I have been deeply disappointed by the last handful of thrillers I’ve read. It seems like each one has some over the top plot twist or framing device designed to make the author look super clever and creative, but actually just gets my eyes rolling so far back I give myself a headache (see Survive the Night or All I Want).
But, I needed something light after finishing How the Word Is Passed, 56 Days was available on Libby, and multiple coworkers raved about it. I decided to take a chance, and I’m so glad I did. This book is so satisfying!
Full disclosure, there is a gimmick here! The narrative starts “Today”, with detectives called to the scene of a decomposing body in an apartment. Who is it? How did they die? From here, we jump back to “56 Days Ago”, when Oliver and Ciara meet-cute in the line at Tesco. Back and forth we go, jumping between the present, where the Guardai investigate the body, and the past, where Oliver and Ciara embark on a relationship as COVID starts to creep across Ireland. We also have three shifting points of view, and at least two of them are decidedly unreliable. As we learn more about Oliver and Ciara, we learn that both are hiding secrets, and Howard does a great job of doling out those breadcrumbs at a pace calculated to keep the pages turning without giving the reader enough to figure out all of the surprises.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about reading a book set during COVID, but I thought 56 Days did a great job of capturing the isolation and alienation of lockdown, infused with a sense of creeping dread that had as much to do with 24/7 media coverage of the pandemic as the tension between Oliver and Ciara.