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Distress Signals

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Short-listed for the 2016 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award

A Library Journal Audio-in-Advance Pick for November 2016

A debut thriller that channels Gone Girl, from the newest writer to watch, Catherine Ryan Howard

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 …

Editorial Reviews

“If you like stories brimming with suspense and plot twists you’ll never see coming, you’ll want to grab a copy of Distress Signals immediately.”

Pop Culture Nerd

“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty, and an absolute joy to read.”

Mark Edwards, bestselling author of The Magpies

“This novel has become one of my favorite psychological thrillers to date…Catherine Ryan Howard went outside the box and really brought a unique and interesting setting to Distress Signals…I absolutely loved, loved, LOVED this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough!”

Rose Reviews

“Distress Signals is a highly confident and accomplished debut novel, impeccably sustained, with not a false note.”

Irish Times (Dublin)

“Writing a thriller which doesn’t leave readers with a sense of déjà vu isn’t easy these days, but Catherine Ryan Howard has managed it triumphantly. Definitely a new, exciting, and original author to watch.”

Sunday Independent (Dublin)

“I loved this book, it hooked from the beginning and didn’t let go. It was so easy to read, I finished it within a day of starting it. The pace was really good as it kept the story constantly moving along. The characters felt real and so did the situation. It kept me guessing and had me coming up with different theories as to what was going on. It’s not a dark thriller, unless of course you are a regular cruise goer with a vivid imagination. I thoroughly recommend it to thriller/mystery lovers and will definitely be looking out for the author’s next book.”

The Secret Library

“An excellent debut thriller which may give cruising executives some sleepless nights.”

Irish Independent (Dublin)

“Clever and compulsive. I read it in one sitting.”

Irish Examiner (Lapp’s Quay, Ireland)

“[A] solid first novel…Life and death aboard a cruise ship prove very mysterious indeed.”

Publishers Weekly

Distress Signals is a gripping, smart, and fast-moving read. Catherine Howard expertly weaves together two main story lines as she skillfully builds the voices of three main characters. Her insights and thoughtful writing immerse you in the fascinating world of cruise ships and the mysterious, perfect crimes committed at sea. The compelling mystery at the heart of this debut novel is engrossing, and Catherine Howard’s clever plotting makes this a terrific debut.”

Christine Carbo, bestselling author of Mortal Fall

“Howard weaves an intricate web of suspense chapter by chapter…and before you know it, you’re trapped inside.”

Brian Freeman, bestselling author of Goodbye to the Dead

“Pacey, suspenseful, and intriguing…[A] top-class, page-turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.”

Liz Nugent, author of Unraveling Oliver

“I loved the voice…[An] engaging, unusual, and believable thriller.”

Sinéad Crowley, author of Can Anybody Help Me?

Distress Signals is a well-written, page-turning read, with a number of red herrings and some surprise plot twists…An engaging thriller written with authenticity and aplomb from a writer who knows her craft, and who clearly has a bright future.”

Books Ireland

“Atmospheric, character driven, and cleverly plotted, Distress Signals had me hooked from the very start and captivated me until the final reveal. I loved the setting, which added a claustrophobic feel to the story, and threw Adam an extra curveball when his back was already up against the wall and his world as he knew it had gone up in flames. Adam’s despair was tangible on every page, adding that emotional connection that kept me reading much too late into the night.”

But Books Are Better

Distress Signals is a debut novel that packs a wallop of a punch…[a] complex plot…perfectly executed…page turning and twisty.”

Its Book Talk

“This one is a standout and one I can highly recommend for fans of the genre…a remarkable debut.”

Novel Gossip

“[Howard] writes with complete command of language, plot, and the thriller genre…The chapters alternate among the points of view of three characters…Romain’s narrative is the most moving and resonant—his soul may be distressed but his humanity comes through loud and clear.”

Shelf Awareness

“Three voices narrate Distress Signals…All did a stellar job of capturing the characters. Their voices added layers to this already rich, and well-written suspense…Fans of Harlan Coben and Clare Mackintosh will enjoy Distress Signals. This was a stunning thriller that kept me guessing, and I will certainly be looking for more from this author.”

Caffeinated Book Reviewer

“Highly recommended to thriller fans…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.”

The Suspense Is Thrilling Me

“Realistic…build up of tension…leading up to a surprising twist…Wonderful performances all-around for the audio version of Distress Signals.”

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    • 5/5

    Great debut novel

    Jonathan February 11, 2017
    Many twists and turns, aided by always engaging narrators.
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Author Biography

Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front-desk agent in a hotel in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently as a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College in Dublin.

Reader Biography

Alan Smyth has worked as a professional actor for more than fifteen years. He has toured extensively in Ireland and the United States, and has worked with such companies as the BBC, Parmount Films, and Showtime Productions. 

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