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The Distant Echo (Mcdermid, Val) Hardcover – October 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Mcdermid, Val
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312301995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312301996
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,698,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This absorbing psychological novel of revenge shows British author McDermid (A Place of Execution) at the top of her form. In part one, set in 1978 in St. Andrews, Scotland, four drunken male students, friends since childhood, stumble over the raped and stabbed body of a dying woman, Rosie Duff, while staggering home through a snow storm. Though her violent brothers are convinced of their guilt, no one is charged with Rosie's murder. In part two, 25 years later, the police hope new forensic technologies will solve the crime, and suddenly someone is stalking the four men, whose lives have been haunted and their relationships changed by the murder. Two die, supposedly by accident, and the remaining pair, Alex Gilbey and Tom Mackie, must find out what happened before they're killed, too. James Lawson, an assistant chief constable who was a junior cop in 1978, wants to close the case and avenge the death of his admired superior, DI Barney Maclennan, who fell from a cliff during the initial inquiry. When Graham Macfadyen, who claims he's Rosie's illegitimate son and also seeking revenge, contacts Lawson, the investigation takes a startling turn. Only the careful reader will anticipate the stunning conclusion, which makes perfect sense. Outstanding pacing, character and plot development, plus evocative place descriptions, make this another winner.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* DNA technology has breathed new life into cases long comatose, extending both the long arm of the law and the scope of crime writers. British writer McDermid, who has won the prestigious Anthony, Macavity, and Gold Dagger awards, uses the new technology to resurrect the murder of a teenage girl in St. Andrew's, Scotland, 25 years ago. McDermid's 400-page novel gives equal time to two years: 1978, the year of the murder, and 2003, the year the Cold Case Squad in Fife reopened it. Part 1 focuses on four St. Andrew's University students who, reeling home after a night partying, literally stumble upon Rosie Duff's body in a field. This section starts the nightmare that deepens throughout, as the students become, first, suspects and then targets of hatred when lack of evidence fails to convict them, except in the public mind. Part 2 reopens both the old case and old wounds and adroitly moves between the investigation of Rosie's murder and the investigation of a killer bent on avenging it. McDermid uses the brooding, craggy Scottish landscape evocatively; two scenes of peril, one in the North Sea, the other in a dungeon in St. Andrew's Castle, are especially chilling. McDermid, whose reputation and popularity are growing incrementally with each new book, is very like P. D. James in her masterful mixing of forensic science with brisk plots and in-depth characterization. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on January 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At four o'clock in the morning in December of 1978, four students from St. Andrews School in Scotland stumble across the bloodied body of barmaid Rosie Duff. She is still alive, if barely, and the fastest of the students, Alex Gilbey, runs off through the blinding snow to find help. He eventually staggers up to a police car, covered himself in Rosie's blood and soaked in sweat, looking, he is uncomfortably aware, more like a man guilty of murder than a respectable citizen reporting a crime. Sure enough, in the absence of other suspects, Gilbey and his friends, the self-styled "Laddies fi' Kirkcaldy," are suspected of the murder--Rosie dies shortly after the boys find her--though definitive proof of their guilt is never uncovered.

The murder investigation of 1978 and its repercussions for the four students are the subject of the first part of The Distant Echo. The second part opens twenty-five years later, when Rosie's murder is reinvestigated as part of a cold case review. Modern forensic techniques such as DNA analysis will, it is to be hoped, finally exonerate Gilbey and his friends and bring the real killer to light. But, of course, things don't go as smoothly as one would like for the Laddies fi' Kirkcaldy....

It is a measure of McDermid's success that one cannot be at all confident about the identity of Rosie's killer until it is revealed at the book's end. Until then even the unlikeliest of suspects seem as if they just might have committed the crime. The Distant Echo is tense--I read the last 120 pages or so in one sitting, it being impossible not to do so--and its complex characters well drawn. I am not convinced that in the end the motivation of the killer makes perfect sense, but my niggling doubts are far outweighed by my appreciation of the good read McDermid has given us.

Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Val McDermid returns to fine form with an absolutely sensational thriller and an utterly compelling page-turner. I was somewhat disappointed with A Place of Execution; although good, it was rather long, and lacked the tightly driven plot and dramatic tension that is usually synonymous with McDermid's work. The actions of the past and how much these dealings come back to haunt us are woven through A Distant Echo, as throughout the first half of the book, the reader is catapulted back to New Year's Eve in 1978 and then, in the second half of the book, bought forward to 2003 where redemption and truth are finally revealed.
McDermid creates a solid and chilly atmosphere as she describes bleak and cold Scottish winters in the town of Kirkcaldy and in the University Town of St, Andrews, where our four main protagonists live. On a frosty, icy night four young students Tom, Alex, David, and Sigmund, full of optimism and idealism about their lives and careers, find the blood soaked body of Rosie Duff, a local girl, who has been brutally stabbed. What happens next turns into a riveting tale of recrimination and blame, as the boys faced with a seemingly, disinterested and inadequate local police force, face a life branded as killers. A Distant Echo, in classic whodunit style really keeps you guessing, and the tension and suspense never ceases as time periods are transcended and the real killer is gradually revealed.
McDermid, to her credit, infuses the narrative with lots of things Scottish. References are constantly made to homemade shortbread, nappies, black bun, sultana cake, Scottish country dancing, grouse, and whiskey. You really get a sense of familiarity, and that McDermid is completely passionate about her roots.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. Ghosh on January 5, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I picked this novel up a couple of weeks back at the local Borders without knowing what type/kind of thriller this would turn out to be, especially after reading some crappy thrillers for the last couple of months (with all of them marked as either "National Bestseller" or "International Bestseller"). But this one really turned out to be a very good one, not only the overall story line, but all the major characters were very well chosen, extremely fighting fit portrayed and all the facts/events superbly interwoven. Moreover, the whole thing is so finely written and easily readable stuff. I especially liked the way the author managed to delineate the fact how sometimes even trying to help innocently can prove disastrous. Anyway, overall 5 stars!!!

Subhasish Ghosh

5th Jan 2006

St. Cross College

University of Oxford
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker on September 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It�s December 1978 in St Andrews, Scotland, and the town is held in the smooth grip of a blanket of snow. Four young men are stumbling home from a party, taking a shortcut over Hallow Hill, when one of them discovers, half-buried in the snow, the body of young barmaid Rosie Duff, bleeding profusely and barely alive. Unfortunately, she dies before any help can arrive, and the four lads become, for lack of any contrary evidence, the only suspects.
Fast-forward 25 years. Now, Fife police have set up a cold-case review team, to apply new techniques to unsolved cases. And one of the cases they will be looking into the notorious Rosie Duff murder. The original quartet of suspects has now been scattered to the four winds. Their bond has been strained almost to breaking by the suspicion that they had to bear, and all their lives have been fundamentally changed by what they uncovered that evening.
Then, one of them dies in a suspicious fire, and the four remaining friends are brought together again with a crash. But, soon, further events conspire to make it abundantly clear that someone is wreaking vengeance or Rosie Duff. Someone who is determined to see that the most harsh of justice is finally meted out to those who killed her�
It�s rather clear, even from just reading a brief synopsis, that Val McDermid�s latest book is going to be very, very good.
The Distant Echo returns McDermid to the dizzying heights of A Place of Execution (which, really, is so good that it must be placed outside the genre of �crime�), while retaining all the sheer enjoyability factor of other successes such as Killing the Shadows. It�s an excellent book, destined for great success.
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