The Long Drop by Denise Mina

The Long Drop

A standalone psychological thriller from the acclaimed author of the Alex Morrow novels that exposes the dark hearts of the guilty...and the innocent.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...

Title:The Long Drop
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0316380571
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:240 pages

The Long Drop Reviews

  • Sandy

    This is a literary retelling of the final days & trial of Peter Manuel, a serial killer who was hanged in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison on July 11, 1958. Nicknamed “the Beast of Birkenshaw”, he was convicted of 7 murders & suspected of others.

    On Sept. 17, 1956 Glasgow businessman William Watt’s wife, daughter & sister-in-law were murdered while he was away on a trip. But police were under tremendous pressure to make an arrest & decided Watt was as good a suspect as any. He spent mo

    This is a literary retelling of the final days & trial of Peter Manuel, a serial killer who was hanged in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison on July 11, 1958. Nicknamed “the Beast of Birkenshaw”, he was convicted of 7 murders & suspected of others.

    On Sept. 17, 1956 Glasgow businessman William Watt’s wife, daughter & sister-in-law were murdered while he was away on a trip. But police were under tremendous pressure to make an arrest & decided Watt was as good a suspect as any. He spent more than 2 months in prison until prominent lawyer Lawrence Dowdall secured his release. Watt went on to spend much of the next year carrying out his own investigation in an effort to clear his name. On Jan. 1,1958 another family was murdered & from then on, Manuel’s days were numbered.

    Much has been written about the case & the author stays true to the facts while adding her own spin on some of the unanswered questions. The story has 2 main threads that are told in alternating chapters. The first takes place over the course of one night in Dec. 1957 as she imagines a meeting between Watt & Manuel. We follow them as they hit every bar in town, both with private agendas. Watt believes Manuel knows where the murder weapon is & he wants it. And Manuel…..well, he just wants money & someone to toy with.

    The other thread begins 6 months later in 1958 as Peter Manuel goes on trial. One by one we hear from all those called to testify including Manuel’s parents & Watt himself.

    As both story lines progress, ugly truths are gradually revealed as we follow the 2 MC’s in dual time lines. Mina does a wonderful job of slowly peeling back the layers of these 2 complex characters. Watt initially comes across as a crass, nouveau riche social climber desperate for respect. But it’s her portrait of Manuel that makes your blood run cold. He can turn from charming manipulator to violent sociopath in a heartbeat & will genuinely make your skin crawl. It’s like watching a chess game between 2 well matched opponents & there’s a continuous power shift as they try to outmanoeuvre each other.

    It’s stylishly written & rich in period detail. Glasgow in the 1950’s is another character in itself. Parts of the blackened city would later be levelled but at the time it was a dark & gritty place with well known gangsters controlling their turf. It also illustrates the popular beliefs & societal prejudices at a time when the class system was still in effect.

    This is not a thriller in the traditional sense as most of the violence is described in retrospect. There is much more dialogue than action. It’s a thought provoking & psychological study of 2 flawed men that keeps you guessing & I particularly enjoyed the author’s twist on how Watt’s family ended up dead. Who knows….maybe it’s true.

  • Maxine (Booklover Catlady)

    What atmospheric brilliance! This first chapter had me stepping back in time feeling myself immersed in another time and place as the modern day around me slipped away. As I settled into the rhythm of the writing I found it hypnotic and enticing and quite simply wanted more, one chapter was not going to be enough. Mina's characters are instantly aliv

    What atmospheric brilliance! This first chapter had me stepping back in time feeling myself immersed in another time and place as the modern day around me slipped away. As I settled into the rhythm of the writing I found it hypnotic and enticing and quite simply wanted more, one chapter was not going to be enough. Mina's characters are instantly alive and her descriptive powers very impressive, this is a book that I believe I would be lost in, hungry to keep turning the pages, desperate for more depth and wiling to dive into the darkness. What lays ahead? Who knows but I have a feeling, a strong feeling it's going to be very, very good dear readers.

  • Richard

    The Long Drop is based on true events; it refers to a method of capital punishment. The story builds to and ends with the judicial hanging of Peter Manuel. It begins about the time I was born and for no other reason than this would pique my interest. However, it is the writing in broad strokes and highlighting the finer details that sustains my enjoyment of the writing, about a Glasgow perhaps no longer remembered but a murderer who will never be forgotten.

    You feel that Mina has sat you down in

    The Long Drop is based on true events; it refers to a method of capital punishment. The story builds to and ends with the judicial hanging of Peter Manuel. It begins about the time I was born and for no other reason than this would pique my interest. However, it is the writing in broad strokes and highlighting the finer details that sustains my enjoyment of the writing, about a Glasgow perhaps no longer remembered but a murderer who will never be forgotten.

    You feel that Mina has sat you down in a room and is narrating a dark tale on a stormy evening. You know you will not be able to go to bed before she has concluded her account and then whatever is left of the night you will be robbed of sleep by the impact of this story.

    What I loved in the opening chapter was the command of the story that allows like the best teachers or great orators to digress briefly without the audience becoming tense or bored. So, with The Long Drop on the very first page Mina has the time and the assurance to go off on another track about the history of Glasgow. This continues throughout the book taking the reader on a journey from a time the loosely know with asides to bring it up to date or hang references on like a guide taking you around the city.

    For me it re-enforces the authenticity of the world she is recalling and affirming to the reader. Its time and location are as important as the characters contained within the novel for the story to be fully understood.

    It reminded me at times of Burial Rites.by Hannah Kent which I read over 3 years ago, However, The Long Drop is darker and drips in menace. It has the sense of foreboding and like Mrs Manual feels that violence is just a breath away.

    Denise Mina has great insights into human nature and her dialogue and prose remain tense and true to the ear.

    There is no glory in this retelling of horrific crimes but how the author recounts the possible events as well as encounters around the trial, conviction and execution brings a sense of understanding contemporary events. She spends time on all the characters and even introduces the natural humour that often occurs in tense situations and solemn proceedings. I enjoyed the reality of the sectarian Glasgow given and the crime often ignored or unable to prosecute. The city appears littered with thuggery and the story of the providence in the guns used in the crimes detailed so the availability of weapons and the casual way they changed hands.

    I loved the faith, love and honesty displayed and shown in the character of Manual's mum., in stark contrast to his father.

    Wonderful, enticing and a glimpse at what appears to be a book about truth and consequences; at a time of long nights, black cityscapes and dark hearts. However, Mina hints at wider involvement and the limits of police investigations prior to DNA evidence and communities where no-one spoke with or grassed to the police. I do not like true crime novels but in this author's hands and with her creative mind and thorough research she has demonstrated her affinity with Glasgow and provided a book few who read it will ever forget.

  • Carol

    I'm a fan of Mina's writing style, but this wasn't the book for me. It is based on a true crime in Glasgow in 1957. There is no mystery, no goodness, no hope, no puzzle to solve. Just the facts and they are bleak. Her ability to describe the bleakness? Second to few, I imagine.

  • Karin Slaughter

    Denise Mina is one of my favorite authors working today. She's a fantastic story teller, and reading this book, I felt like I was sitting across from her at a bar hearing about this true-crime case directly from her mouth. One of the many things Denise excels at is exploring real criminals; not the Hannibal Lecter types, but the actual, true life criminals who aren't clever or charming but who are just normal people making bad decisions and stupid mistakes. Some of them are more flawed than othe

    Denise Mina is one of my favorite authors working today. She's a fantastic story teller, and reading this book, I felt like I was sitting across from her at a bar hearing about this true-crime case directly from her mouth. One of the many things Denise excels at is exploring real criminals; not the Hannibal Lecter types, but the actual, true life criminals who aren't clever or charming but who are just normal people making bad decisions and stupid mistakes. Some of them are more flawed than others, some of them are more dastardly, but as a reader, you get the idea that Denise understands why they do the terrible things they do. That she can turn this into a compelling story is an amazing feat. She's an author's author.

  • Sue

    This is a very interesting fictional recreation of an actual crime, trial and punishment scenario from the late 1950s Scotland, and a standalone departure from Mina's mystery series. The criminal and crimes are known; this book recreates the process of finally identifying and trying him as well as proposing possible scenarios for others' culpability or complicity in what happened after the murders and before arrest and trial. It is a fascinating reconstruction of another era of policing, another

    This is a very interesting fictional recreation of an actual crime, trial and punishment scenario from the late 1950s Scotland, and a standalone departure from Mina's mystery series. The criminal and crimes are known; this book recreates the process of finally identifying and trying him as well as proposing possible scenarios for others' culpability or complicity in what happened after the murders and before arrest and trial. It is a fascinating reconstruction of another era of policing, another time in the criminal world also.

    The portraits of the people involved are scary. Criminals appeared to have significant power in Glasgow of those days and truth was often a victim. Mina has used non-fiction sources to create her novel which I found fascinating, while also disturbing. But I think any work based on true crime involving serial murder has to be disturbing. This book is structured in chapters alternating between Peter Manuel's trial in 1958 and events in 1957 as various individuals scrambled to point fingers and be sure blame was assigned properly. These individuals were not police. Enough said!

    This is my first book by Denise Mina and I find I like her writing style. I plan to check out her series books now too.

    A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  • Paromjit

    Denise Mina conjures the the 1950s period Glasgow and makes it come alive with its grime, divisions, hard men, and criminal underbelly. This is a city run by the police knowingly aided by crime bosses to enforce order, although big changes are in the air such as redevelopment. This is a man's world, where women are treated desperately badly. This story is Mina turning her hand at fictionalising aspects of the true crime notoriety of Scotland's serial killer, 'The Beast of Birkenshaw', the hated

    Denise Mina conjures the the 1950s period Glasgow and makes it come alive with its grime, divisions, hard men, and criminal underbelly. This is a city run by the police knowingly aided by crime bosses to enforce order, although big changes are in the air such as redevelopment. This is a man's world, where women are treated desperately badly. This story is Mina turning her hand at fictionalising aspects of the true crime notoriety of Scotland's serial killer, 'The Beast of Birkenshaw', the hated Peter Manuel. Much of the narrative is delivered in the vernacular, but a light and easily understood version. The long drop is a particular type of hanging, and we know Manuel is convicted and then hanged in 1958 for the murder of 7 people, but suspected of killing more.

    In this book, the focus is on Manuel's trial and on a 11 hour drunken pub crawl with Watt and Manuel, men with huge egos and neither is particularly likeable. William Watt, suspected of murdering his own family, is in search of answers that are tantalisingly offered by Peter Manuel, who sees someone ripe to play mind games with. Watt is a man intent on being someone, with a mistress, his fingers in real estate development and not such an innocent guy. Peter Manuel runs his own defence at the trial but does himself no favours in choosing this path. Mina gives us a picture that the truth is nebulous and elusive, that Manuel is left to hang whilst others are shielded in a city that reeks of corruption.

    This is a beautifully written and bleak tale with superb descriptions. Mina does a glorious job in giving us a 1950s Glasgow that we can easily step into with its overflowing menace and, surprisingly, humour. Manuel feels a malignant and repulsive character, with a clear psychopathic personality although deeply flawed characters are the hallmarks of Mina's spin on this true crime. I am not attracted to reading true crime fiction but the author has made this both a compelling and gripping read. Thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.

  • Maureen

    An unusual trio - an affluent businessman, a criminal, and a lawyer meet in a rather downmarket restaurant in Glasgow in the late 1950's.

    William Watt, the businessman, is the prime suspect in the murders of his wife, daughter, and sister in law, however, he's been released due to lack of evidence. Watt needs to clear his name and the arranged meeting is with criminal Peter Manuel, who claims to know the whereabouts of the gun used in the murders, and also the identity of the killer. The lawyer D

    An unusual trio - an affluent businessman, a criminal, and a lawyer meet in a rather downmarket restaurant in Glasgow in the late 1950's.

    William Watt, the businessman, is the prime suspect in the murders of his wife, daughter, and sister in law, however, he's been released due to lack of evidence. Watt needs to clear his name and the arranged meeting is with criminal Peter Manuel, who claims to know the whereabouts of the gun used in the murders, and also the identity of the killer. The lawyer Dowdall, is a somewhat reluctant witness to this meeting - he finds Manuel to be a somewhat sinister individual and is suspicious of his motives. Dowdall eventually leaves the two to their negotiations.

    The egotistical Watt and Manuel leave the restaurant together and embark on a pub crawl that lasts for twelve hours, and culminates in a meeting with one of Glasgow's most feared hard men - a man that would give anyone the chills.

    The Long Drop is actually a fictional account of the notorious Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel, with the primary focus being on his trial, 'the trial of the century'.

    Mina gives a grim but accurate portrayal of 1950's Glasgow, where there was very much a macho, hard man culture, a time when it wasn't a crime for a man to rape his wife, and many women suffered vicious beatings at the hands of their husbands.

    We're given a fascinating insight into the mind of Manuel, who despite having a somewhat puerile personality, is also extremely arrogant and an habitual liar. Taking a life meant nothing to him, this was a very cold and callous individual. Though he actually confessed to 18 murders, he was tried for only 8.

    At 8.01am on 11th July 1958 in The Hanging Shed at Barlinnie Prison, Peter Manuel breathed his last, whilst the inhabitants of Glasgow breathed a sigh of relief.

    *Thank you to Random House Vintage for my ARC. I have given an honest review in exchange*

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