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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unputdownable read
Distinctly less gruesome than some of McDermid's novels (that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned), "The Distant Echo" is a cleverly plotted and thoroughly believable read. The characters are engaging and convincingly drawn, and it's nice to see Val setting a novel in her native Scotland for once!
The story spans 25 years, beginning in 1978 when four students -...
Published on 5 Mar 2004 by felicemorigel

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, but a little disappointing
My first encounter with Val McDermid, on a recommendation. And it wasn't bad, but I don't think she's in the same league as the likes of Ian Rankin or Graham Hurley in this genre. The characters are surprisingly two-dimensional, and some of the dialogue used to establish character lacks conviction - the spirituality of the Christian is particularly unconvincing and...
Published on 15 May 2005 by Phil Back


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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unputdownable read, 5 Mar 2004
By 
felicemorigel - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
Distinctly less gruesome than some of McDermid's novels (that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned), "The Distant Echo" is a cleverly plotted and thoroughly believable read. The characters are engaging and convincingly drawn, and it's nice to see Val setting a novel in her native Scotland for once!
The story spans 25 years, beginning in 1978 when four students - the "laddies fi' Kirkcaldy" - at St Andrews University stumble across the body of a young woman while walking home from the pub late one snowy night. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, coupled with the inability of the police to identify any other suspects, has catastrophic consequences for the four young men. The fallout from the unsolved murder of Rosie Duff reverberates down the years and comes back to haunt Alex, Ziggy, Davey and Tom in ways they could never have imagined.
"The Distant Echo" is a gripping read, with an excellent plot and believable characterisation, and I for one had no inkling of the eventual denouement!
Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Thriller, 14 Feb 2004
By 
Untouchable (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Hardcover)
This book is very reminiscent of McDermid's most successful book to date, the multi-award winning A PLACE OF EXECUTION. The similarity lies in the way the story is presented in two parts, the first half dealing with the emotion of the crime as it happens and the second half fast forwards to the present and deals with the fallout. In this case we are taken back to 1978 before completing the story in 2003. On the surface it's a simple mystery, a girl is raped, stabbed and left for dead in the small university village of St Andrews in Scotland. But as the story unfolds, the consequences prove that the tragedy is much more insidious and far reaching.
Part 1 of the story begins with four young men walking home drunk from a party, late one night. The men met on their first day of high school and have stood by each other throughout their school life. They have now moved on to university and have remained inseparable. They each have nicknames bestowed upon them and it is by these names that we know of them throughout the book. For the record, their names and nicknames are Alex Gilbey (aka Gilly), Sigmund Malkiewicz (aka Ziggy), David Kerr (aka Mondo) and Tom Mackie (aka Weird). During their walk home they literally stumble upon the body of Rosie Duff, a barmaid from the local pub. She had been stabbed in the stomach and was barely clinging to life.
Faced with the dying girl, Alex is sent to get help and finds PC James Lawson who raises the alarm, but by the time they get back to Rosie, she had already died. The 4 friends start out as the only witnesses to the murder, but soon become the only suspects, thanks to two facts. The police have a distinct lack of evidence and, while being questioned all four of them withhold information that they think is unrelated to the case and would only serve to get them in trouble.
Although they all insist they had nothing to do with Rosie's death, news soon leaks that the police had questioned them and people start voicing their suspicions. The rest of the first part of the story sees the slow disintegration of the boy's friendship as the case drags on with the finger of blame continually pointed at them. They have to endure malicious gossip and rumour as well as physical and verbal abuse. They even get to the point where they begin to become suspicious of each other and start to blame one another for getting them into their predicament.
It's in the second half of the book (Part 2) that the story really comes to life as plot twists are thrown in one on top of the other. It's 25 years later and we get to see what became of the four friends and how their nightmare experience has affected their lives. We also get a complete change in tempo as the style of story jumps from police procedural to that of a thriller. McDermid does a splendid job of feeding out a little bit of the murder investigation, which has been reopened as part of the Chief Constable's cold case review programme, while supplying an intensely thrilling subplot to keep things jumping.
THE DISTANT ECHO shows how easily a weak friendship can be torn apart under pressure, but at the same time it highlights the strength of true friendship. I found it to be compulsive reading thanks to its multi-dimensional story line. It's more than just a murder mystery, although it's a fine murder mystery just the same, it's a book that deals with relationships (all sorts of relationships, by the way) and their survival through all sorts of adversity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Friends In Need, 18 Mar 2004
By 
D. Norman "chippermoon@aol.com" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
Four Universtity students, Ziggie, Mondo, Alex and Weird are returning home from a party. It is 2.00am and a bitterly cold morning in Fife, Scotland. They stumble across Rosie Duff, lying badly wounded in the snow. Rosie dies from her wound, the victim of murder. The four friends are prime suspects. From here on their lives will never be the same. The strength of their friendship put to the severest test.
From this beginning, Val Mc Dermid weaves a plot of interest and suspense. Inspector Mc Clellan, handling the murder investigation suspects that one or more, possibly, of the four friends could be concealing evidence. It is against this backdrop, plus the attention of the media, that Ziggie, Mondo, Alex and Weird struggle, not just to keep to the routine of their lives but to maintain the bond of their friendship.
It is through the development of these characters and the way in which they cope (and perhaps more to the point, often don't) with these traumatic circumstances that adds momentum to the story. Especially so as, after twenty five years, the case of Rosie Duff is again re-opened and `accidental` deaths begin to occur. It is here, that we can establish how each of the four friends has continued their lives, as well as assessing how the intervening years have affected each of them.
I enjoyed this story. The characterisation is excellent. By the end of the book, I felt as if I had known each of the four friends personally. My only murmer of unease, is in the length of the book, which at 560 pages could, I thought could have been condensed just slightly.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from the Dark Side of the Moon, 9 Feb 2007
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, a small mining community on the east coast of Scotland and studied English at Oxford University. The books she has written featuring Tony Hill and Carol Jordan have provided the basis for the popular "Wire on the Blood" television series. Her novels have won a number of awards, including the Macavity award, the Anthony Award and Grand Prix des Romans d'Aventure. "The Distant Echo", meanwhile, has picked up the Sherlock and Barry Awards and has been nominated for the Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. It is one of her stand-alone books, was first published in 2003 and is largely set in Scotland.

The story begins in December 1978 with four students at St. Andrew's University staggering home together after an end-of-term party. Alex "Gilly" Gilbey, Sigmund "Ziggy" Malkiewicz, Tom "Weird" Mackie and Davey "Mondo" Kerr grew up in the nearby village of Kirkcaldy and - despite differences of opinion about David Bowie and Pink Floyd - have been close friends since school. Taking their usual short-cut over Hallow Hill, a hidden tree-root and a shove form Weird sees Alex literally stumbling across something he'd rather have avoided. Rosie Duff, the Lammas Bar's nineteen year-old barmaid, has been raped, stabbed and is barely alive when Alex lands on her. Ziggy, a medical student, tries to keep her alive while Alex runs for help - however, by the time he returns with PC Jimmy Lawson, Rosie has died. Worse is to come : DI Barney Maclennan, who leads the subsequent murder investigation, views the four friends as the prime suspects rather than key witnesses. The police's attempts at an investigation, and their suspicions about the students, become common knowledge : the early part of the book covers the initial investigation and its effects on the four friends. However, they aren't charged, and the case never comes to court.

In late 2003, Fife Police announce they are to look into Rosie's murder again as part of a full-scale cold case review. While the Laddies fi' Kirkcaldy were never charged, there are some who are still convinced of their guilt - including Rosie's brothers, a pair with a violent record. By now, Alex is living in Edinburgh, Mondo is in Glasgow, while Ziggy and Weird are living in America. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of Rosie's murder, a date Alex has never been able to forget, he receives a phone call : one of his three friends is dead, killed in what turns out to be an arson attack. Attending the funeral, he notices a wreath made of rosemary and white roses. The message, unsigned, reads "Rosemary for Remembrance". Alex, remembering that Rosie's full name was Rosemary Duff, has started feeling somewhat edgy...

This is the first novel by McDermid I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's difficult not to feel sorry for, and worried about, Alex and his friends bearing in mind what the investigation is doing to them, the strain it puts on their friendship and how they are widely viewed as pariahs. The book features plenty of twists and turns, is very easily read and is one I would highly recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great novel, with an unpredicted ending..., 27 Aug 2009
By 
I. Solutions "666wizard" (New Forest, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
This is my first Val McDermid novel, and won't be my last.

The opening, where four students stumble across a murder, ticks the first box of a crime thriller very well, by putting you at the scene, drawing you in, and you immediately sympathise with all four of the witnesses, who become suspects.

The second quarter of the novel documents the start of the cracks that are there in the fragility of the friendship of the four students; a few clues to the solution emerge. But, stay with it; it's worth it.

Part 2 moves to the (recent) present day.

Additional, unsuspected players in the earlier tragedy emerge, 25 years later. New Police characters are on the scene, to muddy the waters further. A couple of good twists towards the end (one of which I hadn't seen coming), kept me reading.

Well plotted, and convincing. Would have been happy for some of the narrative of the four suspects personal lives to have been edited a bit, towards the end of Part 1, but this is only a mild criticism (builds sympathy for them I guess).

Definitely 4+*
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good thriller, 11 Nov 2003
By 
Abbi Rouse (St Peter Port, Guernsey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
This is a good thriller which definitely keeps you turning the pages.
It's not a perfect novel, however: The characters start off as a close-knit group with distinct personalities. As the book progresses and they go their seperate ways they change too much and become a bit uninteresting and I stopped caring if they were murdered in their beds! But I can't say that spoilt my enjoyment of the story as a whole.
Also at the end one of the key facts which led to the killing spree left me thinking "hm". But that only emerges after all the action is over, so again, it isn't a spoiler.
Despite those points I did enjoy the book and the finale is pretty spectacular. I was disappointed with the way the final chapter/conclusion was written though (as a memory rather than direct action), which I felt was rather limp.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, but a little disappointing, 15 May 2005
By 
Phil Back "scolari" (Tadcaster, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
My first encounter with Val McDermid, on a recommendation. And it wasn't bad, but I don't think she's in the same league as the likes of Ian Rankin or Graham Hurley in this genre. The characters are surprisingly two-dimensional, and some of the dialogue used to establish character lacks conviction - the spirituality of the Christian is particularly unconvincing and stereotyped, you hear more convincing Godspeak on the God Channel. I also found it hard to believe that police procedures could be as shoddy as this plot demands that they are. All that said, it was an enjoyable, engrossing read that took me through several twists and turns, while never really delivering against the puff on the jacket or in the reviews on this page.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is my kind of a story, 31 May 2003
By 
LB (Manchester, MO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Hardcover)
Val McDermid's "A Place of Execution" is one of my favorite books. "The Distant Echo" is not quite as good as 'Execution', but it comes close. The beginning of both books is somewhat slow. But, in both cases, it was necessary to let the reader in on all of the background of the cases. These two books are similiar in that the crimes took place many years ago and the solutions come to light in present day time frames.
In "Distant Echo", the story takes off when the time frame of the book turns to present day. The murder of a young woman has been reopened after 25 years. There were 4 suspects 25 years ago, but not enough evidence to charge anyone. The 4 men's lives have taken diverse paths, but the murder and suspicion still hang over their heads after all this time. There is a new character and suspect who is introduced to the readers. He is an interesting addition to the mix.
Val McDermid is a master storyteller. It is the kind of book that grabs you and won't let you go. Even when I put the book down, the story was still swirling around in my head. She makes the characters come to life and she puts in just the right amount of twists and turns. We are trying to find out who committed a murder 25 years ago and also dealing with much more recent deaths. A very good mix of the past and present.
In "Place of Execution", the final 'twist' of the story was something that I did not see coming at all. In "Distant Echo", I figured out the murderer earlier than I would have liked. A few of the clues were pretty obvious. In my mind, this is the big difference in the two books. They are both wonderful reading, but I was a little more surprised by "Execution".
I live in the US, but since "Distant Echo" was not yet available here, I ordered it from amazon.uk. Money well spent - it another great book from Val McDermid.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Between Very Good and Excellent, 11 May 2003
By 
G. J. Oxley "Gaz" (Tyne & Wear, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Hardcover)
Four students stumble upon the dying body of a young lady in the early hours of mid-December 1978 after a drunken binge, and each of their lives is changed from that day on.

The setting for the first part of the book is the late 1970s and the students all attend St Andrews University. They've been tight friends for years and we recognise their different characteristics: the paternal one who watches out for the others; the slightly effete one rescued from bullying by the others; the athletic one with the heart of gold; and the off-the-wall, slightly irresponsible one. McDermid is a skilled writer however and never allows them to become mere stereotypes.

The second, pacier half of the novel brings the action up-to-date with the earlier murder still unresolved, and the four students still under suspicion from the murdered girl's family. At its conclusion it delivers a truly satisfying double whammy of surprises which delighted me no end as I didn't see either coming.

I look forward to reading more of this author's works. Previously, I'd only read "The Mermaids Singing" which was again, a very well-plotted thriller.

Clearly Val belongs in the big league of crime fiction writers as the work of hers that I've read stands comparison with the big guns of the genre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Distant Echo, 2 Nov 2008
This review is from: The Distant Echo (Paperback)
Frustrating read. Seriously overlong the author could have easily lost 100 pages from the manuscript. At times her prose was cliched. The biggest problem was the pace of the novel. It is slow and by the end you may not care who the murderer was or what happened. I think if the book had been structured differently, e.g. set in the present with flashbacks to the past, it would have had more pace and still carried the psychological depth that the author was obviously aiming for. As it stands it's not a bad read, just mediocre.
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The Distant Echo
The Distant Echo by Val McDermid (Paperback - 4 Mar 2010)
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