In THE TRIUMPH OF KATIE BYRNE, Barbara Taylor Bradford has taken
her writing to a new level. In this novel she incorporates suspense
into her usual, astute character studies, as she tells of a young
woman who is haunted by an unsolved crime.
When Katie Byrne is 17, all she wants is to be an actress. Her two
best friends, Carly and Denise, share her ambitions, and the three
of them can often be found after school in an old barn, practicing
scenes from Shakespeare or other classic plays. Encouraged by their
drama teachers and parents, they dream of the day that the three of
them will take Broadway by storm, each with her name in
However, all of their dreams are destroyed one afternoon. The three
girls are rehearsing, as usual, in the barn --- each is going to
perform a speech in the upcoming Christmas concert. When Katie
finishes rehearsing her speech, she realizes how late it is. She
apologizes to her friends for not helping to clean up the barn, but
they reassure her that her they want to stay a while longer and
continue to rehearse. As Katie leaves the barn, she senses that she
is being watched, but seeing nobody, she shrugs off the feeling.
She hurries home, not realizing until she arrives that she had left
her school backpack at the barn.
Katie's mother doesn't want her to go back to the barn alone in the
dark, so she waits for her brother Niall to get home from work.
When he drives her back, the barn lights are still on and the door
is open. Denise and Carly aren't there, but their coats and
backpacks still are lined up neatly against the wall. Fighting
panic, Katie and Niall begin searching for the girls, calling out
their names. They hear movement in the woods and go towards it,
stumbling over Denise's body, horrifically beaten and lifeless.
Soon after, they find Carly, also badly beaten but still breathing,
barely alive. The police arrive, Carly is taken to the hospital,
and an investigation begins. Unfortunately, no suspects turn up,
and Carly, the only witness, remains in a coma.
Ten years pass. Katie has studied acting at several fine drama
schools and is a struggling actress in New York. Finally, the
opportunity of a lifetime presents itself to her, and Katie is
about to star in a Broadway play about the Brontës. However,
she is still haunted by the attack on her friends --- the case is
never solved and never closed. Katie must come to terms with the
past if she is to succeed in the present and future.
Reviewed by Debbie Ann Weiner on January 23, 2011