This has been recommended in lots of places as one of the best crime novels of the year, and I have to say it lives up to that billing. It has a cleverly structured plot that kind of unwinds slowly, gradually encompassing more characters and viewpoints, with the ground shifting underneath the reader’s feet. It concerns the strange and mercurial Peter Manuel and his connection (or not) to the killing of William Watt’s family; Watt himself may or may not be implicated in the murders. Both are entwined with larger criminal networks in Glasgow which are darker and more powerful than either.
The novel is at its best when Watt & Manuel are touring round the backstreet bars and dives of Glasgow, testing each other out, daring each other to drink, to tell and to give themselves away. They build up a one-night friendship or camerarderie which is so strained as to be tension-inducing, and feels constantly that it is on the verge of spirallingout of control and into the lives of others. The courtroom scenes that follow are almost as well-drawn, with the sense of spectacle clear to all.
Overall, this is top stuff: Glasgow has never felt darker and more dangerous, and all of the characters feel fully rounded, if largely unlikeable and untrustworthy.The plot almost feels secondary to the relationships and the swirling atmosphere of menace, but it pushes along nonetheless to a suitably grim finale. A fab read.
BUY IT NOW: The Long Drop