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Cover image for The distant echo
The distant echo

1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2003.
Physical Description:
404 pages ; 24 cm.
Series title(s):
Number in series:
Twenty-five years after an unsolved rape and murder, four friends, having been falsely accused of the crime, find themselves targeted by someone who still believes that they are guilty, prompting a search for the real killer.


Call Number
MYSTERY McDermid, V.

On Order



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 years later, police mount a cold case review. Among the unsolved murders they're examining is that of Rosie Duff. But someone else has his own idea of justice. One of the original quartet dies in a suspicious house fire and soon after, a second is killed. Alex fears the worst. Someone is taking revenge for Rosie Duff. And it might just save his life if he can uncover who really killed Rosie all those years ago.

Author Notes

Val McDermid was born in Scotland on June 4, 1955. She was the first student from a state school in Scotland accepted to read English at St Hilda's College, Oxford. She graduated in 1975 and became a journalist. She wrote her first novel at the age of 21. It didn't get published, but she turned it into a play entitled Like a Happy Ending. It was performed by the Plymouth Theatre Company and was later adapted for BBC radio. Her first book, Report for Murder, was published in 1987. She is the author of the Lindsay Gordon Mystery series, the Kate Brannigan Mystery series, and the Dr. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan Mysteries series as well as several stand alone books including The Distant Echo, A Darker Domain, Trick of the Dark and Out of Bounds. The Mermaids Singing won the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Oct. 20) Forecast: The author has had an eager audience since A Place of Execution (2000) won a number of prestigious awards, including the Anthony and Macavity. Lacking the gruesome forensic detail of some of her other books, this latest should draw additional readers as well as viewers of the recent TV adaptation of her Gold Dagger-winning novel, The Mermaids Singing (1995). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

New forensic breakthroughs reopen a 25-year-old cold case. In the meantime, most of the forensic evidence has disappeared from the Fife storage lockup, and two of the four principal suspects have moved to the States. Still, Assistant Chief Constable James Lawson, who was a young copper patrolling the snowbound streets that December night, seems determined to prove the young students who fell over the body of pretty barmaid Rosie Duff on their drunken way home really did rape and kill her. These days, Ziggy is a much-admired gay pediatrician in Seattle; Tom is a born-again Christian proselytizing in the South; Mondo is a snobbish literature professor in Glasgow; and Alex, married to Mondo's sister Lynn, manufactures greeting cards in Edinburgh. But Rosie's two brothers haven't forgotten or forgiven, and her illegitimate son Graham is skulking about with vengeance in mind. All of them are spurring on Lawson, who seems to be making no headway on the case. Then, suddenly, Ziggy dies in an arson fire, Mondo becomes an intruder's victim, Tom is waylaid while visiting Alex, and Alex's new baby is abducted at a petrol station. Mere coincidence, says Lawson, but a chip of paint will prove him wrong. McDermid, putting aside her fondness for serial killers (The Last Temptation, 2002, etc.), masterfully presents the 1978 portion of her story but stumbles so badly with melodramatic present-tense plot quirks that readers will be well ahead of Lawson in naming Rosie's killer. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist 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 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Winter of 1978, St. Andrews University, Scotland. Four drunken young students on their way home from a party stumble upon local barmaid Rosie Duff, who has been raped, stabbed, and left to die. Unable to save her, the men become suspects in the case but are never formally charged. The stigma and shame of the experience follows these men into their adult lives. About 25 years later, two of the four men have been murdered. The remaining two, Alex Gilbery and the Rev. Tom Mackie, must identify their friends' killer before they become the next victims of this revenge murder spree. Having grown up on the east coast of Scotland, where this story takes place, McDermid (Killing the Shadows) ably depicts St. Andrews. The cast of characters is almost too large to allow the reader to get to know and care about them. Still, McDermid keeps the suspense rising until the end, even after the astute reader will have figured out the killer's identity. Recommended for public libraries.-Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.