56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

Published: August 17, 2021

Blackstone Publishing

This was my July 2021 Book of the Month selection.

Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland. Her debut thriller, Distress Signals, was an Irish Times and USA Today bestseller and was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association John Creasey New Blood Dagger and the Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Her second novel, The Liars Girl, was a finalist for the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in Dublin.

“The only way you can lose your own shadow is to stand in the dark.”

Ciara has recently arrived in Dublin, on the cusp of the first COVID lockdown. With restrictions getting more and more intense, her chance meeting with Oliver makes them both think this lockdown can make or break their relationship. So Oliver suggests they spend the two-week lockdown together at his apartment provided by his employer. What’s the worst that can happen?

This is the first novel I’ve read where COVID is happening. It was unsettling and scary because we are living the things being written, and it was so easy to imagine being in Ciara and Oliver’s position.

The characters in this novel were fantastic. Ciara is reserved, curious, and intelligent. Oliver is a rule follower, seemingly introverted, and mysterious. Lee is determined and intelligent, patient but also frustrated with the way things are. Karl is young, slightly arrogant, and self-assured. This cast is the recipe for intense character building with a side of wild twists.

I found the plot terrifyingly realistic, with everyone having gone through some type of COVID-related lockdown and isolating. The circumstances were perfect, and the story unraveled in such an unexpected way. I enjoyed how the story was told, the way things bounced timelines, and the fact that we get all sides of what is happening.

The twists are so subtle yet so massive that I could not put this book down. Just when I thought I knew what was going on, another nugget of truth is delivered. This is such a perfect case of whodunnit, truth, and willingness to make an exception.

The story-within-the-story was so well done, and the way details developed was incredibly thought out. There are so many terrifying elements to this novel- you will seriously question if anything is ever just coincidence.

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