The Long Drop is based on the true crime story about an American born Scottish serial killer called Peter Manuel and the man accused of three of his crimes.
In 1956 William Watt was accused of killing his wife, daughter and his sister-in-law. He would have been tried and executed for the crimes, if the police hadn’t cottoned on to the fact they had a serial killer in their midst.
Mina turns a meeting of the two men into a cat and mouse game between killer and accused. A literary thriller with the dark city of Glasgow as a backdrop. A city on the brink of change, just about to take a step into literally a lighter brighter time, well at least optically. The black stones of buildings were cleaned, trees planted, whole neighbourhoods ripped down and rebuilt. A massive health and x-ray initiative was launched to combat and eradicate tuberculosis.
It will be interesting to see whether Mina draws parallels between the meeting of Watts and Manuel, and the essence, core and subsequent change in Glasgow.
Mina’s writing is expressive, sharp and memorable. Her knowledge of Glasgow and the people is filtered into her stories in an almost subconscious layering. Mina writes noir with a twist, the psychological tear-downs between her characters is what sets her stories apart from the rest.
I think the reader starts out with the same assumption as Mina when she wrote the play Driving Manuel, that Watt was a victim in this scenario. After listening to people who were alive and there at the time Mina took another look at the crimes, the result being the novel The Long Drop. This time she presents a slightly different slant on the story.
Perhaps Watt wasn’t the innocent bystander everyone thought he was. Why would a man in his position, a man who had spent time in jail for the murders of his family, why would he even consider spending time with the real killer? Pretending to prove his innocence by getting the guilty party to admit their guilt or conveniently conjure up the murder weapon.
Drinking and laughing with the man who shot his wife and then hurt and killed his daughter. Having a jolly good chat like old chums. Is it just desperation or does Watt have something to hide?
Mina gives a really good insight into the possible conversation between Watt and Manuel. No matter whomever you think may be guilty or whatever the possible scenario, one thing is absolutely clear, Peter Manuel was a sadistic killer. A killer with no remorse, who liked to stalk and torture his victims, and a man who killed viciously and enjoyed the violence.
Mina explores certain personality traits of Manuel and describes them rather well. He had a need, almost a compulsion to show-off, to brag and hog the limelight without being caught. His braggart nature and overconfidence is what led to his demise.
It’s an interesting read, which has the distinctive mark of Denise Mina.