Distress Signals is the debut novel of Catherine Ryan Howard. It is a solid thriller with an unlikely protagonist and a unique setting. The writing is tight and fast-paced, and the story intriguing enough to keep me reading long after I usually stop.
Distress Signals concerns a disappearing girlfriend (Sarah), her just-about-to-be-a-famous-writer boyfriend (Adam) and his efforts to track her down. The tension is ratcheted up by Adam having only a week to do the rewrites on his first movie script and, if he misses the deadline, he loses the contract and the 6-figure advance and any chance of working in Hollywood again. As a writer, this really concerned me, and I kept mentally shouting at him, “Do the rewrite! She'll still be missing next week! You can look for her then.” A bit cold, I know, and fortunately, Adam didn't see it that way.
His search leads him to the cruise ship Celebrate, and the deeper he delves, and the more lies he uncovers, the more he becomes convinced that Sarah did not simply do a bunk, but was the victim of foul play. And when, at last, he finds someone who believes him, someone who has had a similar experience to his, someone who he can join forces with, things only get darker and more sinister.
In a desperate effort to uncover the truth, Adam and his new ally book onto the Celebrate to find and confront the killer. But the showdown is not what they expect.
And the rewrite is still not done.