Review of ‘The Devil Drives a Jaguar’, by Suzanne Downes

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 21st October 2002, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Suzanne Downes
ISBN 1-898941-75-0 (2002)

Suzanne, who lives in Stockport, claims that writing can be a very therapeutic substitute for the sort of dastardly deed which might, or then again might not, lie behind this psychological thriller set around an old farmhouse in the Peak District. The Devil Drives a Jaguar is also a ghost story, though the author, not unreasonably, is at her best putting flesh on her living characters. There are hints that she is no stranger to local libraries and record offices, with a real feeling for the dusty pleasures of old documents and diaries, yet she brings her imagination into play gradually so that the reader does not guess too much too soon. Suzanne Downes injects a good dose of the macabre into her fiction, from the hangman's noose and gibbet chains to a living psychopath. By contrast the story does have a hero, though Mills & Boon it isn't.

The tale is never allowed to get sluggish. It expands at the sort of pace which is not so convoluted that you are forever turning back the pages, looking for that elusive sentence which seemed to mean nothing the first time round. Whether the characters are all they seem may not be so easy to fathom, and all the better for it. The author enjoys playing fast and loose with your certainties, even when it comes to the victim/heroine, who tells her story in the first person.

An interesting update about The Devil Drives a Jaguar comes from the book's publisher, Dick Richardson of Country Books, Little Longstone. Dick reveals that the late actor John Thaw was very interested in the book and his widow, Sheila Hancock, may continue fighting to obtain television rights for it. In the meantime, it's the perfect choice for some late night reading around Halloe'en.

Review by Julie Bunting

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