The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

‘The Distant Echo’ is the novel where we are first introduced to DI Karen Pirie, but she doesn’t appear until well into the story.

In 1978, Alex Gilbey and his three best friends, all four from Kirkcaldy are studying in St Andrews. After a night of drinking and partying, they stumble across Rosie Duff lying in the snow, raped, stabbed and barely alive. By the time they have summoned help she is dead.

The four young men are the only suspects in Rosie’s murder and the suspicion follows them from that day on. But there has never been enough evidence to charge any of them.

25 years later, the Rosie Duff case is being revisited by a cold case team. DI Karen Pirie is in charge of the investigation and reports to Assistant Chief Constable James Lawson. Lawson was the first policeman on the scene of Rosie’s murder.

But the start of the cold case investigation coincides with 2 other events. Two of the four friends die in suspicious circumstances. And a young man comes forward who has a keen interest in seeing Rosie’s case solved.

Alex, now married and expecting his first child knows that the only way for the remaining two friends to avoid becoming targets is to finally find out the identity of the real murder. With the police reluctant to listen to him, he knows that he will have to find the culprit himself.


I’ve read some of the later Karen Pirie novels and was keen to read the series from the beginning, but Pirie has a fairly small role in this novel and doesn’t appear until well into the story. I didn’t get much of a sense of who she really was – except that she was willing to go out on a limb and jeopardise her future position to get to the truth.

This was an enjoyable novel and I liked the characters of Alex and Ziggy. The story was fairly complex and the novel quite long but I was completely drawn into the story.

I’m looking forward to reading the 2nd novel in the Karen Pirie series – ‘A Darker Domain’.


Published 2003


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Filed under Book Reviews, Crime, Detective, McDermid, Val, Series Fiction, Terrorist

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