“He knows too much to be an honest man but says he wants to help.”
— Denise Mina, The Long Drop
Denise Mina delivers a true crime story infused with fiction as she tells the story behind Scotland’s very first serial killer. Deemed to be the trial of the century in 1950’s Glasglow, The Long Drop recounts the fight for innocence for the accused father, William Watt, and the denial of guilt by the known liar and murderer, Peter Manuel. While the outcome of this story is well-known, Denise Mina offers readers the opportunity to read about a trial—thanks to her access to transcriptions—interspersed with her own reimagining of the mysterious night that both William Watt and Peter Manuel spent together trying to bargain for freedom in their own particular ways. While William Watt only wishes to find the gun that was used to kill three members of his family, Peter Manuel attempts to play with an innocent man’s emotions and thoughts and secure his way to a win-win situation. In The Long Drop, the author proposes an exploration of the capital punishment, as well as the darkness within everyone, innocent or guilty.
Capital punishment still remains relevant in some regions around the world, but The Long Drop sure does bring into light the controversy that surrounds the measure. The raw depiction of the punishment and the whole procedure that leads up to the event in the 1950s underlines the very joke that the whole system used to be. From unreliable witnesses to criminals representing themselves (still modern issues), this story tickles your fancy for what you’d think a trial shouldn’t be like. While half the book focuses on the later trial that leads to the end of Scotland’s first serial killer, Peter Manuel, the other half embraces Denise Mina’s version of the unknown twelve hours that a killer and the accused victim spend together before the grand trial that will change the life of many individuals. These moments that are cleverly and cunningly interwoven into the plot gives us a glimpse into the mind of a killer and his compulsive ability to lie.
Unfortunately, the writing wasn’t my cup of tea. More often than not, it felt like I was watching a very dull episode on the Discovery channel. Everything was told explicitly and in a straight-forward fashion. Short sentences were also regularly used, making it feel like we were repeatedly jabbed, but without any real reactions being solicited. There was something really raw yet lackluster in the way that the story was conveyed, but it definitely didn’t help that you knew the outcome to this story since it was based on true events. Readers who are truly invested in the trial that took place in Scotland and who wishes to see Denise Mina’s reimagining of the famous hours spent between Peter Manuel and William Watt will surely get a good kick out of this book, but fans of thrillers will have to lower their expectations in order to indulge this genuinely fascinating trial.
It’s riveting what occurs between William Watt and Peter Manuel and forces you to wonder how far an innocent individual would go to clear his name of the suspicions that the society has on him. Denise Mina is definitely a fantastic writer who sticks to the facts as she sews a remarkable story from scratch. There are some amazing moments throughout the book that highlights her ability to stun and mesmerize you with her writing style. Regrettably, it fell flat and monotone to my eyes a little too often and failed to keep my intrigue high. Blame is however hard to put on the author as she couldn’t have swayed to far away from the truth and could only try and depict a criminal in the most authentic way possible. The version of the truth that Denise Mina offers us remains interesting enough to please fans of true crime and is definitely worth checking out if the case tickles your curiosity.
THANK YOU TO HARPER COLLINS CANADA FOR SENDING ME A COPY FOR REVIEW!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/