Friday, 6 May 2016

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard Extract


Catherine Ryan Howard
Debut crime published 05 May 2016 in Trade Paperback (£12.99)
eBook also available

When Adam’s girlfriend fails to return from a business trip, he sets out to find her – putting him on a collision course with a deadly predator who may have found the perfect hunting ground.

A deeply compelling, cleverly plotted thriller.

‘There’s no evidence of a murder, but a person is missing. And what’s a missing person minus a body? Not a murder. Oh, no. Never a murder. It’s a disappearance.’
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...


A familiar shape: a lifebuoy.

Someone must have thrown it in.

I wonder what that someone saw.

The edges of my vision are growing dark. Everything is cold except for the spot where my right arm meets my torso; a fire burns in there. The pressure in my chest is pushing my lungs to rupture and burst.

I tell myself I can do this.

All I need to do is get to the lifebuoy.

I kick, harder and stronger and quicker now, somehow. Soon the Celebrate starts to grow bigger. I keep kicking. Then the moon gets bigger too, the water around me brighter still. I keep kicking. And just before I am sure that my lungs will burst, when they are already straining and ripping and preparing to explode—

I break the surface, gasping, sucking down air while my body tries to expel it, coughing and choking and retching and spluttering.

I can breathe.

I’m close enough to the lifebuoy to reach out and touch it. I grip it with my right arm and throw my left – hanging limp, the elbow at a disconcerting angle – over, but now all my weight is on one side of the buoy and it starts to flip.

I realise it’s only assistance, not rescue, and that even though I’m utterly exhausted I’ll have to keep my legs moving just to keep my head above water.

I’m not sure how long I can do this for.

One thing at a time. Don’t panic. One thing at a time.

I’m panting, hyperventilating, so my first task is to slow my breathing down. Breathe in. The right side of my face is stinging. Breathe out. My teeth are chattering. Breathe in.

I can’t see anyone else in the water.

In the distance off to my left are the lights of Nice, emerging from behind the Celebrate’s bow, the amber streetlights following the curve of the promenade first and then, crowded into every available space beyond, hotels and office buildings and apartment blocks. Behind me I know there is nothing but sea for hundreds of miles.

The Celebrate is towering over me, a gargantuan monster jutting out of the water and rising to two hundred feet above my head. I think perhaps I can hear tinkling music drifting down from her

decks. The only other sounds are my breaths and the splashes I make in the water.

I try to be quiet, to be still, and listen for someone else making the same noises, or someone calling out—

I hear it then, faint and in the distance.

Whump. Whump. Whump.

I know the sound but I can’t remember what makes it. I’m trying to when I see something maybe fifteen or twenty feet beyond my left arm: a dark shape bobbing on the surface.

Whump, whump, whump.

The noise is getting louder.

As I stare at the shape, the gentle rippling of the water and the moon conspire to throw a spotlight on it, just for a second, and I catch a glimpse of short brown hair.

Hair I know looks a lighter colour when it isn’t soaking wet.

The body it belongs to is facedown in the water and, as far as I can tell, moving only because of the gentle waves beneath it.


There’s a blinding glare as a helicopter bursts into the sky above the Celebrate, the noise of its motor so loud now that I can feel the sound thundering through my chest.

Its search beam begins sweeping back and forth across the water.

They’ve come for me.

To continue reading, head to Boon’s Bookcase tomorrow, 7th May.


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