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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Review: The Distant Echo, Val McDermid

What would you say if someone told you that the next time you went out on the lash, a series of unfortunate events would brand you as a murder suspect?

That's what happened to Alex, Mondo, Weird and Ziggy. Four friends studying at St Andrews university, taking some well-deserved time out at Christmas, happen upon the body of a young woman in a cemetery on a freezing December night. They recognise her as Rosie Duff, a barmaid in a pub they often frequent. They run for help... and end up being treated as suspects, not mere witnesses.

The book is split into two parts. Part 1 is the discovery of the murder and the initial investigation and the reopening of the case twenty five years later. During the first half of the book, though you know the main four characters are innocent, you find yourself questioning whether it was actually one of them because it is impossible to think about who else could have been responsible. Since they live in a small town, the four characters quickly become notorious and victims of abuse, particularly from Rosie Duff's brothers. They take any opportunity they can to deliver their personal brand of justice to those whom they believe to have taken their sister's life without caring about the consequences.

Part 2 is the reopening of the case for a "cold case review" and here we meet Graham McFadyen. He is Rosie's long-lost son who had been adopted since Rosie got pregnant with him as a teenager. He sets off on his own personal mission to avenge his mother.

The story was, overall, well-paced and interesting, although it felt a little dragging in places. This could have been simply because it was reflecting the tedium of every day life and the frustrating nature of police work. It picked up much more quickly during the last third of the book, and it becomes one of those cases where you are skimming to the point of skipping in your desperation to get to the "whodunnit". McDermid does a really good job of making you think who it is, who it must be, up until the last moment coming. I didn't see it coming a mile off, though now I wonder how I could have ever thought otherwise.

Overall, a really good, engaging read with well-rounded characters. The slow boil to the climax point and aftermath is well pitched. McDermid crafts a great story with plenty of suspense and insight into the motivation of a potential killer.

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