by Denise Mina
The spine of this story is a long night of drinking shared by William Watt, whose wife, sister-in-law and daughter Vivienne were brutally murdered, and Peter Manuel, a con man and serial killer, who may — or may not — have murdered Watt’s family.
Watt is a prime person of interest in the death of his family because the victims of murder are most likely to have been killed by the people closest to them. He’s eager to find clues to lead the police away from him.
Manuel has a chillingly detailed knowledge of the murder scene at the Watt house. Hounded by the police and media, Watt forces his reluctant attorney Laurence Dowdall to arrange a meeting with Manuel, who claims he can get Watt the gun that killed his family. Watt reasons that will get the cops off his back.
What follows is a night of wandering through bars of darker and darker repute, Watt’s brother’s kitchen, a local thug lord’s office and curbside of Manuel’s house as Watt tries to get Manuel to provide the evidence that will remove Watt from suspicion. What Watt may have said about the murders — or what Manuel may have said — gets lost in Watt’s alcoholic black-outs and Manuel’s wily evasions.
Woven around this binge are police investigations into a series of killings connected to Peter Manuel.
And, lastly, there’s Manuel’s trial. Stunningly, Manuel fires his attorneys mid-trial and represents himself. His knowledge of local thug lords’ business, Watt’s babblings and other inside information make him a grenade waiting to explode in court.
This is mesmerizing story-telling that leaves a reader in doubt about every speaker in the tale. The potential Manuel had to bring down person after person, and his failure to use those opportunities to free himself makes for great suspense.
THE LONG DROP won the 2017 Gordon Burn Prize and the 2017 McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year.
Mina has based her story on the real serial killer Peter Manuel (1927-1958), convicted and hung for seven murders.
About the Author: Denise Mina (1966 – )
A native of Scotland, Denise Mina is also the author of the Garnethill trilogy and a series featuring Glasgow journalist Patricia “Paddy” Meehan. Although primarily known as a “Tartan Noir” writer, she has also written comic books.