In Catherine Ryan Howard’s newest thriller, 56 Days, the narrative centers around the pandemic that we are currently still living, years later. Howard saw her opportunity in quarantine to write a novel that explores what can happen when you don’t know the person you choose as your quarantine buddy.
In Ireland, Ciara and Oliver meet at a supermarket on their lunch breaks from work. The pair strike up a connection and begin dating just as COVID rears its head in Dublin. The two must decide to not see each other at during lockdown or do the unthinkable – just move in together and weather the quarantine as a team. A team that doesn’t know each other at all.
The narrative is told through flashbacks of Ciara and Oliver navigating the pandemic together with today, where a body is found in an apartment. Who is dead and why? You must race through the pages to find out.
The Verdict and Analysis
I applaud Catherine Ryan Howard for taking the opportunity to write about how COVID could cause the perfect crime scene. Lockdown provides someone the perfect chance to commit a murder and delay having the body discovered. The idea of merging a thriller with the COVID pandemic that we are living is an intriguing one.
The setting – Dublin, Ireland – is also one I quite enjoyed as someone fascinated by my own Irish heritage and the fact that I have never been able to visit! The concept and setting was fantastic, as well as Howard’s ability to make me race through the pages for answers.
The negatives for this novel come in when we discuss the pacing and length of the text. I found the narrative became quite repetitive at times and it felt as if information was repeated or slowed down to drag out the narrative, which in many cases can be done artfully and not in a frustrating way, but that did not happen that way here unfortunately. I found myself a bit upset in places when two sections were nearly identical, but told from different viewpoints. Sections told by different characters should be different – in voice, in thought, and in essence. However, this was not the case.
Many times I felt the novel could have been edited down, as the repetition did not create suspense, but rather it created frustration and my desire to skip full pages.
In the end, I felt the “reveal” and conclusion was lackluster. Honestly, I felt a little cheated that I’d invested in this HUGE buildup that left me feeling deflated when the conclusion was quick and not as heavy hitting as the buildup would have made me believe it would be.
This is an okay thriller and the concept is intriguing, but I felt it could have been executed with more skill. Overall, it was a solid 3.(3 / 5)