Val McDermid's The Distant Echo is, even more so than with her previous work, a masterpiece of trickery and misdirection. In 1978, four male students find the body of Rosie Duff half-buried in the snow and their lives are variously damaged by the suspicion that falls on them when the murder is never solved; a quarter of a century later, the case is reopened and suddenly the quartet start to be killed one after the other.
This is an effective thriller because it is so intelligent about the ways in which time changes things - secrets that seemed important become trivial and investigative techniques become ever more accurate. It is also intelligent about the ways in which things do not change - the friendships of the four men persist even when one becomes a fundamentalist preacher and another a post-modern literary theorist. Unusually for McDermid, this is a very Scots book as well -the investigating officers Maclennan and Lawson are very much men of a particular time and place. McDermid has a real sense of how to make forensic details count in a murder story - she also, more importantly, has a heart -this is a novel that makes us care passionately about victims and suspects alike.