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Book: “56 Days” by Catherine Ryan Howard
Publishing Info: Blackstone Publishing, August 2021
Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.
Book Description: No one knew they’d moved in together. Now one of them is dead. Could this be the perfect murder?
56 DAYS AGO
Ciara and Oliver meet in a supermarket queue in Dublin the same week Covid-19 reaches Irish shores.
35 DAYS AGO
When lockdown threatens to keep them apart, Oliver suggests that Ciara move in with him. She sees a unique opportunity for a new relationship to flourish without the pressure of scrutiny of family and friends. He sees it as an opportunity to hide who – and what – he really is.
Detectives arrive at Oliver’s apartment to discover a decomposing body inside. Will they be able to determine what really happened, or has lockdown provided someone with the opportunity to commit the perfect crime?
Review: Let’s talk a little bit about the synchronicity of the universe. I’ve had “56 Days” sitting on my book pile for a few months, as it was an impulse purchase at a book store on a solo trip up north. I knew I was going to get to it, though part of me was like ‘eughhhh, I don’t know, we’re still in this pandemic, am I really ready to read a book about COVID?’ But I cast my doubts aside, as it was goading me just sitting there, and I picked it up….
And not two days later, upon returning from a business trip where he took every precaution he could, my husband brought home COVID and infected the whole house.
Luckily it was pretty mild for me, the husband, and the toddler. But as I was wallowing in my anxiety I read “56 Days”, thinking that sometimes things come full circle in the stupidest ways. That said, my own COVID experience didn’t dampen my reading experience! “56 Days” was a fun read, in spite of my real life mirroring of it.
Catherine Ryan Howard’s thriller has the perfect setting for a mysterious murder: in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic during lockdown in Dublin. Oliver and Ciara have only been dating for a short while, but when the threat of not seeing each other for two weeks looms he asks her to move in. All we know at first is that a decomposing body is found in their shared apartment. We don’t know who it is. Then we jump around in time and perspectives, going back to when Oliver and Ciara first started dating, to the midst of lockdown as paranoia and stir craziness may be kicking in, to the investigation itself. As we jump from Ciara’s perspective, where she is tentative about her getting closer to Oliver but a little excited to, to Oliver’s, who has things that he’s hiding from her, we slowly peel back a larger mystery and a few potential motivations for murder. Now in the U.S. we didn’t have full on lockdowns like Europe did; Minnesota had a ‘stay at home’ order, but it wasn’t a strictly enforced mandate. So while I can’t REALLY speak to the stir craziness that Howard was trying to convey, I get the sense that it was probably aptly portrayed. And as you’re reading the story and know that SOMEONE is going to end up dead, well, that just adds to the tension. Especially when you aren’t totally certain as to why.
And there were a few twists and turns that truly caught me off guard! I was so surprised by one in particular that I had to go back and see if Howard had pulled it out of thin air, or if she had done the due diligence and I had just missed it because her deflection was so well done. It was definitely the latter, and it’s a masterful example of how to pull off such a misdirect in this kind of story. I also think that some of the surprises and twists did a little subverting of what was expected, which I really liked. I’m obviously not going to elaborate, but I will say that some of the pivots from my general expectations were welcomed (while one was maybe a little too much; you all know how I feel about too many pivots or too many twists, I have a hard time getting on board).
And honestly, going back to the beginning of this post, reading this book while having COVID was surreal, but kind of interesting. Again, whatever cases we had were pretty mild, so I was lucky that I am able to say that this felt more like an exercise in novelty and nothing worse than that. But don’t go get COVID just to read this book and have the same experience. I can’t imagine it enhances it too much!
“56 Days” is a fun mystery thriller with a structure I liked and some pretty good surprises. While it was frustrating that COVID did come for my house before we were totally ready for it, at least I had an interesting book to read in those early moments.
Rating 8: Twisty and told in an interesting structure, “56 Days” was the perfect read for being holed up with COVID. I don’t recommend the COVID aspect, but I recommend the book.