Source: Review copy
Publication: 19 August 2021 from Corvus
My thanks to the publisher for an early copy for review
No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.
56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin and start dating the same week COVID-19 reaches Irish shores.
35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests they move in together. Ciara sees a unique opportunity for a relationship to flourish without the scrutiny of family and friends. Oliver sees a chance to hide who – and what – he really is.
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside. Can they determine what really happened, or has lockdown created an opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?
I adored The Nothing Man and that made 56 Days a ‘must read’ for me. Catherine Ryan Howard is an inventive and entertaining writer and she approaches her subject with verve and originality. That is absolutely the case with 56 Days, a novel inspired by lockdown and set just as Ireland is about to enter the first lockdown phase.
Don’t worry, though, this isn’t a Covid novel, just the starting point for a brilliant mystery that will keep you guessing all the way through.
56 Days is an engrossing and immersive story about two people who meet for the first time on the eve of lockdown. Their story is one of secrets, lies and sharing spaces amidst the fear and isolation of the pandemic.
Catherine Ryan Howard’s story moves back and forwards across her three time zones, but is never difficult to follow. It’s a very clever device in which she slowly reveals snippets of information which the reader has to piece together, all the time jumping to conclusions which may – or as proves to be the case- may not pan out.
This makes it a fascinating thriller as we listen to the stories of Ciara and Oliver, meeting by accident for the first time. Then, after we have established that first attraction, the present day brings us to DI Lee Riordan and DS Karl Connolly. They are standing over a dead body in a shower, in an upmarket set of apartments in Dublin City. It’s been there a while. Has this person died an accidental death, or was it murder? Only by following the timelines will be able to reach a conclusion.
It is obvious when Ciara and Oliver first meet that there’s a mutual attraction. They find common ground very easily and though both are slow to trust, their attraction to each other leads to a relationship forming pretty quickly and that is only accelerated when lockdown comes. Forced to choose between separation and the isolation that would bring to each of these lonely souls, they choose instead to be together when lockdown kicks in.
Because of Howard’s time shifting plot, we know someone is going to end up dead in Oliver’s building. Which one will it be?
Howard is a brilliant writer whose reveals are at once fascinating and also deceptive. This is an excellent masterclass in how to reveal secrets and develop characterisation, all the while leaving the reader wrong footed in their conclusions.
She writes with wit, too. There’s a terrific vein of humour threaded through what turns out to be a dark and troubled story and even when you think you’ve got to the bottom of her fast paced and excellently twisted plotting, she still has some last surprises for you.
Verdict: 56 Days is quite cinematic in construction. It is vivid, very well written, twisty and propulsive. The premise is clever and the execution staggeringly good and all achieved with a seemingly light touch. A great suspense thriller that is as good as it gets.
Catherine Ryan Howard’s debut novel Distress Signals was published by Corvus in 2016 while she was studying English literature at Trinity College Dublin. It went on to be shortlisted for both the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. Her second novel, The Liar’s Girl, was published to critical acclaim in 2018 and was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel 2019. That same year, Rewind was shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year and was an Irish Times bestseller. She is currently based in Dublin.
Photo c. Steve Langan