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The Distant Echo

(Inspector Karen Pirie #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  9,173 ratings  ·  617 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.
Audio CD, Unabridged, 12 pages
Published 2004 by Recorded Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  9,173 ratings  ·  617 reviews

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Paul O'Neill
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Val McDermid book and it certainly won't be my last!

Check out all my book blogs at

McDermid delivers a fantastic crime / mystery story set in my homeland of Fife, Scotland and she does a great job for presenting the different areas of Fife exactly how they are like in real life.

The story begins when four lads drunkenly stumble upon our victim, Rosie, after a night out who has been left for dead. The book then tells the tale of
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
As she begins the Karen Pirie series, McDermid offers readers a wonderful introduction to another fast-paced novel and lays the groundwork for what could be an exciting few stories. Scotland, 1978: After a night of drinking, drugging, and partying, Alex Gilbey and his three closest mates stumble upon Rosie Duff, who's been raped and stabbed, bleeding out in the middle of a blizzard. By the time the authorities are alerted and brought to the scene, Duff has died and there is little doubt that the ...more
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having previously read other books in this series and enjoyed them immensely, I decided to start the series from the very beginning with the novel ' The Distant Echo'. This is the Inspector Karen Pirie series by author Val McDermid, who works in Fife investigating cold cases.
With the development of forensics it is possible to reopen old cases that were previously unsolved as Karen Pirie looks into a 25 year old case of a murdered barmaid named Rosie Duff. Four young men known as Gilly, Ziggy,
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four drunk young men nicknamed Gilly, Ziggy, Weird, and Mondo stumble across a body in the snow at 4 a.m. The police investigate, believing that one or more of the men committed the murder, but the case goes cold. The community, especially the victim’s brothers, has always believed these men were guilty. 25 years later, a cold case review begins and the truth is finally revealed.

As is typical of Val McDermid’s books, the pace is slow and steady. That allows for strong characterization. The four
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"He always liked the cemetery at dawn. Not because daybreak offered any promise of a fresh beginning, but because it was too early for there to be anyone else around. Even in the dead of winter, when the pale light was so late in coming, he could guarantee solitude. No prying eyes to wonder who he was and why he was there, head bowed before that one particular grave. No nosy parkers to question his right to be there."

The Distant Echo is the first in the Karen Pirie series. The later books in
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
3.5 stars
A carefully woven and paced crime / mystery / thriller. Very enjoyable and I recommend the audio version.
Tom Mathews
This is the book that first got me interested in Val McDermid. It's still one of my favorite of hers.
Val McDermid is one prolific crime writer. Probably best noted for her Wire in the Blood mystery series, she's also written the Lindsay Gordon and Kate Brannigan series. The Distant Echo is the first book in another of her series, this one featuring Scottish police inspector Karen Pirie.

I will qualify this by saying that Karen Pirie does not play a major role in this particular story, but I presume it is more of a way of introducing her to the other books in the series. Having said that, as with
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
May 05, 2014 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
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mcdermid
The Distant Echo (Audio CD) by Val McDermid.

The 1st in the Karen Perie series.
The mutilated body of a young woman barely clinging to life is found by 4 college students on a blustery cold winter night. One of them frantically runs for help while the others wait with the unconscious victim. The victim, Rosie, is know to them all and they soon become implicated in her murder.
Although there is not enough evidence to convict the students of her murder they continue to live with shadow of suspicion
Moonlight Reader
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked it, but I totally figured out whodunit.
K.A. Laity
May 25, 2012 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
Jan 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-series
Written January, 2016: Not really read this one, just want it off my list for now. I cannot stand the narrated version. Accents, the sound of the voice, it grates on me. I will READ this one when I get the time.

Written November, 2018: Okay so I got the hardcover - finally - and read it.

At first I didn't much like this book. In 1978 four young men discover the body of a barely-breathing young woman in the snow. (In fact, one of them stumbles over her.) One runs off to get help, another is with
Bad nicknames, murdered lass, working class Scottish louts, torture of homosexual youth, angry manhating lesbian, missing evidence, revenge killings, shocking twist, paint chips.
Brenda H
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four friends are returning home after a night of revelry. Taking a shortcut through the local cemetery, they discover a nearly dead woman. As three remain to comfort and try to help the woman, the fourth races off to get help from the local police. This sets into motion a series of events that will change these young men forever and haunt them the rest of their lives.

The police are suspicious of the young men and begin to take their lives apart. Talking to their friends, searching their home and
Marnie  Krüger
This was not what I expected.
Brilliantly written, emotionally draining and overall an excellent story.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysterious, 2017
I think this was a GR recommendation based on my love for Tana French -- a murder mystery based in Scotland (instead of Ireland). Karen Pirie (who is introduced as a minor character in this first book, but apparently becomes the star of the series) is a cold case detective, which appealed to me, too.

From the book jacket, you know that the story starts on a cold December night in 1978, when four college friends stumble upon the body of a dying 19-year-old bar maid named Rosie. She's been raped,
Apr 24, 2011 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 ...more
Nov 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book that I'm assuming is meant to introduce a new detective protagonist (hence the "Introducing Karen Pirie" on the cover), The Distant Echo sure doesn't make her shine. That's because she isn't the heroine of the story, no. That honour arguably goes to the four dudes who discovered the body and were more or less believed to have gotten away with murder -- even though the police didn't find enough proof that they did it.

Fast forward twenty five years and suddenly, two of them are
Kasa Cotugno
I chose this because I have a reviewing obligation for a latter volume in the series, but also because Val McDermid is one of this year's Man Booker judges and I was curious. Far far from formulaic, this promises to be an intriguing series that I'll probably devour if the succeeding stories are as compelling as this was.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
A classic cold case. The difference between witnesses and suspects is often difficult to define and this is a classic case of the witnesses a crime being treated as suspects, not just by the police but by the community in which they live.

Twenty five years later the truth begins to emerge and it it is not until the final confrontation between the perpetrator and the innocent witnesses that the last piece of evidence falls into place. Confession under Scottish law the author tells is not enough
1.5 stars.

For a novel supposedly about Karen Pirie, she featured very rarely throughout these pages.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Distant Echo by Val McDermid
Karen Pirie series Book #1
4 stars

From The Book:
It was a winter morning in 1978, that the body of a young barmaid was discovered in the snow banks of a Scottish cemetery. The only suspects in her brutal murder were the four young men who found her: Alex Gilbey and his three best friends. With no evidence but her blood
on their hands, no one was ever charged.

Twenty five years later, the Cold Case file on Rosie Duff has been reopened. For Alex and his friends, the
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Val McDermid years ago and can't remember why I never resumed the brilliant series of Carol Jordan and Tony Hill (maybe because the TV series started??). However I was recommended to read Out of Bounds, which I found was the 4th instalment in the Detective Karen Pirie series and, being me, I always have to start at the beginning if I know it's a series, so I eagerly started this.

It begins with one of the greatest prologues I have ever read, and I was hooked completely.

I won't cover the
Stephen Clynes
Jul 10, 2011 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 ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, this was disappointing. This book started out with a great premise, and then proceeded to do absolutely nothing with it. Every part of this book dragged, even during the final showdown I was impatient, hoping they'd just get on with it. Another problem for me was that I knew who the real murderer was less than halfway through the book, so everything after that was pretty anticlimactic. The characters weren't particularly engaging either, and I kept shaking my head at their sheer stupidity. ...more
Cathy Ryan
I can’t believe it’s taken me up until now to read a Van McDermid novel, but I could be on a roll now if this book is anything to go by.

Rather than using flashbacks, the first half of The Distant Echo focusses exclusively on the past and the four students from St Andrews University: best friends Sigmund Malkiewicz (Ziggy), Alex Gilbey (Gilly), Davey Kerr (Mondo) and Tom Mackie (Weird). Staggering back to their halls of residence via a short cut though the Pictish cemetery, in the depths of a
J.S. Strange
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first book I read from Val McDermid, and I’m really glad I picked it up. The story was gripping from page one. An unsolved murder sees four boys who age into men living with the weight of always being suspects, but never being convicted murderers.

The story was well developed, with half of the book being when the four central characters were young boys. Sometimes this may be unnecessary filler, but without it the story would not have been as impactful. Reading about the boys before
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a rattling good read as Val mcdermid introduces us to a cold case squad which includes D.C. Karen pirie ,albeit in a minor role in this book.
Four drunk St Andrews university students on a snowy December night in 1978 stumble across a young woman dying of a stab wound and fall immediately under suspicion of her murder. 25 yrs later the cold case squad investigates and we learn how the events have changed theirs and others lives.
A really compelling plot and a book that I couldn't put
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Goodreads Librari...: Please amend page numbering for ISBN-13 978-0-00-783181-4 3 15 Sep 04, 2018 05:04AM  
Around the Year i...: The Distant Echo, by Val McDermid 1 12 Aug 25, 2017 01:20PM  
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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

Other books in the series

Inspector Karen Pirie (5 books)
  • A Darker Domain (Inspector Karen Pirie, #2)
  • The Skeleton Road (Inspector Karen Pirie, #3)
  • Out of Bounds (Inspector Karen Pirie, #4)
  • Broken Ground (Inspector Karen Pirie, #5)