Archives » Kirkcaldy

The Distant Echo by Val McDermid

Harper, 2010, 569 p. First published in 2003.

 The Distant Echo cover

I probably wouldn’t have read this – I wasn’t particularly taken by the author’s The Wire in the Blood – but the good lady had just finished it and mentioned it was set partly in my old stamping ground of Kirkcaldy and partly in St Andrews (which I know well.) So I thought I’d give it a go. The locations in the book aren’t restricted to Fife, it does stray to Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, and even Seattle but the main events take place in what the locals like to call “the Kingdom.”

The prologue lets us know of a Fife Police press announcement of a cold case review and a shadowy figure haunting a cemetery before Part One plunges us into the 1978 discovery of the dying body of Rosie Duff by four students at St Andrews University (schoolfriends calling themselves the Lads Fi’ Kirkcaldy) taking a short cut back to their flat after a party. One of them is a medical student and tries to save her life but fails. As discoverers of the body and covered in blood they naturally become suspects. The investigation cannot summon up evidence even to charge them and the case is unresolved but they are still subjected to suspicion, threats and violence – especially by the dead girl’s brothers. McDermid makes a lot of this finger of suspicion and the effect it has on the four and their relationship(s). Part Two sees the resurrection of the case and its reintrusion into the four’s lives. But in the intervening twenty-five years the main evidence from the victim’s clothing has been lost and there seems little hope of progress. But the review has stirred the old suspicions and someone has the four firmly in the frame.

McDermid’s prose is certainly efficient but rarely rises above the workmanlike. The book’s structure, too, made it slightly odd. Part One was more or less scene setting, involved a lot of information dumping and therefore dragged somewhat. McDermid makes passing reference to the fascistic fringe and government encroachments on citizens’ rights in the late 1970s. (That sort of thing has become even worse of late with intolerance having been adopted into the political mainstream and governments eager to seize any excuse to restrict citizen’s rights.)

I would have said that it was cleverly executed except that the resolution was disappointing. It has more holes in it than Stoke City’s defence and depends too much on the prior withholding of information from the reader. In the last (tie-up) chapter it is revealed that one of the four Lads had a piece of information that would potentially have pointed to the murderer but never told the other three – nor the Police – during all those twenty-five years of suspicion. We can only suppose this was to create an artificial sense of suspense and it kind of obviates the point of the book (no matter what reason he might have had for his reticence.) Moreover the murderer seems to have been able to carry the body up a hill to where the Lads stumbled upon it without seemingly getting any blood on himself, even though the victim had a gaping wound.

McDermid has a wide readership. I assume they don’t like taxing their brains overmuch.

Pedant’s corner:- the main drag (St Andrews has a main drag?) Roger Waters’ (Waters’s. And I know he wrote Shine On You Crazy Diamond but did he sing on it? Wasn’t that David Gilmour?) “[Kirkcaldy’s] Town House looked like one of those less alluring products of Soviet architecture” (is more than a bit harsh. It’s a fine buiding.) Raith Rovers’ (Raith Rovers’s,) Brahms’ (Brahms’s,) “had strode” (stridden,) “‘Gonnae no dae that’” (is referred to as if it were a catchphrase from the early to mid 1970s. It wasn’t. Chewin’ the Fat, where it originated, was first aired in 1999.) “‘We lay low’” (we lie low – but it was in dialogue and the character had lived in the US for years and they can’t seem to get the lay/lie thing correct over there,) Soanes’ (Soanes’s.) “The sky was clear, a gibbous moon hanging low in the sky between the bridges.” (sky….sky,.) Sainsburys (Sainsbury’s.) Plus several instances of “time interval later”.

Last Year’s Cygnets

In November we visited Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy again.
At least three of the cygnets were almost fully grown:-

Cygnets, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy, Nov 2015 1

Cygnets, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy, Nov 2015 2

Or was it four?:-

Cygnets, Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy, Nov 2015 3

This Year’s Cygnets

I was in Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy last month and the swans have seven cygnets this year.

This Year's Cygnets

This Year's Cygnets 2

Spot the Spelling Mistake

I took the photo below well before our trip to The Netherlands. It’s of a poster advertising a production of Sunset Song at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy.

Spot the spelling mistake.

I notice the “schools £9 age 12+” concession rate. I hope that in future exams none of the scholars attribute the book incorrectly.

Shore Coal

Many Fife coastlines bear the marks of past coal mining. A ribbon of coal particles can be found on Kirkcaldy and Burntisland beaches, whether washed there from mines or eroded from rocks I don’t know..

At Lower Largo the deposits are larger. Here are some seen through the shore barrier.

And these are lumps.

The industrial landscape of Methil can be seen from Lower Largo beach, wind turbines, oil rigs and all.

Stark’s Park, Kirkcaldy (iii)

Yes, I know I’ve done this one twice before but on Saturday last we Sons fans had a new angle on the ground from the Railway Stand:-

Main and South Stands:-

The North Stand – named for local author and avid Rover Val McDermid. (It takes all sorts I suppose):-

This Year’s Brood

After our move to pastures new on April 4th the good lady and I finally made it back for a look at Beveridge Park in Kirkcaldy on June 1st.

The swans look to have four cygnets this year. (They may have had more and lost some but it was almost two months since we’d been at the park so wouldn’t know about that.)

Merchandise at Kirkcaldy Library

For about a year or so – perhaps more – the shop at Kirkcaldy Library has had for sale items designed by locally based artist Susan McGill. The last time I was there I took this photo:-

Unlikely Stories Mostly cover
The Book of Prefaces Cover

To me the designs above are very reminiscent of those of Alasdair Gray. (See left and right.)
The McGill merchandise includes greetings cards, dish towels and trays. The writing on the tray says, “The Human Race may be a’richt, but this intae yer lug. The mair I see o’ some folks the mair I like ma dug,” or, in plain English, “The Human Race may be all right, but this into your ear. The more I see of some people the more I like my dog.” One of her greetings cards displays a side-on picture of a black and white dog with the second of her two sentences as the caption. A close-up on the tray is below.

The Mair I Like Ma Dug

Prom Once More

Access is now cut off to the whole of the prom. These two photos are from early March showing more drilling out of the old sea wall and the stumps of the metal supporting struts that strengthened it. Not to mention a demolished lamp standard.

Latest from Kirkcaldy Promenade

Latest phase of work. Drilling out the old wall on the north part of the Prom. Taken 19/2/14.

This second one was today. Top mostly drilled out.

free hit counter script