Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

First Line: He knows too much to be an honest man but says he wants to help.

Husband and father William Watt is suspected of killing the women of his family, but he has a solid alibi. Watt is determined to clear his name in the 1950s Glasgow where he lives, so he spreads the word that he will pay for information about the murders. In walks career criminal Peter Manuel who has details of the deaths that only the murderer could possibly know. Watt agrees to meet him, and they spend twelve hours together, driving and drinking in Glasgow pubs.

The next time they meet is in the High Court where Peter Manuel is defending himself against the murder charges. Manuel proceeds to call Watt as a witness and grill him about their long night together.

Denise Mina has written a fictionalized account of a real life case. No one knows what happened the night that Watt and Manuel spent together, but what this talented writer has imagined certainly fills in the blanks well. Her depiction of the city of Glasgow in the 1950s is stunning. She serves up a vivid portrait of the city and its criminals before "the biggest urban redevelopment project in post-war Europe."

For those of you who like a big dollop of sunshine and smiles in your reading, you're not going to find it here. The Long Drop (think of the hangman) deals almost exclusively with criminals-- people who lie, cheat, steal, rape, and murder. The book can be quite grim, but it is a compelling tale of guilt and innocence. Peter Manuel is chilling. Whether he's a psychopath or a sociopath, it doesn't matter. He's bad news. Working with the trial transcripts, Mina is able to show Manuel's Achilles' heel, and that is the one bright spot in the book. Besides the depiction of Glasgow during this period, watching Manuel conduct his own defense during his murder trial is the best part of the book. I may not have been in the right mood for such a depressing book, but I would not have missed it for the world.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina
eISBN: 9780316380577
Little, Brown and Company © 2017
eBook, 241 pages

Historical Fiction, Standalone
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley


  1. This sounds like a fascinating read, even if it is a little grim, Cathy. Mina is such a skilled storyteller, too, that I'm not surprised this one turned out to be a good 'un.

    1. Yes, she is incredibly gifted. I'm so glad I got to meet her at The Poisoned Pen!

  2. I have read all of Denise Mina's books, except one, a stand-alone. I have had this one on hold at the library and will try it, although I guess I'll have to have tea and chocolate to keep my mood elevated as I read.

    I know how she writes. I read her last book, which was a downer about someone who out of desperation was a paid assassin. It was fascinating. Mina is a good writer.

    By the way, if you like Fred Vargas' books, I just finished "A Climate of Fear." Talk about quirky. There is one plot line that irked me, but the overall book is brilliant. We read Vargas' books because she is a genius at putting everything together. That doesn't mean we adore every plot line. But the characters are fascinating as is one part dealing with an island in Iceland.

    1. I am soooooo far behind in reading Vargas's books. I've got them all waiting for me on my TBR shelves, but I need something to really put my reading in high gear.

  3. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec is my favorite book by Vargas. It's just wonderful in a rural community worried about a furious ghost army that's killing people. A zany family with a son who talks backwards, etc., etc.


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