Title: Distress Signals
Author: 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 …
Taking place largely on a cruise ship, and centered around the disappearance of Sarah, seemingly from a cruise ship, Distress Signals is a gripping thriller and one which has many twists and turns.
The story has multiple narratives, so we hear not just from Adam (Sarah’s husband), who is desperately searching for his wife despite evidence pointing to the fact that she seems to have left him to go on a cruise with another man, and we also hear from Romain, growing up in France in the 1980s with a tricky home life. We don’t know how – or if – these storylines and people are tangled up in any way, and the novel kept me guessing as I tried to work it all out.
The element of Adam and Sarah’s marriage being under strain adds another layer to the story, so it’s not a straightforward missing persons case because we’re unsure how much Sarah wanted to disappear, and how much might have been a terrible accident or something more sinister. When Adam meets another man whose wife went missing aboard the same ship, things start to get very strange and I loved trying to work out how all the elements were possibly connected. I also really liked that Adam felt like an incredibly convincing character; he behaved in the ways I would expect someone in his position to (not that you can judge someone for how they behave in times of great stress, but still), and it didn’t feel too much.
Romain’s chapters have a real sense of eeriness to them and were quite unsettling. It added a real atmosphere to the book and a sense of dread which kept me glued to the pages.
I’d definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a fun, well-crafted thriller in a different setting.