56 Days

Catherine Ryan Howard. Blackstone, $24.99 (366p) ISBN 978-1-9826-9465-4

Set just before and during the first weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown in Dublin, Ireland, this captivating tale from Edgar finalist Howard opens with something amiss in an apartment complex. Flash back 56 days. Oliver and Ciara, two shy people in their 20s, meet in a supermarket. Both have recently moved to Dublin and are alone, so lockdown seems like the perfect time to start a relationship. But as their courtship unfolds, so do their secrets, and Oliver becomes increasingly paranoid about the outside world—in particular about an older woman Ciara meets who gives her cryptic warnings about falling in love with him. Meanwhile, back in the present, police investigating a foul odor coming from an apartment discover a putrefying body in the shower. No fingerprints and no identification are found anywhere. As the link between the couple’s outwardly simple yet complex romance and the murder becomes clearer through carefully doled out backstories, readers will find themselves rooting for these flawed characters no matter what their past indiscretions or crimes. Howard continues to impress. Agent: Jane Gregory, David Higham Assoc. (U.K.). (Aug.)