“56 Days” sets perfect murder during pandemic

When Ciara meets Oliver in line at the supermarket in Dublin, she is surprised when he speaks to her. After all, guys who look like him aren’t usually interested in girls like her. But Oliver seems intrigued after Ciara talks to him about space shuttles and he asks her out for coffee.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard (photo courtesy)
56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard (photo courtesy)

One date leads to the next, but all too soon the new couple faces an unexpected challenge. COVID-19 has reached the shores of Ireland and the Taoiseach of Ireland announces a planned two-week Irish-wide lockdown. Instead of splitting up and each of them staying in their own apartments, Oliver suggests that Ciara stay with him in his larger apartment. Ciara agrees to move in with Oliver temporarily. After all, it’s only two weeks, right?

Ciara and Oliver each have their own reasons for moving in together. Ciara wants a chance to really get to know Oliver without outside interference. Oliver sees lockdown as a chance to hide who and what he is from Ciara. They both lie to each other for at least some of their reasons for wanting to try living together. But do they also lie to themselves about their own reasons for living together?

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When does a half-truth or an admission become a lie? And what kind of lie leads to murder?

This is one of the most unique novels I have ever read. Not only has the author taken up the challenge of writing a book in 2020, she has written a book about the perfect murder that could only happen during a pandemic. And on top of that the author has written a book that leaves the reader guessing what is happening and believing they know where the book is going and then the reader’s expectations of what happens, who the characters really are and what they are , vice versa are motivations.

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The novel alternates between the perspectives of Ciara, Oliver and the police officer responsible for the murder. It also goes back and forth in time between today when the murder occurred and 56 days before when Ciara and Oliver met. It then jumps to different times when Ciara and Oliver were together and then lived together.

While most writers appear to have made the decision not to write about COVID-19, Catherine Ryan Howard hailed the events of 2020 and penned a thriller that could only have been made in the unique circumstances that global lockdowns and quarantines bring brought. This book would not be believable without the crazy situations created by COVID.

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Although the book is set in the midst of the pandemic, it is not the focus of the book. This is why Ciara and Oliver are jumping forward in their relationship and apart from a few mentions of masks, washing hands, working from home and how many miles Dubliners are allowed to exercise, COVID is largely ignored. Leading up to murder and the mystery of who was murdered and why is central to the story.

Catherine Ryan Howard’s 56 Days is available to borrow from the Sterling Public Library and as an eBook and eAudiobook from Libby.

Erica Kallsen is a librarian at Sterling Public Library.

56 days

By Catherine Ryan Howard

This book is available from the Sterling Public Library