I’m absolutely delighted to welcome novelist and blogger Catherine Ryan Howard as this month’s guest storyteller. Throughout May she’s on a blog tour to coincide with publication of her crime thriller Distress Signals, a tantalising extract of which she’s going to share with us today. My intuition tells me that this super-talented author has a long and successful career ahead of her.
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.
After his girlfriend mysteriously disappears from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, Adam Dunne’s every waking thought is dominated by one question: ‘Where is she?’ To get the answer he must fight an industry with dark secrets to hide and outwit a serial killer who’s discovered the perfect hunting ground.
I jump before I decide that I’m going to.
Air whistles past my ears as I plummet towards the sea, dark but for the panes of moonlight breaking into shards on its surface. At first I’m moving in slow-motion and the surface seems miles away. Then it’s rushing up to meet me faster than my mind can follow.
A blurry memory elbows its way to the forefront of my thoughts. Something about how hitting a body of water from this height is just like hitting concrete. I try to straighten my legs and grip the back of my thighs, but it’s a moment too late. I hit the water at an angle and every nerve ending on the right side of my body is suddenly ablaze with white-hot pain.
I close my eyes.
When I open them again, I’m underwater.
It’s nowhere near as dark as I expected it to be. Beyond my feet, yes, there is a blackness down deep, but here, just beneath the surface, it’s brighter than it was above.
It’s clear too. I can see no dirt or fish. I twist and turn, but I can see no one else either.
Looking up through the water, the hull of the Celebrate looms to my right, the lights of its open decks twinkling. I have a vague idea where in the rows of identical balconies my cabin is, and I wonder if it’s possible for two people to leave the same spot on such an enormous ship, fall eight storeys and land in completely different places.
It must be because I seem to be alone.
I drift down, towards the darkness. Pressure builds in my chest.
I need to get to the surface so I can take a breath. So I can call out and listen for the sounds of legs and arms splashing, or for someone else calling out to me.
I move to stretch both arms out—
A hot poker burns deep inside my shoulder. The pain makes me gasp, pulling water into my throat.
Now all I want to do is to take a breath. I must take one. I can’t wait any longer.
But the surface is at least ten or twelve feet above me, I think.
I start to kick furiously. My lungs scream.
I’m not a strong swimmer; I go nowhere fast. My efforts just keep me at this depth, neither sinking nor ascending.
The surface gets no closer.
The urge to open my mouth and breathe in is only a flicker away from overwhelming. I start to panic, flailing my left arm and legs.
I lift my face to the light as if oxygen can reach me through the water the same way the moon’s rays can, and that’s when I see a shadow on the surface.
A familiar shape: a lifebuoy.
Someone must have thrown it in.
I wonder what that someone saw.
ABOUT DISTRESS SIGNALS:
Published May 5 by Corvus/Atlantic in Ireland and the UK, June 2 in Australia and New Zealand. Details of North American publication later in 2016 coming soon.
Did she leave, or was she taken?
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 the 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…
“Pacey, suspenseful and intriguing … [A] top class, page turning read. Catherine Ryan Howard is an astonishing new voice in thriller writing.” — Liz Nugent, author of 2014 IBA Crime Novel of the Year Unravelling Oliver
“An exhilarating debut thriller from a hugely talented author. Distress Signals is fast-paced, twisty and an absolute joy to read.” — Mark Edwards, #1 bestselling author of The Magpies and Follow You Home
Read a preview of the first three chapters here: