The newest stunning psychological thriller from Gold Dagger and Anthony award winning author Val McDermid, whose novel A Place of Execution was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Los Angeles Times Book Prize recipient and an Edgar finalist.
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October 13, 2003
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Excerpt from The Distant Echo by Val McDermid
Four in the morning, the dead of December. Four bleary outlines wavered in the snow flurries that drifted at the beck and call of the snell northeasterly wind whipping across the North Sea from the Urals. The eight stumbling feet of the self-styled Laddies fi' Kirkcaldy traced the familiar path of their shortcut over Hallow Hill to Fife Park, the most modern of the halls of residence attached to St. Andrews University, where their perpetually unmade beds yawned a welcome, lolling tongues of sheets and blankets trailing to the floors.
The conversation staggered along lines as habitual as their route. "I'm telling you, Bowie is the king," Sigmund Malkiewicz slurred loudly, his normally impassive face loosened with drink. A few steps behind him, Alex Gilbey yanked the hood of his parka closer to his face and giggled inwardly as he silently mouthed the reply he knew would come.
"Bollocks," said Davey Kerr. "Bowie's just a big jessie. Pink Floyd can run rings round Bowie any day of the week. Dark Side of the Moon, that's an epic. Bowie's done nothing to touch that." His long dark curls were loosening under the weight of melted snowflakes and he pushed them back impatiently from his waiflike face.
And they were off. Like wizards casting combative spells at each other, Sigmund and Davey threw song titles, lyrics and guitar riffs back and forth in the ritual dance of an argument they'd been having for the past six or seven years. It didn't matter that, these days, the music rattling the windows of their student rooms was more likely to come from the Clash, the Jam or the Skids. Even their nicknames spoke of their early passions. From the very first afternoon they'd congregated in Alex's bedroom after school to listen to his purchase of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, it had been inevitable that the charismatic Sigmund would be Ziggy, the leper messiah, for eternity. And the others would have to settle for being the Spiders. Alex had become Gilly, in spite of his protestations that it was a jessie nickname for someone who aspired to the burly build of a rugby player. But there was no arguing with the accident of his surname. And none of them had a moment's doubt about the appropriateness of christening the fourth member of their quartet Weird. Because Tom Mackie was weird, make no mistake about it. The tallest in their year, his long gangling limbs even looked like a mutation, matching a personality that delighted in being perverse.
That left Davey, loyal to the cause of the Floyd, steadfastly refusing to accept any nickname from the Bowie canon. For a while, he'd been known halfheartedly as Pink, but from the first time they'd all heard "Shine on, You Crazy Diamond" there had been no further debate; Davey was a crazy diamond, right enough, flashing fire in unpredictable directions, edgy and uncomfortable out of the right setting. Diamond soon became Mondo, and Mondo Davey Kerr had remained through the remaining year of high school and on to university.
Alex shook his head in quiet amazement. Even through the blur of far too much beer, he wondered at the glue that had held the four of them fast all those years. The very thought provoked a warm glow that kept the vicious cold at bay as he tripped over a raised root smothered under the soft blanket of snow. "Bugger," he grumbled, cannoning into Weird, who gave him a friendly shove that sent Alex sprawling. Flailing to keep his balance, he let his momentum carry him forward and stumbled up the short slope, suddenly exhilarated with the feel of the snow against his flushed skin. As he reached the summit, he hit an unexpected dip that pulled the feet from under him. Alex found himself crashing head over heels to the ground.