As a founder member of Mystery Women in 1997, promoting Crime Fiction has always been my passion.
Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Corvus, 5 May 2016. ISBN: 978-1-78239-838-7 TPB)
There’s so much crime fiction on the market these days that it’s hard
to find a new twist, especially when the plot involves possible serial murder.
But Catherine Ryan Howard has succeeded at her very first try; Distress
Signals is her debut novel.
Not only has she put a
different slant on the crime itself; she has also come up with a setting unlike
any I’ve ever encountered before; what’s more, it makes a huge difference to
the way, and the extent to which, the crime is investigated.
If, indeed, there is a crime.
The narrative is more than halfway through before that is made clear. It begins
with a disappearance. A young woman, Sarah O’Connell, has failed to return home
from a short business trip, and after a few days her passport arrives in the
post with the briefest of notes: I’M SORRY – S.
Has she left of her own
accord? It certainly looks like it, and the police think so. But her boyfriend,
Adam Dunne, is convinced she has been abducted, or worse, and sets out to find
His search takes him to a
cruise liner travelling between Barcelona and Nice – and that’s when the fun
Howard has clearly researched
meticulously, and what a tangle she has unearthed. For your common or garden
psychopathic serial murderer, a cruise ship is an ideal hunting ground.
Jurisdiction over any crime committed during a voyage lies with the country in
which the ship is registered – and that could be anywhere from Barbados to
Libya. And what cruise company is going to go out of its way to preserve
evidence which could destroy its reputation for the days it would take
detectives from that country to travel across the world?
This is in real life, remember,
not just in fiction – but on the pages of a novel, it’s rich pickings, and
Howard makes the most of them. The depth of her research is clear, but she
wears it lightly, and weaves it into a multi-layered story with plenty of
twists and turns. Adam emerges as a rounded, scratch-him-and-he-bleeds
personality with feelings any reader can empathize with, and so do the
supporting cast members. The cruise ship is vividly evoked, and so are minor
locations such as the police station where Sarah is reported missing.
There’s even an apparently
unrelatedsub-plot running parallel to
the main story, which not only serves to build tension as the focus shifts on
to it, but also proves every bit as tense and involving, right up to the point
where the two narrative lines come together.
This is a debut which takes
accomplished to a whole new level. On this showing, Catherine Ryan Howard has a
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
Catherine Ryan Howardwas born in Cork,
Ireland, in 1982. Before writing full-time, she was (very briefly) a campsite
courier in France, a travel administrator in the Netherlands and a front desk
agent at a hotel in Walt Disney World, Florida. She is currently studying
English at Trinity College Dublin and wants to be a NASA astronaut when she
grows up. She has led workshops and seminars on self-publishing and social
media for the likes of Faber Academy in London, the Irish Writers' Centre and
the Inkwell Group (Dublin), and has spoken at various book and writing
festivals, including ChipLitFest, Dublin Book Festival and Mountains to
Sea.Her debut thriller, Distress Signals, was published by
Corvus/Atlantic in the UK and Ireland in May 2016 and in Australia and New
Zealand in June 2016. She is also the self-published author of three titles:
two light-hearted travel memoirs and a guide to self-publishing.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.