Review: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard @cathryanhoward

Goodreads|Amazon|Author Website
Release date: February 2, 2017

Publisher: Blackstone

Genre: Psychological Thriller 


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 …


This opened with my favorite type of prologue, just enough to get you curious about what lead to a dramatic event, but leaves enough to the imagination that you’re still utterly clueless. 

Adam and Sarah have been together ten years, and things are going well for them. Or are they really? Adam has finally sold his script to a Hollywood production company and they finally have more breathing room financially. Then Sarah heads Barcelona for a work conference and never disembarks from the plane home. Suddenly, Adam realizes that there are things he doesn’t know about his girlfriend. When he seeks help, the local Garda are unconcerned and feel he has nothing to worry about. He has no choice but to take matters into his own hands and unwittingly finds himself in grave danger. 

Psychological thrillers are, dare I say it? My favorite genre, I read them every chance I get. This one is a standout and one I can highly recommend for fans of the genre. There are several perspectives; Adam as he searches for Sarah, Corinne, a woman who works on the Celebrate, and Romain, though his are mostly told in flashbacks starting in the nineties. Corinne’s sections made sense as there was an obvious connection to Adam and Sarah, but I drove myself crazy trying to figure out how Romain would tie in. When all these storylines are finally weaved together it’s incredible, Ryan Howard truly knows how to craft a complex plot. I felt a bit like Adam must have as I was trying to fit puzzle pieces together, like I was missing something obvious, but what?! 

Apparently a cruise ship is the perfect place to commit a crime as maritime law makes things very muddled and confusing. Jurisdictions are murky and most times, heads are turned as it’s easier to avoid the headache. Being made aware of this by the author added an extra layer of tension as the story unfolded, and it was already on the suspenseful side to begin with. I’m so appreciative of a tragic ending, but also one that is able to shock and awe me, and this one managed to do both. It also broke my heart, if you’ve read this, you’ll know exactly what I mean. What a remarkable debut, I’ll be watching Catherine Ryan Howard’s career closely. 

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to Blackstone for my review copy. 

15 thoughts on “Review: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard @cathryanhoward

  1. Renee says:

    Awesome review! It really was a complex plot that came together nicely. I was telling my husband about the maritime laws…I had no idea! I have no desire to go on a cruise, but it was the perfect setting for a thriller

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Annie says:

    I’m never going on a cruise after reading this book…

    Loved the tragic twist at the end, although I thought a particular storyline wasn’t that necessary after all…


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