No one even knew they were together. Now one of them is dead.

I loved this premise. Even better? I thoroughly enjoyed the execution too and devoured this book over the course of just a few days.

What’s it about?

When Covid-19 reaches Ireland and lockdown looms, a tentative couple who’ve only been on two dates decide to move in together to ride out the storm. Ciara sees an opportunity to build a relationship without anyone interfering. Oliver sees a chance to hide who he really is.

56 days later, police arrive at Oliver’s apartment to find a decomposing body inside. Has lockdown created the opportunity for someone to commit the perfect crime?

What’s it like?

Immediately engaging, despite the slightly distancing first chapter, which focuses on the apartment building rather than any specific characters. Chapters shift between time scales, gradually moving us from Oliver and Ciara’s first meeting through to the events of today, interspersing scenes where the detectives ponder the dead body and its attendant mysteries with the characters meeting and getting to know each other.

I found it particularly fascinating that we don’t even know who has died for most of the book, and though we might early on worry about the naïve sheep and the lurking wolf, Howard effectively overturns the narrative when she begins to unspool events that happened prior to that crucial first meeting and even revisits that first meeting itself…

I have one niggle: surely Oliver would have known a key fact about the family of another character? I fail to see how he could have not known about that character, but this would ruin the whole story, so it’s best not to dwell upon this minor discrepancy!

Final thoughts

I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to all fans of crime fiction. I loved the very genuine twists that developed, leaving you wondering how and why one of these characters ended up being murdered.

I always enjoy an unreliable narrator and this is very well constructed, without feeling laboured. The story felt like taking apart a series of Russian dolls to reach the kernels of truth buried under all the layers of motivation, rationalisation and story telling.

The police characters are well written and their banter / camaraderie makes a nice break from the more intense chapters featuring the couple, whose paranoia can become intense at times. Although the main events take place over a couple of months, the police investigation takes place over a few hours, helping to create a sense of pace and, finally, a sense of closure.


’56 days’,
Catherine Ryan Howard,
2022, Corvus, paperback