Glasgow, 1950s. Three men meet in bar. One leaves. The remaining two men talk and drink until the early hours. They are unlikely drinking companions. A businessman, and a criminal. What are they talking about? Which one is telling the truth, or are they both lying? The Long Drop by Denise Mina is her fictional version of the night of Monday December 2, 1957 and the subsequent murder trial. It is a chilling story. Peter Manuel was a real murderer in Glasgow and the Burnside Affair happened, which makes this such an unsettling read. A woman, her sister and daughter have been killed, the girl was also raped: this is William Watt’s family, his wife, his daughter, his sister-in-law.
Manuel, a known criminal, writes to Laurence Dowdall, Watt’s solicitor, to say he knows the location of the murder weapon, a gun, and so Dowdall arranges the meeting at Whitehall’s Restaurant/Lounge. Suspected by police of murdering his own family, William Watts meets criminal Manuel desperate for answers. But for a naïve, boasting businessman, he is keeping strange company. All is not as it seems.
Mina populates her story with living/breathing Glasgow in the 1950s. If you have been to Glasgow, Mina’s words bring it alive. It you don’t know Glasgow, your imagination conjures up a crystal clear picture. “This city is commerce unfettered. It centres around the docks and the river, and it is all function. It dresses like the Irishwomen: had to toe in black, hair covered, eyes down.” Dowdall drives a maroon Vauxhall Velox.
This is the first book by Denise Mina which I have read. I really like her writing style. Concise, why use six words in a sentence when one or two conveys the meaning?
Read more about the real Peter Manuel here.
If you like this, try:-
‘An Uncertain Place’ by Fred Vargas
‘Little Boy Blue’ by MJ Arlidge
‘The Nationalist’ by Campbell Hart
‘The Long Drop’ by Denise Mina [UK: Harvill Secker] Buy at Amazon
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LONG DROP by Denise Mina #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2pR
I’m a huge Denise Mina fan, especially having lived in Glasgow for 16 years before moving back to the coast. You have some real treats in store if you can find the time to work through her backlist – she has three different series, all wonderful in different ways, although her debut novels, the Garnethill trilogy, remain my favourite.
We went to see her speak about this particular book at Aye Write!, Glasgow’s book festival – she’s fantastic to listen to; just a fascinating, hugely intelligent (and very friendly!) woman. I’ve yet to read it though – I haven’t felt quite ready to step inside Peter Manuel’s head yet, as it were…. Your great review has me very much looking forward to it, though!
Thx! It is a disturbing story. SD