Tuesday 6 December 2016

Thriller: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

Corvus, €17.99

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 16/05/2016 | 02:30

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a business trip abroad. Her mobile phone is switched off and she isn't answering any of his emails.

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His concerns grow when, a few days later, her passport is delivered to their apartment in Cork together with a note saying "I'm sorry - S". The postmark is French. She was supposedly in Spain.

There's no body and no evidence of a crime, but Adam, a struggling writer finally on the verge of making it big, is determined to discover the truth.

He quickly learns that, far from taking a business trip, Sarah had actually gone on a cruise, possibly with another man.

To make matters worse, another woman, Estelle, went missing a year earlier from the same ship in almost exactly the same circumstances.

This is Catherine Ryan Howard's debut thriller, and what a tense, tight, original page turner she's delivered, with nary a trace of the padding that so bedevils the familiar world of thrillerdom.

Adam's slow realisation that not everything was as idyllic in his and Sarah's relationship as he thought is well conveyed, but without laying on the angst.

Distress Signals even manages to make Cork sound like a metropolitan heaven, whilst the cruise ship setting is not only unique in itself but also cleverly weaves in plenty of peculiar jurisdictional problems that affect the investigation of suspected crimes committed in international waters.

Writing a thriller which doesn't leave readers with a sense of deja vu isn't easy these days, but Catherine Ryan Howard has managed it triumphantly.

Definitely a new, exciting and original author to watch.

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