On a cold snowy morning in St Andrews, Scotland in 1978, four drunk university boys returning home from a party, stumbled on a young barmaid fatally stabbed in the local cemetery. She died before help could arrive and the witnesses themselves became the prime suspects. Lack of evidence resulted in no one being charged.
Twenty-five years later, the case is reopened as part of a special review of unsolved crimes, in light of new forensic and technological advances. Alex Gilbey and his three friends are now respected professionals doing well in life. But the reopening of the case that haunted them all their lives, brings with it new terrors: someone is meting out their own brand of justice and revenge on the four men. Will the real killer be discovered before the friends lose their futures too?
I read The Distant Echo many years ago, and thought I’d read it again.
The pace of the novel is steady and engaging with a strong plot that unfolds well in unexpected ways. The narrative is occasionally slow and boring, but not so much that you get discouraged from finishing. There is a constant heightened sense of tension prevalent throughout the book. The setting is vivid and atmospheric.
The characterization is strong and distinct – the portrayal of the four main characters: what they go through (individually and together), and the various ways they react to and cope with the burden of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, they are not one-dimensional; they have secrets and misdeeds to their names which may jeopardize their future.
The progression of the narrative was unpredictable; it covered all the characters and their thoughts. The first half of the book was stronger in the way it dealt with the effect of the death and investigation on the boys. The impact of being wrongly accused, of becoming social pariahs and living with the shadow of death and accusation is effectively portrayed. The book is also a comment on incompetent police work which is more concerned with results than truth.
Though the identity of the killer was not surprising, there was a wonderful twist in the end with respect to the other crimes which was shocking. I enjoy books that deal with cold cases and this one delivers. It’s dark, good and insightful.