Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 August 2022 from Corvus Books
My thanks to Corvus Books for an advance copy for review
Movie-making can be murder.
Final Draft, a psychological horror, being filmed at a house deep in a forest, miles from anywhere in the wintry wilds of West Cork.
Former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actress at the very last minute. She can’t help but hope that this opportunity will be her big break – and she knows she was lucky to get it, after what happened the last time she was on a set.
Something isn’t quite right about Final Draft. When the strange goings-on in the script start to happen on set too, Adele begins to fear that the real horror lies off the page…
I always enjoy a book by Catherine Ryan Howard. Each is different and certainly Run Time (a nice play on words) is a departure from her previous stories, but none the worse for that. This one is more akin to a spooky horror story and is a deliciously wicked read as Howard embeds her protagonist inside a story within another story with many levels. This is meta fiction with a creepy edge.
Adele Raffery is an Irish actress best known for her role in a soap opera in her home country. Things went badly wrong though and she fled to Los Angeles to start again, but has ended up as so many aspiring actors do, working in a run-down Hollywood motel. There she spends her time going to auditions where she is faced with competition in the form of so many young Californian leggy blondes that success seems very far away.
She’s on her uppers and making no headway so she’s both thrilled and astonished to receive a call from a production company back home who are interested in using her on a low budget film they’re making in the west of Ireland. They’ve just lost their lead actor and they want Adele to step in.
The money is terrible, but they’ll pay for decent travel. Best of all, this production is being shot in secret and mostly at night so Adele won’t have to socialise with anyone or indulge in the actor gossip sessions that so plagued her life the last time she was acting in her home country – when things went to badly wrong.
Cross Cut Productions is run by Steve Dade and Daniel O’Leary and has an up and coming strong reputation for excellent, edgy work. A chance to work with a rising director of good reputation is the clincher for Adele who agrees to take the role. She’s sworn to secrecy which suits her down to the ground.
Final Draft is the story of Kate. Kate is a woman who is reading a book and slowly begins to realise that the characters and actions in the book bear a remarkable resemblance to her own life. And just as Kate begins to realise this, so Adele starts to realise that the action in her film script is remarkably similar to what is happening to her.
She’s in a cabin in the middle of dark woods in a remote location with no idea how to get out and no clear idea of exactly where she is and no means of transport, having been picked up by car from the airport. The woods are dark and foreboding, the paths are laden with obstacles. Thereafter things take a decidedly spooky and horror related turn. Adele tries to find out what’s happening to her but she doesn’t have the whole script and slowly she realises that she has no idea who, if anyone, she can trust. Is someone gaslighting her or is history repeating itself?
Verdict: Run Time is peppered with extracts from the script and it is this which makes it a longer than usual page turner. But a page turner it is. It’s one I read in one sitting. It is a fun read and the ‘B’ horror movie vibe comes across well. Ultimately though, it is not difficult to work out the gist of what is going on, but it is still a pleasant and enjoyable read with some lovely moments of tension and a deal of ‘B’ movie spookiness.
Catherine Ryan Howard is an award-winning, internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Her debut thriller, Distress Signals, was published on both sides of the Atlantic in 2016. It was an Irish Times and USA Today bestseller, and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards Crime Fiction Book of the Year and the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. Her subsequent work has been shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel. She has had two No. 1 Irish bestsellers, her novels have been translated into 17 languages and a number have been optioned for screen.