Denise Mina’s new thriller, The Long Drop, was a Washington Post Book of the Year for 2017. The book is based on contemporaneous accounts and two later books about the trial of Peter Manuel, who came to be known as “Scotland’s first serial killer.” Manuel was a career criminal who had come to the attention of the police as early as age 10 and was imprisoned at 16 for a series of brutal sexual attacks. The action takes place over the seven-month period from December 1957 through July 1958. Manuel was hanged on July 11, 1958, having been convicted of seven gruesome murders.
Mina’s account of the Peter Manuel story revolves around his relationship with a Glasgow businessman named William Watt. Watt was the owner of a successful chain of bakeries who aspired to high social standing in the city. That possibility was put to rest when he was imprisoned for the murder of his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law. Watt had been elsewhere the night his family was killed, but his social awkwardness and difficulty in communicating had failed to persuade the police of his innocence. He sought out Manuel in hopes of securing either a confession or evidence that would implicate a third man.
The Long Drop by Denise Mina ★★★★☆
Mina tells the story of the long, drunken night Watt and Manuel spent together shortly before Christmas 1957 in short chapters, alternating with chapters based on transcripts from Manuel’s trial in May 1958. Even a reader sated with tales about serial killers is likely to find Mina’s account of the Peter Manuel story compelling.
Both Manuel and Watt come across as such peculiar individuals that I would have had difficulty believing the story had I not known Mina based the book on the facts.
Scottish author and playwright Denise Mina is a prolific and versatile writer. Since 1998 she has written nearly two dozen novels, plays, comics, graphic novels, and radio plays. She is best known as a crime novelist. Two of her books have been adapted to film.
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