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.
‘The Long Drop’ by Denise Mina [UK: Harvill Secker] Buy at Amazon
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