Saturday, February 11, 2017

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

If you follow the news (and I’m sure you do) you have heard reports of cruise ship incidents involving crimes on board (not just accidents and noro viruses.) Most ships are registered in Caribbean or African countries to avoid taxes in the United States, which is why they are such bargains for passengers (and why the cruise lines spend billions on new luxury ships.) In addition to the gambling and drinking which make cruises profitable (they just break even if you don’t gamble or drink or take shore excursions) there is the setting, on the high seas of international waters, that make them appealing to criminals. Thefts, rapes, murders: these happen in descending order of frequency. The cruise lines do not want publicity on this, and so tend not to report incidents. Even if someone is thrown overboard (unless the FBI might be called because of US connections.) They try to offer compensation: free trips, money, exchange for a non-disclosure signature. Think about it—you are on a ship full of foreign service workers with increasing animosity to American or UK passengers, paid low wages for long hours servicing those a few may perceive as fat or spoiled revelers who get drunk, talk loud, brag, and laugh. Gluttons (by comparison) who return again and again to the lavish buffets that…well, nevermind. (Go Here for that. For author and narrator interviews, see links to the right.) How easy would it be to toss someone over the rail? I once wrote a mystery story series for Porthole cruise magazine, and included a “tossed overboard” scenario at the climax of my novel The Methuselah Gene. Anyway, I’ve just completed a great audiobook by debut novelist Catherine Ryan Howard, who was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Here’s Downpour’s description of DISTRESS SIGNALS: “A debut novel that channels Gone Girl. 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.” Now, first novelists, being unknown, have to do their research and really impress. Remember The Firm by John Grisham, or James Patterson’s first novels before he got famous and started hiring dozens of co-authors? You can’t be lazy, not with a first novel. Bear that in mind when I tell you to give this audiobook a listen. Distress Signals goes deep into character, with many twists and turns, an awesome setting befitting the news, and some great pro narrators like Alan Smyth, actor Bronson Pinchot, and Suzanne Toren. A must hear: AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. 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.

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