Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Distress Signals” as Want to Read:
Distress Signals
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Distress Signals

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  3,070 ratings  ·  421 reviews
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, Estel
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 2nd 2017 by Blackstone Publishing (first published May 5th 2016)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Distress Signals, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,070 ratings  ·  421 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Distress Signals
Chelsea Humphrey
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
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. **
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
Days after Sarah fails to return home from a business trip, her boyfriend Adam receives her passport in the mail, along with the following note:
“I’m Sorry-S”

Although Sarah’s best friend, Rose, admits to Adam, that Sarah was planning on leaving him, he cannot believe that she would completely disappear and not even return the phone calls and texts from her worried parents and friends.

He tracks her disappearance to a cruise ship called “Celebrate”.

Turns out, a year earlier, another woman disappe
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
Diana • Book of Secrets
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Linda Strong
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
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
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Kate~Bibliophile Book Club
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition

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 .

Green Giants Logo


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


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
Erin (from Long Island, NY)
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 appreciated ab ...more
Joanne Robertson
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I was so looking forward to this but, sadly, it did not quite live up to expectations.

Adam's girlfriend, Sarah, doesn't return from a four day conference in Barcelona. He soon reports her missing but the police (Garda, as they live in Ireland) couldn't be less interested. Sarah is an adult blah blah. So Adam looks into things on his own and learns that Sarah spent only one night in the hotel she was supposed to be staying at. Then he learns that she actually joined a cruise ship the next day. Sh
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
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
4 cruise ship stars

I may never be able to take a big cruise after reading this book! (Even after the world recovers from COVID.)

What would you do if your girlfriend never came back after a business trip? Adam is struggling to figure out what happened to Sarah. Her passport is mysteriously mailed back to him with an apology note. Has she really left him? They’ve been together for years, but how well does he know Sarah after all? Her parents are worried sick too.

Soon Adam is on Sarah’s trail and t
Sam (Clues and Reviews)
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Michael David
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a thrilling, unputdownable read and I am so happy I found this author. DISTRESS SIGNALS kept me on edge from the beginning when Adam Dunne's girlfriend disappears during a work trip in Barcelona, only for him to find out she was actually on a cruise. On top of that, about a year earlier, another woman who was on the same ship also went missing, with other similarities.

I couldn't wait to get to the end of this fast-paced, extremely detailed mystery. There were some twists that I didn't
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
Shelves: crime, mystery
An excellent mystery/suspense/ thriller! I was finding it hard to put the book down!
Melissa Borsey
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Adams life is finally starting to look better since his writing career is finally going somewhere and big money is expected to come in so he is on cloud 9 when his live in girlfriend, Sarah, has to take a short business trip to Barcelona. Sarah never returns and all the evidence points to her leaving him but he knows Sarah would never do that to him, would she? I thought this was a great mystery with a lot of unexpected twists. I thank Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Alex Cantone
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, 2020-read
‘In all the time I’ve known her, Sarah never even mentioned such a thing. I mean, Sarah on a cruise? Stuck in an enclosed space full of retirees, cabaret shows featuring X Factor rejects and all-night excess-calorie buffets? Does that sound like something she’d be into?’ Rose shook her head. ‘No, not the Sarah I know.’

‘That’s just it though, isn’t it?’

Irish scriptwriter, Adam Dunne, has received a 5-figure advance on a screenplay from a Los Angeles production company and needs to rework it to me
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
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard 3 stars 1 15 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 37 Sep 19, 2016 02:20AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • I'll Find You
  • Paper Girls (DCI Kett, #1)
  • The Liars
  • She Chose Me
  • The Controller (Lynch and Rose #1)
  • The Ex
  • Shame On You
  • The Picture on the Fridge
  • Dying To Tell
  • When She Returned
  • Bad Dog (DCI Kett #2)
  • The Soul Killer (DI Barton, #2)
  • Three Little Pigs (DCI Kett #3)
  • One Lost Soul (Hidden Norfolk Murder Mystery #1)
  • Hold My Hand
  • Lost Child
  • Appetite for Innocence
  • The Doll House
See similar books…
Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Her debut novel, DISTRESS SIGNALS, was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. THE LIAR'S GIRL (2018) was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and REWIND (2019) was an Irish Times bestseller and shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Prior to w ...more

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We’ve got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
10 likes · 3 comments