Thursday, 5 January 2017

Book Review: DISTRESS SIGNALS by Catherine Ryan Howard


Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

Title: Distress Signals
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Read: January 2017
Expected publication: 2 February 2017



Synopsis (Goodreads):



The day Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads "I'm sorry--S" sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate--and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.

To get answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground ...

My thoughts:


Adam Dunne is a happy man - he has a gorgeous, hard-working girlfriend, Sarah, who supports his ambition to be a writer, and has just managed to get a film studio interested in a screenplay he has written. But his life is about to change when Sarah fails to return from a supposed business trip to Barcelona. Strangely, neither Sarah’s parents nor any of her work colleagues are aware that Sarah has gone abroad, and she isn’t answering her phone. As Adam starts a frantic search for Sarah’s whereabouts, he discovers that Sarah has been keeping secrets from him for a while. Fearing that she may be in danger, Adam embarks on retracing her last known steps, which take him aboard the large cruise ship Celebrate, where a ruthless killer may be on the loose. Will his quest to find Sarah put Adam himself in the killer’s path?

In a genre oversaturated with books aiming to stand out from the rest with that “shocking surprise twist” (which is, in most cases, a rather dubious marketing ploy), Catherine Ryan Howard has managed to find an original, intriguing setting where different rules apply: a large cruise ship filled with thousands of passengers from all over the world traversing international waters. Brimming with fascinating facts about maritime law, Distress Signals will take you into the dark and murky waters (literally) of the cruise ship industry. To be honest, the thought of being trapped on a tin can in the middle of the ocean with thousands of other people has never appealed to me, but after reading this clever murder mystery, I will definitely strike the experience off my bucket list. Not only do the confined quarters make a perfect hunting ground for a depraved mind, but the intricacies of maritime law make it even easier for perpetrators to escape the justice system – if they know how to use these rules to their advantage. I was fascinated (if horrified) by the interesting facts the author explains as Adam frantically searches for Sarah aboard the Celebrate.  

There are three separate elements running through the storyline, with three different POVs: Adam, our main protagonist; Romain, a young French boy with a trouble past; and Corinne, a crew member on the ship. Initially these three narratives seemed quite separate and I thought Romain to be quite an odd character. However, as the story nears the end, all three threads are cleverly woven together to form the well-plotted finale to the story. And don’t worry, if you thought you had worked it all out, as I did, there is an extra surprise in store, which I certainly did not see coming.

Atmospheric, character driven and cleverly plotted, Distress Signals had me hooked from the very start and captivated me until the final reveal. I loved the setting, which added a claustrophobic feel to the story, and threw Adam an extra curveball when his back was already up against the wall and his world as he knew it had gone up in flames. Adam’s despair was tangible on every page, adding that emotional connection that kept me reading much too late into the night.

“I was a guy who couldn’t face a full and frank discussion about how best to pay for a shared taxi ride home. How in the hell was I supposed to confront a killer?” 

A very clever mystery which stands out from the fray in more ways than one – well worth picking up this summer for a great holiday read!

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Image result for 4.5 stars

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