The Long Drop – Denise Mina

June 16, 2017

Noted crime novelist Denise Mina departs from her usual mystery series to bring us a new crimes and new characters in The Long Drop, published by Little, Brown and Company, copyright 2017.

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William Watt is accused of murder.  This is just not the type of killing that happens in Glasgow all that often.  The victims happen to be Watt’s wife, his daughter, and his sister-in-law Nettie Brown.  He and his brother John own one of the finest of bakeries in Glasgow and are well off with the money they make.  So when he chooses a lawyer he turns to the very best.  He acquires Lawrence Dowdall who is quite famous for getting his clients acquitted of major crimes.  He gets Watt out by stating that he has an airtight alibi, Watt was seen at his bakery by many of his customers, and his brother John, at the time of the murders.


Watt meets Peter Manuel at the Gordon Club who says he has information that will lead them to the killer and the gun that killed his family.  Manuel says he can acquire the gun but he has a reputation as a career criminal and is not to be trusted.  Watt is hesitant but agrees to meet with Manuel over drinks at Jackson’s which is a sleazy bar where you’d best keep your eyes on the door and back to the wall.  This is by far the toughest bar in town.  Watt, being ‘fond of the drink’, is waiting for Manuel when he arrives and it takes them some for Watt’s lawyer Dowdall to get the hint that they need to talk privately and he is not welcome.  The lawyer leaves and the two establish a friendship based on the information Manuel shares.  They romp for hours from bar to bar, and there is no shortage of those in Glasgow, Scotland.

Watt is very concerned with his reputation and since the police aren’t doing much to find the real killer he decides to take on an investigation of his own.  This is why he is meeting with the nefarious Peter Manuel in venues he would normally avoid because of their shady reputations.  He is contacted by the men who had arranged these murders.  The leader of them is an underworld madman named Maurice Dickov, a Bulgarian who treats mistakes with severe cruelty.  Dickov scares everyone who works for him and more.  These people connect Watt with some interesting characters such as Charles Tallis, who is a proficient housebreaker; and Scott O’Neil, who had the connections to supply the guns.  We get to know Manuel’s mother who is a devout catholic and feels betrayed by her son’s wicked ways, and many other fascinating people that give this story life.

One thing that stands out in Denise Mina’s novel is her ability to present genuine Scottish dialect.  The language is the same yet the way they use it is very Scot.  Also she describes gestures that have their own meaning.  Something I would also point out is that you must note the dates at the beginning of the chapters because they jump between the time of the trials to the time of the actual crimes.  A somewhat unusual way to create suspense yet it works very well in this offering by a novelist that truly impressed me with this work.  She also leads us into the mind of a true psychopath and it is not pretty.

I had never heard of Denise Mina and I see that in the front of this book she has written a trilogy, five Alex Marrow novels, three Paddy Meehan novels, as well as other standalone works.  I will be looking for more from Denise Mina for sure!  Also the last chapter explains the title’s meaning.  Mina has twice received the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, a UK-based award for crime novelists.

Literally, Paul.

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