I'm not sure how typical of her style is The distant echo. It's a sort of police procedural, but with very little of the police in it. In fact the police are not reflected particularly well in this. What it is though, is a very good crime novel, told from a rather unusual perspective.
A group of friends attending St. Andrews' university are on their way home from a drunken night out - an early Christmas celebration, when they stumble across a girl's body. The dead barmaid, Rosie Duff, is known to all of them; and at least one of the group has a massive crush on her. The case proves very difficult to crack though, and the seemingly innocent students find themselves at the centre of suspicion. Rosie Duff's death will lead to another death, and will split the group of friends up. Many years later a cold case review is opened into Duff's death, but as death visits the friends who found the body, it would appear that someone is anxious to get justice for Rosie before the cold case is resolved. But is this really what is happening, or is the murderer just trying to cover his tracks?
I thought this was a brilliant thriller, even if I did guess very early on (first page he was mentioned!) who was the murderer. Having said which though, this is a clever thriller. Very well constructed, great characterisation, and a haunting memorable plot. It's unusual in a thriller to concentrate on the fall-out from a murder. McDermid deals sensitively here with those who are left behind trying to come to terms with their loss; and with those on whom suspicion falls wrongly. A great introduction to the work of Val McDermid, I'm looking forward to reading more.