cover image Distress Signals

Distress Signals

Catherine Ryan Howard. Blackstone, $24.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5047-5752-2

In Howard’s solid first novel, Sarah O’Connell leaves Cork, Ireland, aboard the cruise ship Celebrate for a business meeting in Barcelona. When Sarah fails to return from her Mediterranean trip, boyfriend Adam Dunne, an aspiring screenwriter, begins to worry. No one, including her parents, is able to contact her. The ship’s owner offers Adam little help. Then Adam receives a package with Sarah’s passport and a note saying only “I’m sorry—S.” The Irish police manage to connect Sarah with a Celebrate crew member, Ethan Eckhart. Adam later makes contact with Peter Brazier, whose wife disappeared from the same ship a year earlier and who got a package exactly like Adam’s. Adam and Peter book passage on the Celebrate to seek Ethan and demand answers. Two additional story lines—that of a troubled French boy and of a ship housekeeper—eventually connect with Adam’s in surprising ways, as life and death aboard a cruise ship prove very mysterious indeed. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company (U.K.). (Feb.)