cover image THE DISTANT ECHO


Val McDermid, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-30199-6

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).