The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

10th March 2021.

This is a complex story about four students who discover the body of Rosie in the snow. The discovery is about to change and taint their lives as they become the only suspects for her rape and murder. While the police never have enough evidence to charge any or all of the four students, suspicions remain in the community.

In the first part of the story, set in 1978, the murder investigation and lives of the students is examined in great detail. It soon becomes clear that each of the four students has something to hide. Their relationships are tested more than their alibis as the police struggle to make progress. The brothers of the dead girl have their own ideas about retribution. Friends and other students start to shun the suspects.

Wind forward 25 years to the newly formed police team, created to examine and review cold cases, using advances in forensic science and DNA profiling to bring killers to justice. DS Karen Pirie is tasked with Rosie’s murder. Pirie soon discovers that the evidence from the murder has been either mislaid or lost.

Then two of the four former students are murdered within a short space of time. For the remaining two, it’s now a battle for survival. If the police won’t take them seriously, then they must solve Rosie’s murder themselves. The pace picks up, tensions increase to bursting point for a harrowing climax and confrontation where the real killer is finally exposed.

It’s a long story, but once the momentum picked up, I couldn’t put the book down, enjoying the twists and turns as the truth finally emerged.

This is the first in the Karen Pirie series from a talented and versatile author.

Highly recommended.


Some things just won’t let go.
The past, for instance.
That night in the cemetery.
The girl’s body in the snow.

On a freezing Fife morning four drunken students stumble upon the body of a woman in the snow. Rosie has been raped, stabbed and left for dead in an ancient Pictish cemetery. And the only suspects are the four young men now stained with her blood.

Twenty-five years later the police mount a ‘cold case’ review of Rosie’s unsolved murder and the four are still suspects. But when two of them die in suspicious circumstances, it seems that someone is pursuing their own brand of justice. For the remaining two there is only one way to avoid becoming the next victim – find out who really killed Rosie all those years ago…

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid