Distress Signals - Catherine Ryan Howard

Genre: Thriller
Synopsis: Did she leave or was she taken? 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 the 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...


Review: I actually picked this up, would you believe, not knowing it was written by a woman from the very county I live in! At first, my expectations were pretty low - the writing wasn't exactly accomplished, and I was afraid it was going to detract from my enjoyment of the book. Fortunately, either it got better, or I simply settled into the simplicity of it, because I forgot all about it after a while and just enjoyed the book. The beginning was a little bizzare to me, set as it is in Cork city itself, and mentioning the university campus where I studied and work, as well as the nearby cafe where I've sometimes gone for coffee, and later, the main police headquarters. You'd know a Cork woman wrote it - there were plenty of perfect descriptions of the place, such as the airport, built on a hill prone to fog - "in other words, a terrible place to build an airport" - which were as hilarious as they are accurate.

A notable feature of this book is the use of modern technology, such as Whatsapp - Adam is as perceptive as any woman about his girlfriend's use of the app. I will say there were a few flaws (Adam noted his messages to his missing girlfriend were not indicated 'read' by two blue ticks, but the fact is you can read your Whatsapp messages from your notification bar without them showing as 'read' in the app itself, which surely someone who didn't want to be found or make contact would do.) The other major flaw I found was Adam's reasoning. He seemed to make great leaps of tenuous logic, such as - who books a middle seat on a flight? Um, maybe someone on a packed plane? Doesn't inherently mean she's with someone...

Anyway, to get away from the specifics, this is actually a really fun, compelling read. I was genuinely unsure what happened to Sarah, and tore through the book to find out. Unfortunately, the ending really let it down, dropping the book down from a 5-star rating to a 4. The sub-plot needn't have been in the book at all, and I found the character motivations towards the end to be highly questionable. I sound like I'm being really hard on this book, but I did love reading it - it was great fun right up til the end.

Rating: 4/5 

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