Friday, 28 January 2011

Val McDermid - The Distant Echo

December 1978. Four students stumble across the body of murdered Rosie Duff on the way home from a night out. They become the prime suspects but lack of evidence means that the case is not solved. In 2003 the Scottish police start up a cold case review and the Rosie Duff murder is one of the cases being investigated. It seems that the four students are being picked off one by one so they must get together to find out who the killer is.

I choose this book as part of the Criminal Plots Reading Challenge. This is for the category "Author from a Blurb". Val McDermid had been quoted on The Breaker by Minette Walters which was a book that I had enjoyed a while ago, so I decided to give one of her books a try having not read any of her work before.

I liked the writing style. It did take me a while to get my head around the characters as the four students are known by nicknames and by their real names so remembering who was who took me a while. That may say more about my memory than about the book though!

There are really two interconnected plots here. There is the 1978 plot which follows the murder of Rosie Duff and its investigation and then there is the 2003 plot which follows the lives of the four students who discovered the body along with the cold case review team. The 1978 bit takes up just over one third of the book and the remainder takes place in 2003. I enjoyed the whole book but I preferred the 1978 section overall.

By about page 150 I had managed to work out who had murdered Rosie (the book comes to over 550 pages in total). I did have a few minor doubts along the way but overall I was pretty sure and it turned out that I was correct. Now, I'm not sure if it was intentionally supposed to be that easy to work out who the killer was. I read a lot of crime and whilst I do on occasion work out "whodunit" most of the time I don't, and certainly never that quickly! Working out who the killer was did not spoil the book at all as it was still suspenseful and interesting and I still wanted to find out if I was right or not! Working out who the 2003 killer was, was harder and I was never very sure on that one so I didn’t manage to work it all out.

I liked the characters and thought that they were well written. I liked the character development of which there was quite a lot. Both during the original investigation in 1978/79 and then seeing how they had further developed in the intervening years until 2003.

So overall I enjoyed the book and will certainly be picking up some more Val McDermid in the future.

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