Cork writer is on winning run - we review her latest crime novel

GRAINNE McGUINNESS is hooked on the new crime thriller by the acclaimed Catherine Ryan Howard
Cork writer is on winning run - we review her latest crime novel

Catherine Ryan Howard. Picture: Bríd O'Donovan

LIFE is not going well for Adele Rafferty when we meet her at the start of Run Time. Some dubious decisions and a terrible (although at first unspecified) experience on her most recent acting job mean a once-flourishing career has hit the skids.

At one time a household name in Ireland thanks to a role in a long-running soap, now Adele works in a motel in LA while auditioning without conviction for minor roles.

So when she is offered what appears to be the perfect chance to resurrect her career, she jumps at it, even though it means a journey to the wilds of West Cork in a matter of hours.

Jane Casey describes the author of Run Time, Cork’s Catherine Ryan Howard, as “the queen of high concept crime fiction” and she has delivered a corker of a set-up here.

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard.
Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard.

Adele is in West Cork to work on a low-budget horror with a simple premise - young author Kate is in a remote cottage on holidays with her boyfriend when events in their life start to mirror the plot of a creepy book she found there about a woman called Karen. As Adele gets ready to play Kate, you guessed it, events on set start to mirror the creepy events in the script where Kate is reading about the creepy events in the book.

It’s a great idea and Ryan Howard works it well; ratcheting up the tension at a blistering pace. 

I read this in the recent heatwave and still found myself shivering with unease as Adele’s experience on the set gets progressively stranger.

This is not a book to choose with the intention of reading a few pages a day before bed. Ryan Howard excels at keeping her readers hooked; you will find yourself compelled to keep reading, fully invested in Adele’s fate.

In addition to the actual events taking place, the reader also reads the script alongside Adele as she learns the fate of Kate, who is reading the book about the events at the isolated cottage. This is a Russian Doll of a story.

Run Time is a pleasure to read; Adele is a well-written and likeable character, which helps ground the chilling events of the book.

I’ve never spent time on the set of a low-budget movie, but Ryan Howard paints a believable picture of the tiny crew working together on location. The Grange woman had good reason to write this so well, her brother is the actor John Ryan Howard and in the acknowledgements she tells us it was his role in an Irish horror movie that prompted the idea for this book.

Run Time is a novel thriller fans will devour, and relish.

Run Time has its Cork launch in Waterstones on Patrick Street this evening (FRIDAY AUGUST 19) at 6.30pm, where Ryan Howard will be in conversation with fellow best-selling Cork author Catherine Kirwan.

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