Book Title: Distress Signals
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Reviewed By: Chelsea
Genres: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Fiction
Date Read: 02/23/17
Pub Date: 02/02/17
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 …
So this first blipped on my radar back when non-US folks had access for this book, and I remember feeling so jealous and thinking “Ba-humbug! I needed this book yesterday you turds!” Thankfully the author is about as awesome as they come and heard my pleas, having a very early copy shipped my way. How did I repay her? By reading it way later than was acceptable, and for that I send my sincerest apologies. While I may be late to the party, I’m definitely on the bandwagon of feeling this book was the best cruise ship thriller I have ever read. There were many unique parts to this story, and while it had a slow burn in the beginning, it began to take off at a soaring speed once the initial details were set up.
“Evil was a Hollywood creation. Violence was what happened in foreign places fifteen minutes into “Six One News”-so called because, here in Ireland, the evening news started a minute late so the bells of Angelus could be played on national TV. Bad stuff happened to other people, in other places, all of them far, far away from here.”
Right off the bat the author addresses issues of privilege and how different it is for those of us who obtain that privilege, as we never have to feel the realness of everyday violence and terror like a majority of the world. I was initially wary of the characters; neither Sarah nor Adam are particularly likable in the beginning, but as the story takes shape and progresses, the character of Adam grows and progresses too. If I’m honest, the character of Sarah changes and grows as well. What began for me as not wanting to connect with two whiny, grown children formed into a real interest and anxious following of people subject to multiple tragedies. I know this isn’t the entire focus of the story; in fact, most would say “this is a thriller, not literary fiction!”, but I found it endearing and encouraging that a book could contain such relatable characters while keeping up the compulsive readability and excitement to earn the term “psychological thriller”.
I found once the pacing picked up, it didn’t let go until the final pages were turned. Lately I’ve found myself reading a slew of really great mysteries and thrillers that were exciting but also predictable. This was a book I thought I had figured out from early on, before I read the first page to be exact; however, I’m pleased to say that I had none of the plot figured out. There were so many various threads that all came together in the end which made this a twisty read, and while the twists and turns were very exciting and fresh, the entire worth of the book wasn’t weighted on that one aspect. I also greatly appreciated the time and research Ryan-Howard put into this story; while it is fiction, it is very realistic and abides by the current maritime laws we have in the real world. I loved reading her note in the end regarding the research she put in and would be very excited to read an interview with more information on how she incorporated not only these facts, but organizations we all can invest in to help make cruise ships a safer place with a heavier hand of justice for every passenger. Highly recommended to thriller fans, especially those who, like me, are always looking for a good cruise ship themed read. I am beyond excited to see what Catherine decides to write next, as it likely will also be filled with in-depth research translated into an exciting, fictional read.
*Many thanks to the author and publisher for my copy; it was a pleasure to provide an honest, unbiased review.
** I couldn’t find a good place to insert this, but there is a narrative from the past that contains some graphic content that may be disturbing for some readers involving violence toward a child. These scenes were necessary and not added for shock value.