Author: Val McDermid
Originally Published: October 2003 by St Martin’s Minotaur
Category: Scottish Crime Fiction, Suspense, Book Review
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.
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 snowy winter’s night, post party and worse for wear, they stumble across the body of Rosie Duff, the young barmaid from the pub they frequent. She has been raped, stabbed and left to die.
Ziggy is training to be a doctor, so he tries to help the dying girl as Alex rushes off in the hopes of finding help. Suspicion falls on the four friends but all evidence is circumstantial and the boys are not convicted of any crime. Regardless, their lives are turned upside down, with police interrogations, trial by public opinion and Rosie’s two brothers, not to mention the media coverage, all of which results in two near misses and another tragedy.
He knew he couldn’t afford just to sit there and do nothing. His body was going to stiffen, his joints cramp if he didn’t keep moving. He’d die of exposure in these temperatures if he couldn’t keep his circulation going, and he wasn’t about to give those barbaric bastards the satisfaction. He had to get his hands free.