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56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard
Thriller

56 Days

Early Release

This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait to read it.

by Catherine Ryan Howard

Excellent choice

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Quick take

Shack up with your quarantine bae, they said. It will be totally awesome and not terrible, they said...

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological

    Psychological

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unreliable

    Unreliable narrator

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Murder

    Murder

Synopsis

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.

TODAY
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?

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicide as well as scenes containing violence directed at minors.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of 56 Days.
56 Days

Today

It’s like one of those viral videos taken inside some swanky apartment complex, where all the slim and fit thirtysomething residents are doing jumping jacks behind the glass railings of their balconies while the world burns. But these ones stand still, only moving to look down or at each other from across the courtyard, or to lift a hand to their mouth or chest. Their faces are pale, their hair askew, their feet bare. Dawn has barely broken; they’ve just been roused from their sleep. No one wants to film this.

The residents look like they could’ve all been in school together except for one. Number Four is older than her neighbors by a couple of decades. She owns while the others rent. The patio of her ground-floor apartment has a bistro-style table and chairs surrounded by carefully arranged potted plants; most everyone else’s is used to store bikes or not at all. Last Saturday night, she threatened to report Number Seventeen’s house party to the Gardaí for breaching restrictions unless it ended right now, and when it didn’t she stayed true to her word. She is a glamorous woman, usually well dressed and still well preserved, but this morning she is unkempt and barefaced, dressed in a pair of baby-pink cotton pajama bottoms and a padded winter jacket that swings open as she strides across the courtyard.

She is also the only one who knows the code that silences the fire alarm. It went off five minutes ago—that’s what has woken them—and the residents assume they have her to thank for taking care of it.

There has never been a fire here but, in the last few weeks, three fire alarms—four if you count this one. The residents have complained repeatedly to the management company that the system is just too sensitive, that it must be reacting to burnt toast and people who smoke cigarettes without cracking a window, but in turn, the management blames them for triggering it. The noise no longer signals danger but interruption, and when it went off a few minutes ago they all did what they usually do: went outside, onto their balconies and terraces, to see what they could see, to check for flames or smoke, not expecting any and finding none.

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Why I love it

When COVID first struck, several authors I know grappled with the question of whether to acknowledge the pandemic in their upcoming novels. At the time, a lot of novelists decided against it: The global crisis was so rapidly-changing and immense that they feared it would overpower all other storylines. But into that conundrum stepped Catherine Ryan Howard, who took the opposite approach and with great success: Not only did she capture the bottled-up emotions and literal confines of quarantine, she also wove them into a pitch-perfect thriller that presents new revelations on page after page.

56 Days situates itself in the jittery, almost otherworldly setting of Dublin just as the virus begins to seep ashore in Ireland. We meet a young couple—Ciara and Oliver—who decide to enter lockdown together, even though they've been on only a couple of dates and each secretly feels a bit wary of the other. Cue the goosebumps, because within a few weeks, someone is dead.

It's a terrific, chilling premise, elevated by the plot's sophisticated architecture. Like a game of Jenga, the chapters pile up with subtle clues and layered twists—until one final piece is revealed, causing everything to come crashing down. This is a first-rate thriller not to be missed.

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Member ratings (27,255)

  • Alison G.

    St. Clair Shores, MI

    This is the first book that I’ve read that has been set in pandemic time, and I was weary about it. However the twists and turns and familiarity of what globally experienced kept me hooked ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Ambrosia A.

    Omaha, NE

    This is one of my favorite books I’ve gotten so far. Every single chapter left me wanting more and I personally loved how we jumped from perspective to perspective and different times!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Mathea C.

    Vancouver, WA

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐ It wasn't my favorite thriller but it's definitely worth a read. It's clever and realistic but it didn't hook me in as much as I wanted it to until the last few pages. Loved the Dublin setting.☘️

  • Carey O.

    Lodi, OH

    Whoa! This book took me here, there and everywhere! I went in thinking one thing, got led to believe something, learned a thing and then got smacked in the face. What a journey! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Devon F.

    Clermont, FL

    I loved how this book jumped between “now” and “then” and also between both characters’ POVs. Interesting to read what some of us expected from this pandemic (short lived) vs reality! Kept me guessing

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