is kidnapped in a city park. Brandy, her half-sister, is devastated as Emily was in her charge at the time. Brandy gets deeply involved in the investigation which uncovers a dark secret in her family. There are a lot of twists and turns and a surprise ending. Although it was a bit repetitive, I highly recommend this book.
I didn't think this was as good as Redemption Lake because of what I consider to be minor flaws. It a few places fairly early she casts doubt on whether the kidnapper is male, female or a couple and never explains eliminating one. The 18 year old half sister's involvement and interaction with the lead detective wasn't quite plausible. She kept finding that the detective was following up on her ideas and clues and still independently pursued the kidnapper placing herself and her kidnapped sister in danger.
As part of the 3-book Winston Radhauser series, this book seemed clearly to be in between the first and third. It gave a lot of information as to what was going on in Wind's life, and is important, but the first and third were my favorite. The other characters in those books became so alive, especially the main characters that detective Radhauser is following and looking into. I read the 3 book series in a few days and enjoyed the entire series very much.