Sunday, 20 May 2018

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard - Review

 354 pages
Publisher: Corvus Books
Book Club Read



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...


When his long-term girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from what should have been a short business trip to Barcelona, Adam’s world dissolves. When her passport returns by mail, with a short apology attached, and the Garda tell him they can’t do anything for him, he vows to find her. Maybe she had reasons to be less than happy with him; she would never knowingly hurt those who love her by just disappearing.
And thus begins an at times impossible quest to figure out what has happened, ultimately taking Adam and another man to The Celebrate, a cruise ship in the Mediterranean Sea where they hope to uncover and confront the monster who’s done away with both their partners.
And thus began a fascinating read. Smoothly written and with a gripping story line, I can honestly say that Distress Signals almost read itself. Even the relatively long build-up part of the story held enough tension and new discoveries to keep me hooked and turning the pages.
But — and this may or may not be a good thing when I’m reviewing a thriller —I have to confess the story-thread that captured me most was Adam’s journey of self-discovery. His path through the various stages of shock, denial, anger, guilt, and grief, while at the same time forging forwards on his quest, was very well done.
I’m less enthusiastic about the thriller part of the story. Not because there was anything wrong with the premise — there wasn’t and it was very well worked out — it’s just that I can’t help feeling that it could have been more ‘thrillery’.
I really wish the author had given us fewer hints about upcoming discoveries. I could have done without sentences like: ‘I thought nothing more about it at the time’. With such clear indications that a clue had just been dropped, there was no need for me to engage my brain and try to figure it out for myself.
While I completely understand why the secondary story was necessary, I’m not sure it worked for me. That is to say, I’m not convinced it need the amount of pages it was given.
And finally, I’m not a huge fan of books that start with a scene from the end of the book. Again, it is because the author has robbed me of the surprise element. I know what I’m reading towards, even if I don’t know exactly how we’re going to get there.
Now, while it may sound as if I didn’t enjoy this book, I can assure you that I did, and thoroughly. I don’t read very many 354 pages long paperbacks in about 18 hours these days, but that’s what I did with Distress Signals. In fact, I know the sequel to this book, The Liar’s Girl has recently arrived in my library and I’ve got a feeling it will be coming home with me soon.
Long story short, this was a gripping read; a good thriller that could have been brilliant.

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