REVIEW – The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Apologies, this is another McDermid review – we can’t help our obsessions.

The Distant Echo follows the cold case of barmaid Rosie Duff’s brutal murder, taking us back to when the crime was committed and how suspicion fell on to four students – nicknamed Gilly, Weird, Mondo and Ziggy. Fast forward twenty five years, and someone seems to be holding a grudge against the four. And of course with this being a McDermid novel, there is a fair amount of murder, suspicion and the sense of a loveable rogue caught up in a system.

I loved the consideration of how the boys grew up and the paths they took separately but how they were brought together again by tragedy and death. And it was great to see that there were still tensions between the men that considered themselves blood brothers at university. After all, people age and people change – and no friendship is entirely harmonious anyway, yay to realism.

There were so many little plot twists and side stories that really added to the overall build up of the story and set the pace up really well. Lynn and Alex’s baby Davina, Mondo’s wife’s affair and the introduction of Graham Macfayden as a long lost son really added dimensions to the story and made it very three dimensional and rounded.

As for the ending, pft its second to none. For me, McDermid is forever the Queen of the crime novel. The way she builds up the story, puts suspicion on different people and then BAM its someone you never considered but it makes so much sense. And The Distant Echo is no exception.


REVIEW – Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid

Trick of the Dark is one of Val McDermid’s stand-alone novels. For me they provide a refreshing break from getting over-invested in the lives, trials and tribulations of her series *cough* Wire In The Blood.

This book follows disgraced psychiatrist and profiler Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Kent as her old tutor at Oxford Dr Corinna Newsam reaches out to her asking for help. Her daughter Magda’s husband was murdered on their wedding day and now Magda’s shacked up with an old student/former babysitter of Corinna’s. I envision reaching out going something like this (although the book makes it much more cryptic of course’: ‘Dear former student who is in fact a lesbian, despite my values dictating I should be homophobic I’m fairly ok with who you are. Let’s catch up, PS I think my daughter’s girlfriend is a serial killer….’

So we spend the entire book thinking it’s way too easy for Jay Macallan Stewart, dotcom millionaire and now new squeeze of Magda Newsam to successfully kill people who get in her way. We’re not helped by the process of Jay writing her memoirs, which trick your mind and leave gaps that make you think Jay is a fairly unreliable narrative – of course in the McDermid world this jumps to ‘could be a serial killer’ – a hangover of crime genre means you’re immediately weary of the person presented as likely to be the killer throughout – because it NEVER normally is.

What I wasn’t expecting for the ending was for Jay to be not entirely innocent – that did take me by surprise a bit and it was nice to see some sort of comeuppance for her actions, even if a large portion of it was just in her personal life.

What I love about McDermid is a lot of the time she writes what she knows – not murders and criminal psychology obviously but the way she deals with issues of gender, sexuality and how this relates to an institution such as Oxford feels like it comes from a place of experience, and that makes the characters so much deeper and easier to relate to and fall in love with. Speaking of falling in love, I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with McDermid. I am not even joking when I say I probably own everything she has ever written and eagerly anticipate her next instalment of everything to satisfy my inner crime novel junkie.