The Long Drop
by Denise Mina
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 23 May 2017 | Archive Date 01 Apr 2018
William Watt's wife, daughter, and sister-in-law are dead, slaughtered in their own home in a brutal crime that scandalized Glasgow. Despite an ironclad alibi, police zero in on Watt as the primary suspect, but he maintains his innocence. Distraught and desperate to clear his name, Watt puts out a bounty for information that will lead him to the real killer.
Peter Manuel claims he knows the truth that will set Watt free and has information that only the killer would know. It won't come cheap. Manuel is an infamous career criminal, a degenerate liar who can't be trusted and will say, or do, anything to make a buck.
But Manuel has something that Watt wants, which makes him the perfect target for Manuel's consummate con. Watt agrees to sit down with Manuel and before they know it, one drink has turned into an epic, forgotten night of carousing across the city's bars and clubs that exposes the thin line between a good yarn and the truth.
The next time the unlikely pair meets is across the witness stand in court -- where Manuel is on trial for the murder of Watt's family. Manuel calls Watt to the stand to testify about the long, shady night they shared together. And the shocking testimony that Manuel coaxes out of Watt threatens to expose the dark hearts of the guilty...and the innocent.
Based on true events, The Long Drop is an explosive, unsettling novel about guilt, innocence and the power of a good story to hide the difference.
"A terrific exploration of crime and oppression." —Kirkus (Starred Review)
"The emerging story is an intricate and suspenseful unveiling of a murderer's mind while taking readers on a compelling journey through Glasgow's historic underworld...This stand-alone thriller showcases Mina at her best, capturing the nuanced psychological suspense and ethical shadows of her Alex Morrow series as well as the electric dialogue and tangible grit of her Paddy Meehan novels." —Booklist (Starred Review)
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 30 members
The story of the murder of three women and the subsequent trial. I loved the details that flashed through the novel and the sense of uncertainty.
This is a literary retelling of the final days & trial of Peter Manuel, a serial killer who was hanged in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison on July 11, 1958. Nicknamed “the Beast of Birkenshaw”, he was convicted of 7 murders & suspected of others. On Sept. 17, 1956 Glasgow businessman William Watt’s wife, daughter & sister-in-law were murdered while he was away on a trip. But police were under tremendous pressure to make an arrest & decided Watt was as good a suspect as any. He spent more than 2 months in prison until prominent lawyer Lawrence Dowdall secured his release. Watt went on to spend much of the next year carrying out his own investigation in an effort to clear his name. On Jan. 1,1958 another family was murdered & from then on, Manuel’s days were numbered. Much has been written about the case & the author stays true to the facts while adding her own spin on some of the unanswered questions. The story has 2 main threads that are told in alternating chapters. The first takes place over the course of one night in Dec. 1957 as she imagines a meeting between Watt & Manuel. We follow them as they hit every bar in town, both with private agendas. Watt believes Manuel knows where the murder weapon is & he wants it. And Manuel…..well, he just wants money & someone to toy with. The other thread begins 6 months later in 1958 as Peter Manuel goes on trial. One by one we hear from all those called to testify including Manuel’s parents & Watt himself. As both story lines progress, ugly truths are gradually revealed as we follow the 2 MC’s in dual time lines. Mina does a wonderful job of slowly peeling back the layers of these 2 complex characters. Watt initially comes across as a crass, nouveau riche social climber desperate for respect. But it’s her portrait of Manuel that makes your blood run cold. He can turn from charming manipulator to violent sociopath in a heartbeat & will genuinely make your skin crawl. It’s like watching a chess game between 2 well matched opponents & there’s a continuous power shift as they try to outmanoeuvre each other. It’s stylishly written & rich in period detail. Glasgow in the 1950’s is another character in itself. Parts of the blackened city would later be levelled but at the time it was a dark & gritty place with well known gangsters controlling their turf. It also illustrates the popular beliefs & societal prejudices at a time when the class system was still in effect. This is not a thriller in the traditional sense as most of the violence is described in retrospect. There is much more dialogue than action. It’s a thought provoking & psychological study of 2 flawed men that keeps you guessing & I particularly enjoyed the author’s twist on how Watt’s family ended up dead. Who knows….maybe it’s true.
This is the first book I've read by Denise Mina, but it won't be the last! I found this novel instantly exciting and by the time I got to 30% I was hooked and couldn't put it down, finally finishing it at 1:30 in the morning. This novel drips with menace and chills you to the bone in some parts, it's really a fantastic and quick thriller read. This book tells the story of Peter Manuel, real life Scottish serial killer. Like with so many other books on the market nowadays, this is a non-fic-fiction novel. It's based its contents on real events but the author has weaved a story around it too. What's so striking about this novel is Mina's ability to tell a story. The story flowed brilliantly and it never lost my interest, even when we started getting into some of the more in-depth and historic facts about Glasgow. The writing style is short and snappy, so you really feel yourself racing through this. Characters. Oh wow, the characters. Somehow, you feel simultaneously angry and empathetic for everyone in this book, even Peter Manuel, the serial killer. Mina's character development is superb and you find yourself getting drawn into each person's story so quickly. We follow Peter Manuel and William Watt throughout most of this novel, but there are small scenes popped in that introduce characters we only meet once throughout the entire book, yet I still felt like I knew them and I still invested myself in their stories, no matter how short. Overall, this book was really superb and if you're looking for something dark, but quick to read, this is the book for you. At only 240 pages, you'll find yourself racing through this! I can't wait to read more of Mina's work, if it's all as good as this one.
The Long Drop is written in the third person and read as though the narrator was spying on the external actions and internal thoughts of the characters. The overall book has the feeling of a good film noir. Puzzle pieces are added to the mystery in a non-conventional manner, leaving the reader not 100% sure they have been lead down the correct path. I had no idea, while reading this book, that it was based on true events. After reading accounts of Peter Manuel, the Beast of Birkenshaw, it was easy to see the twists and extra touches Ms. Mina added to the story to flesh it out for the book. This is definitely a book that will keep the readers’ attention!