Featured: What Lies Beneath Stillwater by Susan Clayton-Goldner
A brilliantly written and suspenseful mystery that Tugs on the heart, brings tears and confirmation of the good that is still in our world.
When an infant’s skull is revealed during a groundbreaking for the new homeless shelter behind Harrison Mortuary, Detective Winston Radhauser immediately opens an investigation.
While cordoning the scene, Radhauser spots a giant of a man standing at the back of the gathering crowd. He’s crying. The two of them lock gazes for an instant before the big man scurries away.
Radhauser turns to Sister Anne Monique, a long-time resident of Ashland who knows the history of the mortuary better than anyone. When she’s told about the discovery, she seems almost frightened.
She tells Radhauser The Stillwater Home for Unwed Mothers preceded the mortuary and housed pregnant women, most of them teens. Dr. Stillwater sold the property in 1973. When asked about the man at the groundbreaking, the sister says Roosevelt Levingston had been the home’s caretaker.
Medical Examiner Steven Heron and his forensic team excavate the site. The remains of more than twenty infants are discovered. Forensic anthropologists estimate the bones are thirty to fifty years old. Cause of death is unknown.
What went on at the Stillwater?
What caused the death of so many newborns?
Meet Susan Clayton-Goldner:
Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She has been writing poems and short stories since she could hold a pencil and was so in love with writing that she was a creative writing major in college.
Prior to an early retirement which enabled her to write full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. It was there she met her husband, Andreas, one of the deans in the University of Arizona’s Medical School.
About five years after their marriage, they left Tucson to pursue their dreams in 1991–purchasing a 35-acres horse ranch in the Williams Valley in Oregon. They spent a decade there. Andy rode, trained and bred Arabian horses and coached a high school equestrian team, while Susan got serious about her writing career.
Through the writing process, Susan has discovered she must be obsessed with the reinvention of self, of finding a way back to something lost, and the process of forgiveness and redemption. These are the recurrent themes in her work.
Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. A collection of her poems, A Question of Mortality was released in 2014. Her novel, A Bend in the Willow was released in 2017 and is a Readers’ Choice Best Books of 2017 winner.
She has just finished a her 12th book in the award-winning Winston Radhauser mystery series and is working on No. 13. She has also completed a stand-alone thriller, called Tormented, which won the Rone Award for best thriller, and a novel based on her journey to love and forgiveness with her alcoholic and abusive father entitled Missing Pieces.
After spending 3 years in Nashville, Susan and Andy enjoyed a quiet life in Grants Pass, Oregon, with her growing list of fictional characters, and more books than one person could count. Andy died from a massive brain bleed on March 10, 2021.
For months afterwards, Susan couldn’t write about anything except grief. She found the grief road to be rocky with many pot holes, but she is now writing again.
And has found happiness with a man she was in love with 37 years ago, two years before she met Andy. She now shares her time between Tucson and Grants Pass. Somehow she knows the writing will be what brings her back to life.
When she isn’t writing, Susan enjoys making quilts and stained-glass windows. She says it is a lot like writing–telling stories with fabric and glass.
Review by Cynthia Cooks:
Susan Clayton-Goldner has succeeded in telling, yet another, gripping mystery starring my favorite Ashland, Oregon cowboy detective, Winston Radhauser.
In What Lies Beneath Stillwater the scull of an infant is discovered during a ground breaking ceremony for a new homeless shelter. 20 tiny skeletons are eventually uncovered. The bones are 30 to 50 years old, which makes the case nearly unsolvable.
Radhauser soon learns the nearby Harrison Mortuary, once served as a the Stillwater Home for Unwed Mothers in the 1950s. Something very sinister had gone on at the location and Radhauser is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths and the whacked-out reasoning for such heinous and unthinkable crimes. With his overly eager partner, McBride and his invaluable administrative assistant and part-time dispatcher, Hazel, he resolves to unravel the crime, no matter how cold the case.
The author weaves a web of deceit and then winds up every small detail for the reader. She closes “What Lies Beneath Stillwater” with the most shocking and unexpected ending of all the Radhauser books in the series, an ending that is nearly impossible for the committed mystery reader to predict.
Goldner’s writing is very clear and organized. I appreciate the way she sprinkles the tale with glimpses of the beautiful Oregon scenery. Additionally, the author is able to blend current, newsworthy issues into her books.
She does this in “Stillwater” where unwed mothers are dealing with unexpected pregnancies when they’re very young, alone, scared and vulnerable. She folds current issues into the tale and then lets the reader draw their own conclusion. In my mind it’s a remarkable talent. In “Stillwater” Golder coveys a great deal of compassion, which make the tale totally relatable to the reader.
What I like most about Goldner’s writing, and this No. 12 Radhauser book, is that she writes from the heart, and leaves the reader with something to think about long after they turn the last page.
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