Review by New York Times Review
HE CALLS ME BY LIGHTNING: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty, by S. Jonathan Bass. (Liveright, $26.95.) A young black man wrongly accused of killing a policeman in Alabama in 1957 faced a 44-year legal battle; his painstakingly documented story illuminates the racial justice system. RISING STAR: The Making of Barack Obama, by David J. Garrow. (Morrow/HarperCollins, $45.) This long, deeply reported but gratuitously snarly biography argues that the young president-to-be subordinated everything, including love, to a politically expedient journey-to-blackness narrative. THE GOLDEN LEGEND, by Nadeem Aslam. (Knopf, $27.95.) In Aslam's powerful and engrossing fifth novel, set in an imaginary Pakistani city ruled by mob violence, sectarianism and intolerance, the principal characters become hunted fugitives. Their integrity and courage nevertheless provide hope. THE UNRULY CITY: Paris, London and New York in the Age of Revolution, by Mike Rapport. (Basic Books, $32.) What accounts for differing degrees of upheaval when societies are in crisis? A historian's examination of the 18th-century revolutions in urban Britain, America and France is both readable and scholarly. MEN WITHOUT WOMEN: Stories, by Haruki Murakami. Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen. (Knopf, $25.95.) In this slim (seven stories) but beguilingly irresistible book, Murakami whips up a melancholy soufflé about wounded men who can't hold on to the women they love. SCARS OF INDEPENDENCE: America's Violent Birth, by Holger Hoock. (Crown, $30.) This important and revelatory book adopts violence as its central analytical and narrative focus, forcing readers to confront the visceral realities of a conflict too often bathed in warm, nostalgic light. The Revolution in this telling is a war like any other. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': Cass Elliot Before the Mamas and the Papas, by Pénélope Bagieu. (First Second, $24.99.) Bagieu uses the entire range of her medium, graphite, to show - in drawings both exuberant and sad - how a Baltimore girl named Ellen Cohen became Mama Cass. FIRST LOVE, by Gwendoline Riley. (Melville House, paper, $16.99.) A 30-something writer falls in love with and marries a man who says he doesn't "have a nice bone in my body." This dark, funny novel displays its author's mastery of scrupulous psychological detail and ear for the ways love inverts itself into cruelty. THE LONG DROP, by Denise Mina. (Little, Brown, $26.) In a departure from her usual series, Mina's new novel is based on a real crime spree that horrified Glasgow in the late 1950s. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 8, 2017]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* In 1957 Glasgow, the grisly home-invasion murders of William Watt's family are rare enough to capture rapt public attention, which guarantees that Watt's reputation is destroyed once police think enough of his oddly dispassionate behavior to investigate him. Watt survives the detectives' scrutiny without arrest but can't bear the sudden halt in his social climb. So, in a desperate bid to rescue his reputation, Watt announces a reward for information leading to his family's killer. Peter Manual, a criminal with a history of vicious attacks on women, offers a new suspect and the location of the murder weapon in exchange for the reward. Their meeting begins legitimately enough, arranged by Glasgow's most famous criminal lawyer in a conspicuously reputable restaurant, but shifts into something altogether different when Watt and Manual conspire to ditch their attorney chaperone. As the pair ricochet through Glasgow's underworld hangouts, Manual spins his promised tale, and Watt's motivations begin to appear? much less straightforward. The emerging story is an intricate and suspenseful unveiling of a murderer's mind while taking readers on a compelling journey through Glasgow's historic underworld, the long-extinct but legendary Gorbals tenements, and the city's famous High Courts Or just High Court?. This stand-alone thriller showcases Mina at her best, capturing the nuanced psychological suspense and ethical shadows of her Alex Morrow series as well as the electric dialogue and tangible grit of her Paddy Meehan novels.--Tran, Christine Copyright 2017 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this outstanding standalone, set in late-1950s Glasgow, from Edgar-finalist Mina (Blood, Salt, Water), William Watt stands accused of butchering his wife, daughter, and sister-in-law, but he vehemently proclaims his innocence. Only ace attorney Laurence Dowdall saves him from prison, but public sentiment is against him, forcing Watt to take on the mantle of amateur crime-solver. This is how he meets Peter Manuel, career criminal, convicted burglar, suspected rapist. The two form a strange alliance after Manuel promises to show Watt where the murder weapon is hidden-but for a price. With knifelike precision, Mina flicks between the bizarre 12 hours Watt and Manuel spend together getting drunk in Glasgow bars, and Manuel's later trial, where's he's on the dock not only for the murder of the Watt family but also the slaughter of another trio, asleep in their beds. The question of guilt or innocence is irrelevant, and the gray of the in-between reigns supreme. And while Mina's usual tough female protagonists are absent, the presence of women presses as near as the crush of bodies eager to attend Manuel's trial. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
In Glasgow in December 1957, successful businessman William Watt hires noted defense lawyer Laurence Dowdall to defend him against charges he murdered his wife, sister-in-law, and daughter. The two men meet with recently released criminal -Peter Manuel, who claims to have information-the location of the gun used in the killings-that will exonerate Watt. Manuel and Watt spend the evening together drinking and talking, but no gun is produced. Six months later, Manuel is on trial for these and five other murders, and Watt has been called to testify as a witness. The story, narrated in the present tense, alternates chapters between the end of 1957 when these characters first interact and the trial in May 1958, which decides the fate of both Watt and Manuel, effectively portraying a grimy, gritty Glasgow of 60 years ago. VERDICT Award-winning Scottish author Mina's (Blood, Salt, Water) stand-alone is a disappointment. Unfortunately, there is no sympathetic main character and little fulfillment at the end. Readers will be left wondering at the stylistic devices and wishing for a better resolution. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/16.]--Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
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 underworldand 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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.