The Long Drop


by Denise Mina
Expected publication: May 23rd 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
4 Stars


The “trial of the century” in 1950’s Glasgow is over. Peter Manuel has been found guilty of a string of murders and is waiting to die by hanging. But every good crime story has a beginning. Manuel’s starts with the murder of William Watt’s family. Looking no further that Watt himself, the police are convinced he’s guilty. Desperate to clear his name, Watt turns to Manuel, a career criminal who claims to have information that will finger the real killer. As Watt seeks justice with the cagey Manuel’s help, everyone the pair meets has blood on their hands as they sell their version of the truth. The Long Drop is an explosive novel about guilt, innocence and the power of a good story to hide the difference

The Long Drop is a quick, short read based on true events of Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel. The story mainly focuses on the night out between Manuel and William Watt whose family had been murdered in his own home. William Watt was the main suspect in that case but he takes it upon himself to find out what truly happened that night to his wife, daughter and his sister-in-law. He is a wealthy man and decides to use that to his advantage to solve the case and clear his name. His lawyer arranges a meeting between him and Manuel after Manuel claims to have information about the murders.

The title of the book refers to capital punishment and so the story builds to the hanging of Peter Manuel and take note that this is not a spoiler because it’s implied by the title as well as it being a googleable fact.

The story goes back and forth between the night out and the trial. The brilliance is in Mina’s storytelling with the clear depiction of Glasgow in the 1950’s and the criminal justice system then. The research that went into this work is amazing and everyone will appreciate it.  The way she made me understand Glasgow in the fifties when it was not my time or even anywhere close to my home is amazing. Mina did an amazing job and I cannot stress that enough.

This was a time when a husband raping or beating his wife was well within his legal rights. If the wife had a problem with it, there was no helping her because it was considered a private matter to be resolved within the household. There are VIP seats in the High Court where those who were considered important members of the society and could not mix in with the regular folk. Smoking was legal everywhere, even in the court room where the witnesses were provided with cigarettes, matches and ashtrays.

The court was filled with women who would queue all night just to get a seat inside during the trial. Some who even missed work just so that they could be in the courtroom although their reason for doing this was often questioned. They claimed it was in solidarity with the women who had fallen victim to Manuel but their giggles in the courtroom suggested it had to do with the belief people had that Manuel was a good-looking man.

His crimes were so brutal that only adults were allowed in the courtroom. Manuel is a sociopath who stopped in the midst of his carnage to make himself a sandwich. Who does that? This is a man who got rid of his barrister in the middle of his trial to represent himself because he felt he was not being depicted the right way.

I really enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone who loves historical mysteries. Pick this one up on May 23rd, but I’ll post a reminder on that day.


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