56 Days

Blackstone. Aug. 2021. 366p. ISBN 9781982694654. $24.99. THRILLER
A blossoming attraction between two young Dublin professionals, in the days before COVID-19 reaches Ireland’s shores, is the menacing departure point for Howard’s stunning new thriller (following The Nothing Man). Ciara and Oliver notice each other over several chance run-ins at the local supermarket checkout and soon forge a connection with far-reaching and devastating consequences. They are swept up in the adrenaline of their mutual fascination, but their fragile new relationship is threatened by a state-mandated two-week lockdown as COVID-19 looms. Ciara and Oliver make the daring decision to move in together during the lockdown and to tell no one about the living situation (or who they really are to each other). But 56 days later, detectives discover the grisly remains of a decomposing body in Oliver’s apartment. The clues are confounding, but it appears that the lockdown created truly ripe circumstances for murder.
VERDICT Howard crafts likable characters, witty banter, and clever POV shifts throughout, but readers may need a strong neck to withstand the whiplash of frequent time jumps. This quibble aside, Howard has written an eerie, twisty story ripped from current headlines, in which a global pandemic becomes the foreboding hypotenuse of a dangerous love triangle.
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