The #DistressSignals Blog Tour by Catherine Ryan Howard: Extract Seven

Catherine H poster visual

Today I’m hosting an extract from Catherine Ryan Howard’s thriller – DISTRESS SIGNALS.

Here’s what the blurb says: “‘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…”

By following each stop on the DISTRESS SIGNALS Blog Tour you get to read a bit more of the novel. If you’ve not read extracts 1-6 yet there’s still time – check out the fabulous blogs hosting the previous extracts on the poster above. If you’re all up to date, read on …


I was expecting one of Sarah’s trademark eye-rolls and a sarcastic remark. Maybe a reminder that I was now, technically speaking, a big-shot Hollywood screenwriter and could surely hold my own in conversations about Things Adults Do instead of standing on the periphery, smiling at the right moments but otherwise only moving the ice-cubes in my drink around with a straw. Or perhaps Sarah would point out that I didn’t need to go to this thing, that it was a work night out, that she’d been going by herself until I’d moaned about spending the night before she left for nearly a week home alone, prompting her to – eventually – say, fine, tag along.

But instead she turned to face me, wrapped her arms around my neck and said: ‘I would never abandon you.’

‘Well, good. Oscar night will be stressful enough without having to find a date for it.’

I kissed her, expecting to feel her lips stretched into a smile against mine. They weren’t. I moved my mouth to her jawline, down her neck. There was a faint taste of something powdery, some make-up thing she must have just dusted on her skin. I brought my hands to her waist and went to un-tuck the towel.

Ad,’ Sarah said, wriggling out of my arms. ‘I booked a cab for eight. We don’t have time.’

I looked at my watch. ‘I suppose I should take it as a compliment that you think that.’ I turned to leave.

‘Oh, Ad?’

I stopped in the doorway.

Sarah was in front of the mirror, twisting to check her hair. Without looking at me, she said, ‘I meant to tell you: the others aren’t exactly delighted about me being the one to get to go to Barcelona. They’ve all been milking it with their honeymoons and their maternity leave but God forbid I get to have a week out of the office. I mean, it’s not like I’m off. I’m there to work. Anyway, I’ve been trying not to go on about it, so . . .’

‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I won’t bring it up.’

I smiled to myself as I crossed the hall into the living room. Honeymoons and maternity leave. Now that I’d sold the script, we could finally start making our own plans instead of being forced to watch as the realisation of everyone else’s clogged up our Facebook feeds.

But first . . .

I collected Mike’s card from the coffee table, then dropped into my preferred spot on the couch. It offered a clear line of sight to my desk, which was tucked into the far corner of the living room and so, crucially, was only a few feet from the kitchen and thus the coffee-maker.

A stack of well-thumbed A4 pages were piled on it, curled sticky notes giving it a neon-coloured fringe down its right side. I got a dull ache in the pit of my stomach just looking at it. The rewrite. I had to start it tomorrow. And I would. I’d drive straight home after dropping Sarah at the airport and get stuck in, make the most of the few days and nights that I’d have the apartment to myself.

Sarah emerged from our bedroom, wearing a dress I hadn’t seen before.

The money from the script deal hadn’t arrived yet but, since I’d learned it was on its way, I’d been melting my credit card. Sarah had supported me for long enough, paying utility bills and covering my rent shortfalls with money she could’ve been – should’ve been – spending on herself. That morning I’d sent her into town with a giftcard for a high-end department store, the kind that comes wrapped in delicate tissue and in a smooth, matt-finish gift bag.

‘This is just a token,’ I’d said. ‘Just a little something for now, for tonight. You know when the money comes through . . .’

‘Ad, what are you doing? You don’t know how long that money is going to take to arrive. You should be hanging onto what you’ve got.’

‘I put it on the credit card.’

‘But you might need that credit yet. I really wish you’d think before you spend.’

‘Look, it’s fine. We’ll be fine. I just wanted to . . .’ Sarah’s mouth was set tight in disapproval. ‘Okay, I’m sorry. I am. It’s just that I don’t want to wait to start paying you back for . . . For everything.’

She’d seemed annoyed. Disappointed too, which was worse. But then, later, she’d come home with a larger version of the same bag, and now she was twirling around to show me the dress that had been inside it: red and crossed in the front, the skirt part long and flowing out from her hips.

‘Well?’ she asked me. ‘What do you think?’

She looked beautiful in it. More beautiful than usual. But with the new hair, not quite the Sarah I was used to.

‘Nice,’ I said. I pointed to my jeans and my dark, plain T-shirt.

‘But now I feel underdressed.’

‘Change, if you want to.’

Our buzzer went. The cab was here.

‘No, it’s fine,’ I said. ‘Let’s just go.’

Aside from the clothes Sarah was wearing when I drove her to the airport the next morning, that red dress was the only item I could tell the Gardaí was missing for sure.


Want to know more? Visit for more info and follow Catherine Ryan Howard on Twitter @cathryanhoward

DISTRESS SIGNALS is out now. Follow this link to buy it from Amazon – Amazon link


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