Hard men work their will in 1950s Glasgow.
Though somewhat unlike Mina’s usual thrillers in many ways, this study of a serial killer shares her persistent themes. Mina has penned three series of novels, each featuring a female protagonist (Blood, Salt, Water, 2015, etc.) struggling against both active criminals and pervasive misogyny. In this story she omits the female protagonist but remains grounded in the casual victimization of Scotland’s women. William Watt’s family (wife, daughter, and sister-in-law) is slaughtered, and at first Watt is charged with the crimes. Feeling the police are not investigating energetically enough, he reaches out to the Glasgow underworld—and finds Peter Manuel, who claims to know where the gun is buried and much more. In the course of a December evening he and Watt spend drinking together, much that is repellent about Manuel is slowly revealed. Then another family is murdered. Eventually Watt is exculpated, and Manuel is charged with eight counts of murder. The story alternates mostly between that December night of drinking and the subsequent trial. Manuel is delusional, possibly psychotic; but is he alone responsible for the deaths of Watt’s family? Watt is a man of some substance, involved in political and real estate machinations that will transform Glasgow. He has a mistress. Do the hard men close ranks around him? Is Manuel, beyond the control of the men who rule his world, sacrificed to preserve one of them? In the end, the answer matters less than the method, as women’s lives are degraded, publicly and privately, physically and spiritually, to preserve the ranks of those hard men. In more than one sense, Manuel takes the fall.
A terrific exploration of crime and oppression.