Thursday, 20 October 2011
The Distant Echo by Val McDermid
The first half is set in St Andrews in the '70s when four students who've been friends since childhood stumble across a murdered girl on their way home from a party. With no other suspects, suspicion falls on them, leading to breakdowns, violence and more tragedy. The second half picks up twenty five years later as the case is re-opened and someone starts targetting the four friends.
I'm not going to go into too much detail, as the joy of a good thriller is having everything laid out for you at just the right time. And the pacing here is great. The question of who-actually-dunnit isn't addressed until surprisingly late in the game, but the plot grips throughout. The main focus is the relationship between the friends and how that changes when something horrible happens to them.
As well as friendship, the big themes are false assumptions and prejudice. It comes out in the characters as well as the plot - two or three of them just don't act how you'd expect them to in a book like this. Very refreshing. And although it might seem unlikely, I really liked the fact that people automatically think the four friends murdered this girl when there's nothing at all to suggest they're guilty.
We like to think the world is fair and reasonable, but anyone can find themselves behind bars if they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ask Amanda Knox or Luke Mitchell. And if the unthinkable does happen to you, try to avoid being a Marilyn Manson fan or doing cartwheels in the police station. When there's a dead girl knocking about, people tend to think the worst.