Distress Signals is Catherine Ryan Howard’s latest thriller. With a protagonist willing to risk almost everything for answers, a host of untrustworthy characters, and chilling foreshadowing, it’s an enjoyable, suspenseful novel.
Adam Dunne is finally achieving his dream of being a successful movie script writer. After delivering a speech at the university he dropped out of and feeling financially secure enough to really treat his girlfriend Sarah for the first time in years, he couldn’t be happier. However, Sarah’s continued lack of contact while she’s abroad on a business trip begins to worry him, and as it becomes clear that she’s actually disappeared from a cruise ship his life becomes a living nightmare.
Adam is a very likeable character – he has his flaws, but his love for Sarah and determination to find out what really happened makes the reader want him to succeed more than anything else. It also makes it all the more heartbreaking as Adam realises that Sarah may not be coming back to him. Because of maritime law – explained briefly in Distress Signals – finding Sarah could be an almost impossible task, but Adam is determined to find out what happened her.
Distress Signals gives the reader insight into the procedures surrounding filing a missing person complaint, and the frustration that’s involved when the Gardai admit there’s not much they can do if a person doesn’t want to be found. It also shows the drawbacks of them, as it becomes clear that missing people can be harmed whether they disappeared voluntarily or not.
Adam and Sarah’s family and friends have plenty of theories about what really could have happened Sarah, and the more clues that appear the more confusing it becomes. The suspense worked well for most of the novel, but towards the end it became a little overwhelming. Corinne’s and Romain’s stories, set in the past before the events surrounding Sarah’s disappearance, also added suspense to Distress Signals. However, the way their stories ended and the predictable ending to the novel made it quite anti-climactic.
Full of suspense and with a quick-moving plot, Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard was an enjoyable thriller that was very hard to put down.