Review of ‘An Empty-Handed Traveller’, by Suzanne Downes

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

by Suzanne Downes
Published by Country Books/Ashridge Press
ISBN 978-1-901214-90-1 (2008)

This is the third title with a Peak District connection from Suzanne Downes, this time centred on the fictional, Buxton-inspired Hanbury. And might there be shades of Chatsworth in her fictitious country house library?

In an ever-thickening plot, a young aspiring writer makes a life-changing discovery in the local studies library, where she comes across records of a mystery that holds repercussions into the present day. Surprised to discover that she has psychic abilities which take her back in time, she is about to find herself competing for fame and fortune with a best-selling writer on her professional uppers, a rival desperate enough to pull rank via a mutual acquaintance with problems of her own.

The men in the lives of the two protagonists are both a help and a hindrance as the machinations of a troubled and troublesome character further muddy the waters.

Our living author allows her cast some neat dialogue that sounds pretty close to self-analysis - 'Any writer will tell you that occasionally the characters take over the plot and lead you down paths you never planned'. Or 'If she was that brilliant, she wouldn't now be struggling with falling sales and writer's block!' And then: 'Writers are nobodies if they are not being read ...'

Not something that needs to trouble Suzanne Downes, who in this latest thriller has reworked her fictional Regency Buxton detective, Underwood, known to have been a favourite of the late actor John Thaw.

Review by Julie Bunting

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