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Distress Signals

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,883 ratings  ·  341 reviews

A USA Today and Irish Times Bestseller
Winner: Best Mystery, Independent Press Awards (USA) 2017
Shortlisted for Books Are My Bag Crime Novel of the Year 2016
Shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger 2017


The day Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart.

Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 5th 2016 by Corvus
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3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,883 ratings  ·  341 reviews

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Chelsea Humphrey
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-publisher
So this first blipped on my radar back when non-US folks had access for this book, and I remember feeling so jealous and thinking “Ba-humbug! I needed this book yesterday you turds!” Thankfully the author is about as awesome as they come and heard my pleas, having a very early copy shipped my way. How did I repay her? By reading it way later than was acceptable, and for that I send my sincerest apologies. While I may be late to the party, I’m definitely on the bandwagon of feeling this book was ...more
2.5* The first half of Distress Signals had all the elements of suspense, mystery, and was on its way to a four star review. However, with two sub plots the novel eventually became overly top-heavy, the ending anti-climatic and rushed. Many other readers have rated Distress Signals much higher and enjoyed it.

** Thank you to Blackstone Publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review. **
Liz Barnsley
Distress Signals is the perfect storm (yes I really did that) when it comes to psychological thrillers, of which I read an awful lot (sometimes a truly AWFUL lot) this genre being the one exploding everywhere for quite some time now – so to bring to that something that is entirely intelligent, brilliantly plotted throughout and engaging to the point of genius is quite a feat. Hmm.

So with Distress Signals (and trust me you couldn’t pay me a million pounds to get on a cruise ship right now) we hav
Linda Strong
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a terrific story! DISTRESS SIGNALS is a compelling murder mystery wrapped up in the cruise industry. After all, if you want to kill someone, what better place? Do the deed and throw the body overboard in the dark of night. By the time the passenger is reported missing, the ship is many miles away.

There are different stories being told that somehow manage to dovetail together seamlessly. One is Adam ... his girlfriend disappeared on a cruise ship. The other is a mother, a crew member of the
Book of Secrets
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I was listening to Catherine Ryan Howard’s nerve-racking debut thriller, I kept wondering if the book was sold in cruise ship gift shops. If so — eek! Nothing like adding some paranoia to your vacation! Seriously though, DISTRESS SIGNALS was an amazing read. There are many layers to this complex mystery, and the characters really stand out.

When Adam Dunne’s girlfriend Sarah doesn’t return from a business trip, he manages to track her last whereabouts to a Mediterranean cruise ship called the
DISTRESS SIGNALS is the brilliant debut thriller from Catherine Ryan Howard, a Cork-born writer. This is a murder/mystery story taking place on a cruise ship. I really enjoyed this novel and was fully immersed in the story. Keep this author on the radar!

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 w
Kate~Bibliophile Book Club
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started Distress Signals and within the first 13 pages I was grabbed hook, line and sinker (see what I did there!).This book was just brilliant! Once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop!!! I loved everything about it to be honest. The writing style makes the book easy to read, and the story flows well.Distress Signals is about Adam and Sarah, who are living happily together, with Sarah working while Adam is working on his script for his agent. Sarah is to go to Barcelona for a conference ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All of my reviews can be found on

This opened with my favorite type of prologue, just enough to get you curious about what lead to a dramatic event, but leaves enough to the imagination that you’re still utterly clueless.

Adam and Sarah have been together ten years, and things are going well for them. Or are they really? Adam has finally sold his script to a Hollywood production company and they finally have more breathing room financially. Then Sarah heads Barcelona for a wor
Rachel Hall
3.5 stars

Marketed with a tag line claiming to be "An Incredibly Gripping Psychological Thriller with a Twist You Won't See Coming", this debut thriller from Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard certainly lives up to the billing by virtue of it largely hanging on a little known element of maritime law. Opening with an intriguing prologue Distress Signals then segues into a was she taken or did she disappear thriller.. with thirty-year-old Adam Dunne always firmly one step behind the tail of his gir
Margaret Madden
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-fiction, kindle
Adam Dunne has turned a corner. After years of being a struggling writer, his script has piqued interest and it looks like his life is about to become everything he has dreamed of. He can't wait for his girlfriend, Sarah, to return from a business trip to Barcelona so the celebrations can begin in earnest. There is just one problem. He can't contact her. When she fails to arrive back on her planned flight, Adam realizes something is terribly wrong. Digging deeper, he discovers that she was not e ...more
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Adam and Sarah have been together for over 10 years. Adam's ambition is to be a writer and whilst he has been pursuing this dream Sarah has been the breadwinner. It’s been a struggle but finally life is looking better. Adam has a film studio interested in his script but it needs some editing. Sarah tells him that she has to go to Barcelona for a work conference for a few days, instead of going with her Adam stays home to work. He sees her off at the airport, goes home and waits for Sarah to
There are two mystery/thriller elements running concurrently throughout this novel. A lot of the story takes place on the cruise ship "Celebrate". The first mystery involves a rather self centred writer Adam Dunne and his search for his missing girl friend Sarah who was last seen aboard the Celebrate.

The secondary mystery involves a mother and son and their dysfunctional relationship which is also resolved aboard the cruise ship.

The story is revealed through the three separate points of view, Ad
Trish at Between My Lines
This review was originally posted on [Between My Lines]

Green Giants is my feature where I share some of my favourite books by Irish Authors.   I’m passionate about Irish Authors, as they supply us with an entertaining and exciting mix of books, so hopefully you will find something new to try.  Today I’m featuring Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard which intrigued and confounded me .

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Distress Signals kicks off with a girl who fails to return from a work trip and then sidelines us with a
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing


This Five Star Read was planted by the seed of the link I posted above. From an article of November,11, 2011 printed in The Guardian an article called "Lost at Sea". The article is a true story in the above link. The author has written a fascinating book of fiction which she uses her creative license in Distress Signals. Exceptions are if you are a United States citizen the FBI will investigate if you are pushed ov
Joanne Robertson
I was so glad that I didn't go on a cruise for my summer holidays this year after reading Distress Signals! Lounging by a hotel pool seemed a much better idea especially after watching a few programmes recently about cruise liners-i really had absolutely no idea how big they really were! It was also a shock to find out just how much goes on behind the scenes of a big and successful cruise ship. And here Catherine Ryan Howard has created a complex mystery based around what has become a very popul ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic debut psychological thriller from Catherine Ryan Howard. You are thrown straight into the midst of things with this one, after reading the first sentence – “I jump before I decide that I’m going to.” – my brain went into overdrive:

– Why did he jump? – Where did he jump? – Who’s after him? – Did he kill her? – Is he trying to escape? – If so, from who?

I think you get the gist of it.

I was so gripped by the prologue, I tweeted the author: “Only 6% into this book and I love it already, i
4.5 stars rounded up (to read my original review of this novel visit:

Adam Dunne and Sarah O'Connell have been living together for almost a decade now. He is a screenwriter waiting for his 'big break'. She works in PR and supports them both. Adam has just received some good news and finally reaps some success from his writing.
When Sarah tells Adam she is flying to Barcelona for a conference, he doesn't think twice. After an initial message when she first arri
Erin (from Long Island, NY)
I actually found this book because the author just released a new 1 (that I'm waiting impatiently for..) But this 1 didn't disappoint- I'm just so happy I've discovered her! Distress Signals is an emotional, quick moving thriller with a very realistic feel. I really felt for Adam as he was going through all he was going through.. His feelings & reactions just felt very authentic to me. I enjoyed the ending too, for much the same reasons. It'd be hard to go into what i specifically appreciate ...more
Sam (Clues and Reviews)
For all my reviews, check out Clues and Reviews

Adam Dunne is worried sick when his girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a business trip in Barcelona. Days later, when her passport arrives at their home with a note stating “I’m Sorry- S”, Adam realizes that something is seriously wrong and vows to do whatever it takes to find her. As Adam investigates, he connects Sarah to a cruise ship and to another woman, Estelle, who went missing a year prior. Adam decides
Great audiobook with superb theatrical performance . . . Slow-burn suspense . . . Interesting, complex characters . . . Intriguing settings and scenarios, ponder-worthy plot points.

So why only three stars????

Expletives . . . Expletives . . . Expletives!

Just as too much salt spoils the broth, crass language spoils one's salt.

THREE *** Great Slow-Burning Suspense Thriller - Minus the Overindulgence of Salty Language *** STARS
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime
An excellent mystery/suspense/ thriller! I was finding it hard to put the book down!
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book reviews on

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, growi
This was a gripping read, which I found hard to put down. A rather unique mystery. But if you are about to go on the cruise holiday of a lifetime - don't bring this book with you, or you just might not leave your cabin!
Lynsey Summers
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Catherine Ryan Howard has produced a brilliant, clever and gripping psychological thriller in Distress Signals with a high body count, wealth of unreliable characters and clever use of maritime law to muddy the investigative process to such a level I am pretty sure I will never be boarding a cruise ship in my lifetime.

Hooked from the very first page, where our narrator, Adam, is plunged into the dark depths of the sea I found myself needing to continue to read and discover. I loved the way this
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read the review here >> So, let’s talk about unputdownable books. Distress Signals was definitely one. This morning I was about to finish it when I unfortunately got to my train stop. I actually considered being late for work in order to continue reading and I’ve spend all day thinking about it, so I obviously rushed to read the last few pages when I left the office.

I haven’t seen many ratings yet in Goodreads and I can’t understand why. This is an excellent thriller, one that I feel I c
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
The day Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a business trip in Barcelona, his life begins to fall apart. He must find out the truth, puzzled by the connections he makes, doing things he never thought he could do, and hunting down a predator on their favourite grounds.

A keen follower of Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog, I whipped up the chance to read her debut novel at the price of £1.99—a Kindle deal sadly over. Distress Signals holds a promising concept, with its unusual setting
Daniel Balici
Actual rating: 4,5

I had this book on my Kindle for a while, but to be honest I went into it not remembering the blurb at all. This was my second cruise themed read following the relatively disappointing The Woman in Cabin 10 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In the beginning the action was slow-paced and I thought this would be a boring mystery. I'm glad that I was wrong because eventually I grew completely hooked. One thing I truly appreciated about Catherine Ryan Howard's novel is the fact that it
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book starts right off the bat with Adam either jumping or falling from a cruise ship into the middle of the sea. Yeah, I am not putting this book down. There were so many plot twists and so many suspects. This is definitely one you do not want to start right before bedtime.

And the ending, I definitely did not see that coming. It was definitely mind boggling.

The Romain character I could definitely feel sorry for at first, but at the end, he proved that he did not deserve it. Such a sad stor
Fafa's Book Corner

Mini review:

I received this E-ARC via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was excited to read this. I enjoy murder mysteries and this book sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately it did not deliver. When read a murder mystery it's always important to right out an exciting beginning that way readers will read the whole book desperate for answers. Instead of this I found the beginning to be off putting. This is most likely just personal as many people have enjoyed
Laura Rash
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intriguing mystery that takes place mostly on a ship. Major twists & turns that I couldn't quite figure out who the "bad guy" was or where & how this was all going to end. A great debut for a thriller!
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Play Book Tag: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard 3 stars 1 12 Jul 28, 2017 08:39AM  
Goodreads Ireland: Aug-Oct: Distress Signals 19 50 Nov 23, 2016 09:32PM  
Goodreads Ireland: Spoiler Thread: Distress Signals 7 34 Sep 19, 2016 02:20AM  

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Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin.