Catherine Ryan Howard’s ‘56 Days’ offers gripping page-turner set in a COVID-19 world

Sofia Treviño

A new couple quarantines together to build their relationship. Except, their love story ends with one of the two decomposing on the bathroom floor.

Crime writer Catherine Ryan Howard’s latest release, “56 Days,” sets the stage for a genre of future novels by featuring COVID-19 throughout the plot. Set in Dublin during the early stages of the pandemic, the book’s main characters, Oliver and Ciara, meet in a supermarket. After only a few dates and the announcement of lockdown, they decide to quarantine together. 

Fifty-six days later, Lee, an investigator, arrives at their apartment and questions whether the unidentified body resulted from a homicide or suicide. From there on, readers must figure out who died in the apartment.

Flashing back and forth between 56 days ago, and present time, Howard unveils different perspectives through the eyes of Oliver, Ciara and Lee. Each new lens offers insights into the characters’ suspicious actions. By switching the point of view every chapter, Howard allows readers to adjust between time periods, creating a greater buildup of suspense.

Howard plays with unreliable narrators, selectively choosing which thoughts and actions Oliver and Ciara narrate. Through this multiple lens narration technique, “56 Days” shocks readers with multiple unpredictable plot twists. However, the pacing felt unbalanced, with a quick ending unpacking various secrets yet not enough, leaving questions unanswered.

Though COVID-19 does help set the scene and raise the stakes, the pandemic does not overshadow the murder-mystery plotline. While it retains many of the themes of modern daily life, “56 Days” still serves as an ample escape for avid readers. One of the first novels to feature COVID-19, it joins a growing genre of pandemic-themed works.

“56 Days” hooks readers in from the start, making them wonder about the identity of the dead body and how they died. Howard’s writing delivers a gripping page-turner, allowing readers an escape from a real world pandemic into a fictional one.

4 crime scenes out of 5