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The Distant Echo (Inspector Karen Pirie #1)

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,454 Ratings  ·  269 Reviews
Four in the morning, mid-December, and snow blankets St. Andrews School. Student Alex Gilbery and his three best friends are staggering home from a party when they stumble upon the body of a young woman. Rosie Duff has been raped, stabbed and left for dead in the ancient Pictish cemetery. The only suspects are the four young students stained with her blood.

Twenty-five yea
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published October 20th 2003 by Minotaur Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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May 16, 2014 Steelwhisper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves thrillers and Scotland
4.5* rounded down.

-- mild spoilers ahead! --

Wow. I really needed reading this one.

First things first, I grade McDermid against herself and against other crime writers I like a lot. If I graded her against the average romance (m/m or else), I'd need dozens of stars to find a just balance.

There's thick plot, an era and a place portrayed so perfectly as to put you right there, and I never guessed at the murderer, even though the red herring was more than just that. But then, I rarely ever guess cor
aPriL does feral sometimes
As a female, what struck me most about this book was 'the lads'. I've been heterosexually married several decades but I still find 'the lads' as foreign as I would find walking about under a blue burqa in Afghanistan. So, this book ended up being kind of a National Geographic article for me on a certain level.

I tried to 'connect' with 'the lads' that the author created as the characters we were to be interested in, since they were the victims of prejudice and nefarious plots, but I found myself
K.A. Laity
May 25, 2012 K.A. Laity rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[my review from]

This is my first read by The Wire in the Blood author Val McDermid. Don’t look at me like that! I only got back into crime recently and I tend toward the noirish end of crime (AKA everything goes wrong, you know who did it just not what’s going to happen to them because of it, but it’s bound to be bad) rather than the puzzles-to-solve whodunit end of the spectrum. This mostly has to do with how phenomenally lazy I am. Plotting a good detective novel
Stephen Clynes
Jul 10, 2011 Stephen Clynes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is an enjoyable read that draws you in and makes you wonder. This book has 561 pages and was written in 2003. It is a crime thriller described with a very extensive vocabulary, yet it is so easy to read. The Distant Echo deals with suspicion and how easily mud sticks. This book shows how easy it is to believe that someone is up to no good and to think badly of them. As the tale moves on, you become suspicious of all the students and new events appear to back this up. Your suspicion gr ...more
João Carlos

St. Andrews, Fife, Escócia

”Um Eco Distante” (2003) é mais um excelente livro da escritora escocesa Val McDermid (n. 1955).
Em 1978, numa madrugada fria de Dezembro a neve cobre a lindíssima cidade universitária de St. Andrews (também conhecida pela “Casa do Golfe”), na área de Fife, na zona Este da Escócia, onde quatro amigos, estudantes – Alex Gilbey (Gilly), David Kerr (Mondo), Tom Mackie (Weird) e Sigmund Malkiewicz (Ziggy) – regressam a casa depois de uma noite de festa e muito álcool e se de
I think McDermid achieves more with her one-off characters in this book than some writers of crime fiction manage over the course of a detective’s serialised career. Other than the ‘Wire in the Blood’ series, this is my first Val McDermid book; not having had any of her stand-alone novels individually recommended to me, they just never made it onto my radar (seriously, I’m having that radar decommissioned) but even the appeal of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan as crime-fighters didn’t prepare me for ...more
Apr 24, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first encounter with a McDermid novel; after reading this one, I rushed out and bought three others (including A Place of Execution, the TV miniseries of which I much enjoyed a few years ago). In 1978 four male St Andrews University students, best pals, the self-styled "Laddies fi Kirkcaldy", take a short cut on their drunken way home through the snow from a Christmas party and stumble across the still just alive body of a local barmaid; despite their best efforts, by the time help arrives th ...more
Susan Oleksiw
Aug 18, 2014 Susan Oleksiw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1978, four college students stagger home from a party still drunk during a bitterly cold night. The boys take a short cut back to their house and stumble over a young barmaid near death. Before they can bring help, she bleeds to death, on the edge of an old cemetery. The boys are interrogated, their house searched, and their lives upended. The suspicion of murder clings to them when the police can find no evidence to charge anyone, and nearly destroys the deep friendship that has held them to ...more
Nov 08, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok
Bad nicknames, murdered lass, working class Scottish louts, torture of homosexual youth, angry manhating lesbian, missing evidence, revenge killings, shocking twist, paint chips.
Anne Wright
Nov 11, 2014 Anne Wright rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: crime lovers
The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

A really good story, I was hooked from the first pages as always with Val McDermid's books. But I do not think I will read again although it will stay on my book shelves so you never know.

A murder/rape is committed and the body dropped in a pictish grave yard. The dead girl is the bar maid from one of the local pubs. Then 4 students were wending their way home after a long night drinking and in some cases taking any of the drugs on offer, fall on top of her as the
Kirsty Darbyshire

There are definite echoes of A Place of Execution here: a two part story of the investigation into the death of Rosie Duff, a nineteen year old found stabbed to death just before Christmas 1978 in St Andrews. Four students drunk on their way home from a party find her in the snow and become the chief suspects. Nothing can ever be proved and twenty five years later, 2003, the cold case is reopened.

I like books like this a lot; seeing people in two different ages and seeing how they change in the

Mary Gilligan-Nolan
I've read a lot of good Val McDermid books, but this one, it just frustrated the hell out of me. I struggled to get through it and seriously thought I'd give up on it on more than one occasion. But, as a fan of the author, I persisted. The gist of the tale is that back in 1978, four students, on their way home from a night of drinking and drugs, come across a dying girl in the snow. They recognise her as someone they know, raise the alarm, try to save her life, but she dies and they become suspe ...more
Dec 09, 2007 Trish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery
This is the third novel I've read by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid, and they've all been engrossing. "Distant Echo" begins with four friend, students at St. Andrews College. As they stumble home from a party one December night, they find a young woman bleeding to death in the snow. The police and the community are suspicious of all four, but no evidence directly ties them to the crime and they are never charged. They live the next 25 years under a pall of suspicion, however. When the murder ...more
Mar 22, 2014 Annabelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was long, but it had an excellent progression. This author reminds me a bit of Tara French, in the depth of the characters’ experience, although there is more logical plotting here. There are four senior students at St. Andrews, who have been mates since middle school. They all have names from rock songs, Weird, Mondo, and Ziggy along with Alex. They find a women’s body on a drunken walk home in a snow storm, and hell ensues, as they become suspects. It is a multilayered bo ...more
Mar 26, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic. One of the BEST mystery/thrillers that I've read in a very long time. Reminds me a bit of Laurie King or Dennis Lehane's stand-alone novels. A bit Scottish Donna Tartt. The characters are rich and developed, each voice individuated clearly through the dialogue. One the surface, it seems pretty simple -- the effects 25 years later when a cold case is reopened. The author brings the reader along, giving just enough hints to keep the tension very high, the outcomes very believable. The n ...more
Jan 15, 2016 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my usual sort of book, but it was a good 'un. Engaging characters, complex plot (but not complicated per se), and a fascinating look at how criminal investigation methods have changed even over twenty five years.
Gemstreet Reviews
Jul 27, 2014 Gemstreet Reviews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
3.5/5 stars

On a cold snowy morning in St Andrews, Scotland in 1978, four drunk university boys returning home from a party, stumbled on a young barmaid fatally stabbed in the local cemetery. She died before help could arrive and the witnesses themselves became the prime suspects. Lack of evidence resulted in no one being charged.
Twenty-five years later, the case is reopened as part of a special review of unsolved crimes, in light of new forensic and technological advances. Alex Gilbey and his th
Aug 22, 2015 Hans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars - Apparently, this is both a stand-alone novel and the first appearance of a minor character that will appear in a few more stories. (That means that I have 2 more books to read. Not to mention Val McDermid's latest Carol Jordan and Tony Hill outing that was just released. Yes, that is the "Carol Jordan and Tony Hill" series.)

It is another well-plotted mystery by McDermid. A few thoughts:
--Great portrait of friendships in two different stages of life.
--There are a couple lines that st
Aug 11, 2015 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I have read from McDermid -- it started off a little bit slowly but then I got sucked in and couldn't put it down. She gives the reader small bits of information so it truly was a mystery until the very end (although I'm sure more observant readers would be able to solve it).

Some of the terminology is a little bit confusing since the book takes place in Scotland but it was an enjoyable read.
Jun 02, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a night of partying four drunken students take a shortcut home and accidentally stumble on a raped and stabbed girl that dies in their arms. From the beginning the police sees them as the major suspects, but as they had no involvement the policy cannot find any proof. All boys get harassed by people who think they are the culprits, each boy reacts in his own way: one becomes religious, another one tries to commit suicide and in the process the detective that is on the case is killed, a thi ...more
Feb 11, 2015 Cyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Val McDermid novel and I was so impressed. Her writing reminds me a little of Tana French, the way she creates believable characters and interactions. Maybe not with the same emotional depth of French, but still very good nonetheless. I listened to the audiobook of this and the narrator was very good - although I had several moments of confusion when I didn't understand why certain things were happening, but that was only because I completely misunderstood one crucial sentence ...more
Benjamin Thomas
Oct 19, 2007 Benjamin Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book I found... Started it... got into it... couldn't put it down. I loved the way the story had such a large gap in between plot lines. From when the boys were young, and then skipping till they were older and everything culminating and coming together.... a perfectly laid out plan. I would never has seen it coming!
Jul 06, 2014 booknerd_dork rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book I read in mystery/thriller genre. I loved it. I've to thank my friend for lending me the book. The story just swallowed me in the plot. The suspense keeps you on the edge. I read this two years ago but now also I remember what was I feeling: the anticipation and thrill.
It's a must read book.
The Cats Mother
Best thriller I've read in a while, even if I did guess whodunit midway, it didn't spoil it for me. I enjoyed all the Scottish references and descriptions, and slang - you need to have lived there to get some of them, and liked the two part story. Good characters, great suspense and a satisfying ending.
Sandi Mann
Aug 05, 2014 Sandi Mann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was slow going, quite different to Val McDermid's usual. I couldnt recognise her style there at all. Got to be quite a page turner towards the end.

2nd read... maybe enjoyed it more.
Steph (loves water)
Apr 03, 2016 Steph (loves water) rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Lame. Numerous typos throughout the book which, for me, are distracting. I had high hopes for Val McDermid, I love thrillers and mysteries set in Scotland, but this didn't do it for me.
Jun 06, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McDermid doesn't disappoint.

This book tells the story of four students stumbling home drunkenly in a blizzard and discovering the body of a barmaid who has been raped and stabbed. The ensuing police investigation fails to determine her murderer, but it does impact the rest of the lives of the four Laddies fi' Kirkcaldy. Their squirming under the the weight of negative publicity and public opinion is the most engrossing part of the tale.

We meet the four men again twenty-five years later, about th
I love when murder mysteries deal with crimes that happened in the past of the characters. I don't know why, I just do. This is a great one.
From BBC Radio 4 Extra
25 years on, police review the unsolved murder of a young woman in the snow - but is the killing over?
Jun 23, 2016 Carolynne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review refers to audiobook.

Outstanding plot development; outstanding character development; and the voice actor was excellent. I was so caught up that I found myself driving for miles, just to keep listening.

The author was surprisingly skilled at keeping the identity of the killer a secret until the very end. When the murderer was finally revealed, it was clear that the author had laid the clue from the very beginning, and like the police and the community in the story, the reader completely mi
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About the book 2 17 Jan 27, 2014 08:49AM  
  • Disordered Minds
  • Cold is the Grave (Inspector Banks, #11)
  • Death Comes for the Fat Man (Dalziel & Pascoe, #22)
  • The Burning Girl (Tom Thorne, #4)
  • Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)
  • Exile (Garnethill, #2)
  • Blind Eye (Logan McRae, #5)
  • Cold Shoulder (Lorraine Page, #1)
Val McDermid is a No. 1 bestseller whose novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies.

She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cart
More about Val McDermid...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Karen Pirie (4 books)
  • A Darker Domain (Inspector Karen Pirie, #2)
  • The Skeleton Road (Inspector Karen Pirie, #3)
  • Out of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)

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