Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

 DistressSignalspack

What they say: 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…

NOTE: As always the top picture leads to  a universal buy link for the book (author image leads to author’s website).

The Review:You’ll probably remember (or maybe not) that I made a big leap and decided I was going to properly get back into writing with a world of good intentions (only now beginning to be fulfilled) and I raved about my Holy Trinity of writing books  which contained (among others) Catherine Ryan Howard’s how-to self publish guide, Self Printed . I’m not going to go on and on here about the fact that when I self published I did it step by step with my husband, going solely on everything said book told me to do and that at one point my tech-savvy hubby  exclaimed ‘We’d be properly (insert curse here) if we didn’t have this book, wouldn’t we?’ Because this isn’t about Self Printed. It’s about Distress Signals.

The premise of this book is perfection. It’s essentially that, out in the sea, the law is sketchy around jurisdiction, so in terms of who can investigate a crime, there are limited options and resources creating a crime free for all, if you will.
I received the book with the genius pack you see above (how great is the ‘do not disturb’ sign?) which included a post-it that said simply ‘I’m sorry-S’ as Adam Dunne, the lead character, did, and (after trying to figure out for some time if they’d sent me the book late and someone whose name began with the letter ‘S’ was responsible-I know, I know(!)), I began.

As you can see above, Adam is investigating the disappearance of his girlfriend Sarah.His deductions have led him onto a cruise ship, the Celebrate, much to his confusion. I loved Adam as a character, his personality and his tenacity. The fact that  he was a scriptwriter and so we got a bit of writerly background didn’t hurt!

In terms of the story itself I really liked the mix of dead ends, helpful (and unhelpful) characters, but also the many open doors which I felt were present largely due to the fact that Alan was a civilian, without the constraints and bureaucracy which generally accompany crime stories that follow somebody from the law enforcement arena. The descriptions were commendable, in fact most of the book played out as a movie in my head, and I’m sure I was as in awe of the majesty of the cruise liner as he was! The pacing was brilliant, my eyes devoured each and every word and yet the pages turned swiftly in my fingers. The characters played their parts well and came to life before my very eyes.

The only things that niggled a tiny bit with me, was that a few times in the book we were reminded of something that had happened before, which was fine, but this would be in a very obvious way, and also a few deductions were hammered home, where I felt they could have been more subtle and we’d still have got it. The other thing that I was unsure of, is the story that ran with Adam’s, which is that of Romain.

Romain’s story was one of cruelty and isolation, and could become fairly uncomfortable in parts. I’m warning you of this because I do feel that some people might be bothered by it. It’s not that it’s in anyway gruesome or graphic, it’s definitely neither of those things, it’s more that it’s a story that might stay around in your head for a little while. I found it funny that one of the book’s recommendations on the cover came from Liz Nugent, from ‘Unravelling Oliver’ (which I adored!) fame, because Romain’s story stuck with me the way Oliver’s did, with a mish-mash of why questions and  ‘if only X hadn’t happened’ swimming around in my head. The darkness of this story contrasted hugely with the rest of the book which, although thrilling and dramatic, still stayed relatively light for me.
All in all the a great book. The ups, downs, twists and turns were brilliant and I was a step behind most of the way which made it both a satisfying read and conclusion. I’ll tell you I was praying this would be a goodie and I wasn’t disappointed. Very much recommended. Thanks to the author and Corvus/ Atlantic for this book in return for an honest review and apologies in advance for the lengthy post(!).
Rating:4.5/5

The Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

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Catherine Ryan Howard’s website

Catherine on Twitter @cathryanhoward

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