Go to Homepage   L. C. Hayden: Who's Susan?

 

Top Publications softcover; ISBN: 0-9666366-1-9
We all watch those "women in jeopardy" flicks on the women's cable channel, don't we? It's a guilty pleasure, reserved for rainy Sunday afternoons when you curl up on the sofa with a cup of flavored coffee and some hazelnut biscuits. This is what I was hoping for when I started reading
Who's Susan? 

The plot revolves around Susan Haynes, who wakes up from a headache-induced nap one afternoon and finds herself in the middle of a nightmare. Her son's been kidnapped from his daycare center, but none of the workers at the daycare center seem to be alarmed. They all think she was the one who picked him up. 

As if that weren't bad enough, Susan can't remember anything about her life before the age of 18. Every time she tries to remember, blinding headaches close the doors of memory before she can see what lies beyond them. 

For lovers of "women in jeopardy" stories, the plot is good news. The bad news is Who's Susan? lacks focus and confuses the reader with sloppy copyediting. Incorrect verb tenses should not be the most memorable element of a book's first page. Elsewhere, the same pronoun is used twice in the same sentence to refer to two different people. I never knew which "he" was who.  

The clumsy handling of the characters also bothered me. Harry Bronson, the very nice detective who investigates little Timmy's disappearance, sounds like a hick one minute and a sage the next. Dr. Orr, Susan's psychiatrist, should have his license revoked for the way he speaks to his patient. I can't imagine anyone staying with a shrink who treated his patients like that. 

Susan's search for the giant piece of her life missing from her memory occupies much of the narrative. She's convinced that it has something to do with Timmy's kidnapping. But her attempts to remember aren't clearly delineated. Many times I couldn't tell whether I was reading a flashback or present day event. 

In addition, I didn't feel like I got to know the players in this drama well enough. I didn't empathize with anyone -- not even the heroine. I also felt broadsided by various outside events that interrupted the flow of the story. More foreshadowing might have helped. 

So why did I keep reading if the book confused me and I didn't care very much about the characters? The premise, although not new, is a grabber. I wanted to find out how the author was going to resolve the heroine's dilemma.  

Unfortunately, premise alone isn't enough to sustain a guilty pleasure. It's a pity, because with a little more work and good copyediting, Who's Susan? could have been a really fun, tightly wound read.  

Jenny Buehler

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