Long Black Veil

Long Black Veil

by Jennifer Finney Boylan

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Overview

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2017

For fans of Donna Tartt and Megan Abbott, a novel about a woman whose family and identity are threatened by the secrets of her past, from the New York Times bestselling author of She's Not There


On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. With a pianist, a painter and a teacher among them, the friends are full of potential. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence.

But Judith is protecting long-held secrets of her own – secrets that, if brought to light, could destroy her career as a travel writer and tear her away from her fireman husband and teenage son. If she chooses to help Casey, she risks losing the life she has fought to build and the woman she has struggled to become. In any life that contains a “before” and an “after,” how is it possible to live one life, not two?

Weaving deftly between 1980 and the present day, and told in an unforgettable voice, Long Black Veil is an intensely atmospheric thriller that explores the meaning of identity, loyalty, and love. Readers will hail this as Boylan’s triumphant return to fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451496324
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 04/11/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,111,263
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN, author of fourteen books, is the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University in the City of New York and is Special Advisor to the president of Colby College in Maine. She has been a contributor to the Op-Ed page of the New York Times since 2007; in 2013 she became Contributing Opinion Writer for the page. Jenny also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. She is the national co-chair of the Board of Directors of GLAAD, the media advocacy group for LGBT people worldwide, and serves as a consultant to several television series. A novelist, memoirist, and short-story writer, she is also a nationally known advocate for civil rights. Jenny has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on four occasions; Live with Larry King twice; the Today show; the Barbara Walters Special; and NPR's Marketplace and Talk of the Nation. She has also been the subject of documentaries on CBS News' 48 Hours and The History Channel. She lives in New York City and in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, with her wife, Deedie, and her two sons, Zach and Sean.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Chapter 1

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

August 1980

This was a long time ago, before my first death, and none of us now are the people we were then. Instead we are ghosts: two of us dead, a third unrecognizable, a fourth suspected of murder. It would be easy enough at this hour to have contempt for those young selves, to focus instead on how much cleverer we have become here in the green pastures of the twenty-first century. But over the years I have come to believe that people are usually more deserving of forgiveness than judgment. This is not only because it’s an act of grace; it’s also because most men and women aren’t afforded the luxury of dying more than once.

Unlike some people I could mention.

It was Rachel who got us out of our beds that hot August morning, even though our heads were still throbbing from the wedding the night before. But Rachel was a woman on a mission, and she’d decided she was going to take Quentin to see The Large Bathers by Cézanne, or perish in the attempt. She was all about the Impressionists then. Before they graduated, when she was in her Renaissance phase, she’d taken a crack at painting Quentin’s portrait in the manner of Leonardo da Vinci’s John the Baptist, but instead of being flattered, he got all sore about it. That’s what you think I look like? he said, hurt that she did not see him the way he saw himself. But hello. Of course he looked exactly like that.

Later, it had been Tripper’s idea to walk from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Eastern State Penitentiary. It wasn’t far. He’d been a history major at Wesleyan, and he’d always wanted to check out the medieval-looking ruins. The prison had opened in 1829, and closed only eight years before, in 1972. Since then it just sat there in the heart of Philly, all boarded up, while the city tried to figure out what to do with it.

Maisie looked at the sketchy neighborhood into which they had strayed. "Do we have to do this?" she said. She had long blond hair and a mole in the middle of her left cheek.

"When the prison was built this was all green fields," Tripper said.

His nickname contained no small degree of irony, given that he was the most conservative of the group and the only trips he had any intention of taking were ones to the Grand Caymans. At birth he'd been chris­tened Tobin Owen Pennypacker III, though, and his father (Tobin Owen Pennypacker Jr.) had taken to calling him Triple for short. Over time, "Triple" had inevitably morphed to "Tripper."

"It's not a very good neighborhood," noted Maisie.

"Will ye not fuck yourself," inquired Wailer. It was a rhetorical question.

A bottle smashed in an alley behind one of the row houses to their right. "Sorry," said Maisie. "I just don't like the idea of getting mugged."

"Hey man, nobody's mugged you so far," said Casey. He was a gen­erously obese young man wearing a striped engineer's hat upon his head. The groom.

"But it's early yet," suggested Wailer. She was wearing black fin­gernail polish. The bride.

"No, we should keep going," said Rachel. She had a big head of bushy black hair, but even at twenty-two there were streaks of gray. "Quentin has got his heart set on the prison now." In her painting, Quentin had pointed with one hand toward the heavens. The other hovered over his heart. It was some likeness.

It was August of 1980. Carter was still president, Reagan an un­likely joke. There were hostages in Iran, fifty-two blindfolded souls. The Bicentennial, with its tall ships and fireworks, was a recent mem­ory. John Lennon was alive. Now and again there'd be a story in the news about how the Beatles were going to come together once more, perhaps in order to raise cash for some charity. Everyone figured it would happen, sooner or later. Why shouldn't they?

They were six in all, plus Krystal and the boy. Quentin and Casey and Tripper had known each other since high school, out at Devon Boys' Latin on the Main Line. Later, the three of them went to Wes­leyan, which is where they'd met Rachel and Wailer. They'd only graduated three months before, June first. Plans for the future were sketchy.

The day was hot and sticky. Their clothes stuck to their bodies.

On the street ahead, Rachel saw Quentin talking to Herr Krys­tal, his former teacher, and now his friend. The two of them had been yammering away in German all morning. It had kind of wrecked their visit to the Cezannes, in fact. All Rachel had wanted was to look upon The Large Bathers with Quentin, to have him see what she saw. But Quentin had hardly paid The Large Bathers any mind at all. Instead he just yakked away with Krystal in a language that sucked the beauty directly from the air. It was worse than the Black Speech in Tolkien. Ash. na'{_g gimbatu!, suggested Hitler.

Benny, Maisie's little brother, tightened his grip on her hand. The ten-year-old had a buzz cut and enormous glasses that were always on the verge of falling off of his face.

"I'm afraid of the garble," he said.

"Well, get used to it, Benny," said Tripper. There was a gold anchor embroidered on the breast pocket of his blue sport coat. "That's what the world is! Garble and gibberish."

The boy looked at him fearfully. He and Maisie had grown up in a ruined Main Line mansion, a place called the Bagatelle, out in Vil­ lanova. After the exploits of their father, "Lucky" Lenfest, it was the only asset the family had left, a haunted house with a listing Victorian tower, leaking ceilings, an attic full of crap. The heart of the mansion was an elaborate spiral staircase, carved from cherry, with a pipe organ in its center. Maisie was the only one of them who hadn't been at Wes­ leyan. She'd gone to Conestoga High, out in Berwyn, and dated Trip­ per- a scandal, given Tripper's natural predilection for debutantes.

She'd wound up at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, studying organ and harpsichord.

At the wedding the night before, Wailer had come down the cherry staircase of the Bagatelle in her bridal gown as Maisie played "A Whiter Shade of Pale" on the organ. Casey stood at the bottom of the steps, best man Quentin at his side, watching the bride descend. As she drew near him, tears of joy had spilled over Casey's eyelashes and rolled down his cheeks. Wailer's parents had not come to the wedding, being dead.

A half a block ahead of them, Quentin and Herr Krystal started singing. It was the Marlene Dietrich song from The Blue Angel. Quen­tin had gotten Rachel to watch The Blue Angel with him one night, in the same way that she had perhaps tried to get him to look at The Large Bathers. The film had seemed to demonstrate some verity of the world , in Quentin's eyes. But all that Rachel could see was a bunch of proto­ Nazis, intent on breaking one another's hearts.

"Man," said Casey. "It's just like old times, the two of them, makin' sauerkraut. It's like we're in the Time Tunnell"

"Jonny hand meyer pocketknife, will you?"

"What?" said Casey. He reached into his pocket, but his knife was gone. "Wait, no! It's gone!"

Benny held up the jackknife. It bore the initials]. C. "I played a trick on you," he said.

"Benny," said Maisie. "What did we say about the stealing?" Benny wasn't moved. Casey took the knife and handed it to his bride.

"You're a criminal, little dude."

Benny pushed his glasses up his nose and smiled, satisfied.

Krystal and Quentin laughed at something in the Black Speech. Herr Krystal's hand was placed gently on Quentin's back. "Wunderbar.l Wunderbar.l" Krystal shouted.

"Bloody hell," muttered Wailer.

Since graduation three months earlier, Quentin had been living in his high school bedroom. He'd majored in modern foreign languages at Wesleyan, and was supposedly immersed in a project translating Walt Whitman into German. It didn't sound like he'd gotten very far though. He was going to call it Die Whitman Anthologie, which, as Tripper liked to point out, translated, sadly, as The Whitman Sampler. Rachel worried about Quentin, who'd seemed to have the greatest promise of their group, but since graduation the young man's boat had appeared to become hopelessly lodged upon the rocks.

"I want a kitty, can I have one?" said Benny.

"What?" said Maisie. She wasn't certain whether he was serious. Sometimes her little brother had sudden whims. "Do you think you're old enough?"

"It's a lot of responsibility, taking care of a cat," added Tripper. With his forefingers the boy picked at the cuticles of this thumbs.

There was a small wound on each thumb where he'd made himself bleed.

Quentin and Krystal stopped singing and stood still. Slowly, the

others came up behind them. There they were: the eight of them, gath­ ered together like the members of an a cappella group. Before them rose the high walls of old, abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. There were arrow-slit windows, turrets at the corners. A central guard tower, covered with rust, looked down upon the ruins.

Tripper raised an eyebrow. He hadn't expected it to be quite so gruesome. Quentin pointed excitedly. "The entrance is around the side." "Entrance?" said Casey.

"We don't have to go in," said Quentin. "Just look."

Herr Krystal nodded. "Hermann Hesse said that the eyes of oth­ers are our prisons, their thoughts our cages." He was tall and thin and infirm, like a human who had somehow come down with Dutch elm disease. Even though he wasn't the boys' teacher anymore, Krystal acted a lot of the time like he was still taking attendance.

"I need me fuckin' snorkel," said Wailer. "It's got so bloody deep."

They walked up the block toward the prison's old stone gates. As they walked, Maisie imagined the Rosalyn Tureck version of the Gold­ berg Variations in her head, which she preferred to the Glenn Gould, on account of the groaning. Over the years, the Bach had been the music she turned to in an emergency, producing in her a calm in the face of chaos. But staring up at the towers of the old penitentiary, the Bach wasn't much help. There were some things that music was no match for, and a horrible abandoned prison was one of them.

They reached the gates. Clouds gathered in the sky above them.

Benny looked fearfully toward his sister.

"Maisie," he said, his voice trembling.

There was a creak as Quentin pressed forward on the iron door. Gently, it swung open.

For a moment they all stood there in silence, looking at the long

stone room just beyond. There was light at its far end, where a small set of stairs led out into the old prison yard. Twenty pairs of eyes peered back at them.

"Miao," said the creatures.

Chapter 2

Cold River, Maine

September 2015

The house was dark. “Gollum,” I said.

He waddled over and looked up at me with his sad, bulbous eyes. His tail thumped once against the tile floor.

“Good boy,” I said, and kneeled down to hug him. He groaned piteously.

“Come on,” I said, “let’s go up.” I left my suitcase at the bottom of the stairs. The old black lab—eleven years old now—followed me up the steps, then doddered over to our bed. Jake wasn’t in it, off at a fire I figured. Gollum jumped in, as if it were the last action he would commit upon this Earth. The dog glanced at me with his rheumy, grateful eyes, then lay his head down on my husband’s pillow and moaned. Gollum, Gollum.

A pair of loons called to each other out on the lake, the bird-world equivalent of a married couple’s late-night argument—the male laugh- ing, the female responding with a melancholy hoo. It wasn’t hard to translate: I’m here, I’m here, are you listening, I’m here! And the reply, Yeah, I know where you are.

I crossed the hallway to the room where our son, Falcon, lay in his bed fully dressed, arms spread like a man on the cross. His mouth was open. I stood in his doorway. It wouldn’t be long now before he graduated, another nine months, and then Jake and I would be alone in the big house. On his desk Falcon’s schoolbooks were piled high. His French horn lay by the foot of the bed, the case open, a music stand over by the window.

Once, he'd been a two-year-old, lying in a crib in a room not un­ like this one. Back then I feared that the slightest breeze might carry him off. There had been days when I'd stood by the crib, my heart filled with equal measures wonder and fear. The sunlight had slanted through the window and reflected off of the pumpkin pine floorboards, filling his room with golden light.

Back in my bedroom, I put on a green cotton nightie with a silk­ screen of a baleen whale on it, and got into bed next to Collum. Now deep into his dotage, the black lab's face was mostly gray. I turned off the light and lay there for a moment, wondering if my mind was going to be able to slow down. I'd woken that morning in a hotel room in Manhattan, after two days of researching a story on Hart Island, the Potters Field of New York. I don't know why I thought the Hart Island story was going to go anywhere: it wasn't exactly the kind of story magazines use to fill what they call the blue pages-photos of Caribbean oceans, models luxuriating in infinity pools. Some of the things I'd seen on Hart Island were going to be hard to forget: prison­ers in orange jumpsuits, coffins in a long trench, white guards with ma­ chine guns trained on black men. Even the landscape was gruesome: the summer sun shining down on the deteriorating buildings of the abandoned hospital for the insane. I'd stood for a while in front of a collapsed structure filled with rusted gears and steam engines. There was a rusted sign: THE DYNAMO ROOM.

I'd begun the day in the Algonquin, had breakfast down in the lobby, and looked over my notes, trying to figure out the hook for the story. A cat crawled around my ankles and then hopped up on the couch. Steam rose from my coffee cup.

Later, I made my way to LaGuardia. It was there, as I waited to be X-rayed by security, that I saw the headline on the front of the Post, and the photograph of the unearthed corpse. A sophomore from Penn named Shannon Savage had found it, an intern on an archeology proj­ect at Eastern State Penitentiary, and she'd been digging around in one of the rooms in Cell Block 5. The skull had rolled out of the wall and stopped at her feet. She'd picked up the skull for a moment and held it Yorick-style, not believing it was real.

The photo in the Post was grisly, a close-up of the skull. It didn't look like the person I had known.

Of course, we'd always assumed that the day had ended in murder. So no, it wasn't exactly a surprise. But it had taken all these years for the corpse to turn up, and it was still shocking. Standing there in the line at LaGuardia, I felt all the hairs on my arm stand up. This was it. It was all going to get churned up again.

A TSA agent yanked me out offline and said, You've been selected forextra screening, ma'am.I know these things are random, but it was hard not to take it personally, the suggestion that there's something about you that's not quite right.

People had been telling me this for years. I remember when I first got my passport, my mother had looked at my photograph and said, "It looks in this photo like you have a secret."

I'd laughed it off, but Mom wouldn't let it go. "Is there something

you want to tell me? You know I will always love you, no matter what." She said this in the way people always say this, pledging their unconditional love before knowing what the actual conditions are.

I thought about my mother, wondered whether she was dead or alive.

The TSA agent encircled my body with an electronic hoop, a de­ vice that squelched and squealed at my joints and organs. The man was wearing a name tag that said NABOKOV, like the novelist. I couldn't remember what his theories were. I thought of the line from Pale Fire: Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the follow whose / Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes?

Then the guard said, "Okay. You can go, ma'am."

I'd stood there for a moment in relief. Seriously? I thought. I can just be on my way? It seemed so unlikely that the thing I had been hop­ing for was the thing I had been given.

Now, safely home, I lay in bed for another hour listening to the loons calling to each other. I thought about the friends of my youth: Tripper and Casey, Wailer and Rachel, Maisie and Quentin. I wondered what the world would have been like, if that door in the old prison had never creaked open, and those creatures had never gazed upon us? Even now I could see those cold eyes glowing in the dark, asking the questions to which, all these years later, I still had no answer. What is this world? What is this life?

A loon cried in the dark night. I know where you are.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Long Black Veil"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. There are two trans characters in Long Black Veil, and their experiences are marked by generational differences. We see the anachronism of “going stealth” and reemerging as a new person juxtaposed with a fluidity of identity that we are thankfully beginning to take for granted. What factors do you feel have enabled this shift?

2. Long Black Veil opens with the characters entering the Eastern State Penitentiary, an abandoned, “haunted” prison in the heart of Philadelphia’s city center. What parallels does the author make between being haunted and keeping secrets? Do you think that people are “imprisoned” by the secrets of their past?

3. Much of Long Black Veil centers on the meaning of identity and how it changes as we get older. Do you think people can fundamentally change? What’s the connection between who we’ve been and who we ultimately become?

4. Judith, the protagonist of Long Black Veil, has a choice to make between loyalty to the friends of her youth and keeping the life she has created intact. How much weight do the promises we make in our youth carry? How much should we sacrifice to help those that we love?

Customer Reviews

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Long Black Veil 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
lindianajones More than 1 year ago
This book was just okay. I was surprised so many critics raved about which I learned from the blurbs on the covers. I wonder if the fact that the author is MtF transgender made a difference. The author does write what she knows as this book does have both a major and minor character that are transgender, the minor character being a teenager. I did have a problem with the teenage character as in the novel she transitions from FtM as a preteen. Now I do know it happens but the author has the parents acting cavalier about it and the teenager being promptly accepted by his peers with no questions asked. Would that really happen? Maybe in some parts of the US. I did do my research and I know doctors do not perform sex change operations in most cases until the subject is over 18. Another problem is some of the story changes which indicates to me that the author and her proofreader were not paying attention. What made me start disliking the novel was in Chapter 10 when Judith and Jake travel to Weasel’s so Jake can jam with his band. When they arrive at Weasel’s, the author states the band was set up in the chicken barn. But then as the couple is leaving, the author states Judith looks back at the white tarp under which the band performed. Which is it? Did they play in the chicken barn or under the white tarp? These type of mistakes drive me nuts. I almost stopped reading the book. But I didn’t. I did continue reading and after that the book did move along better and I started to enjoy it, especially this passage from Chapter 24: “Maybe we should all just love one another, even if we don’t completely understand the things that people bear in their dark, strange hearts, even if the stars that other men and women are following seem invisible to us. If we make ourselves open to the humanity of others first, maybe understanding will follow. An incomprehensible theory of the universe isn’t necessary if your only ambition is to embrace another soul. What you need, maybe all you need, in fact, is the willingness to love.” And that can be applied to everyone’s life. The book was good but is it worth reading? Heh. I would have given it four stars but due to the problems with the book itself, I have to take off a star. So I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. DISCLAIMER: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Laundry_Whispers More than 1 year ago
Let’s be honest here, there are going to be spoilers in this review. I cannot begin to adequately share my thoughts without them. That being said the first thing you are going to want to ask is why a Christian fiction blogger is reviewing a book written by a trans woman about a trans individual. There are two truths here. First, I chose to read and review this book based on the synopsis that you see above and didn’t really know the author until I set up the author bio you see below. Second, what does being trans have to do with your ability to write a book that may or may not be interesting? Would you have known that this book was based on a trans character if you read that synopsis? And really, I don’t care. A character is a character and as long as they give me an interesting story and aren’t totally one-dimensional then they can be anything they want. Seriously people, I read words … all the words. Here’s where it gets a bit dicey though. There are really three elements to this book and there wasn’t one of them that really worked for me. We have the thriller/mystery from the old prison. We have the trans story. And we have the way those two things work together. I’m going to address each one separately because that’s how my mind is approaching this book. Let’s start with the mystery. We have a group of friends that I never get a good grasp on their personalities, they don’t feel well fleshed out and outside the idea that two once dated, two just got married of which one of them is obese and the other has some weird all over the place accent, they are all just flat. They don’t really breath for me. Tragedy happens, they go their separate ways (minus the one that went missing that awkward night) and suddenly find themselves thrust back together 35 years later when the body is found. The mystery, while has the beginnings of something really interesting, feels like it was haphazardly thrown together to be the vehicle to tell one of the friends story. Even the reveal was anticlimactic. Let’s talk about the trans part of the story. I’m being intentionally vague about the identity of this person to keep spoilers to a minimum. There was so much potential here to tell a rich story during a time when coming out homosexual was so far from the norm it was still considered a mental illness, forget about the idea of being transsexual. The problem, for me, lies in the fact that I was simply given a ‘list’ of sorts of the persons experiences. I never was drawn into their experience or life at all. There were some attempts to make the character relateable but they quickly squelched themselves. I was told about this person’s life but never lead to experience their life. Even when provided opportunity to get inside this character’s head it disintegrated quickly into philosophical rambling and nothing really emotionally connecting. When the story reached the point to bring this particular character back into the fold with previous friends and of course the climax of the mystery, I lost even more interest in it all. They never fit together, it’s almost like they didn’t share the same story but merely the same pages. The last quarter of the book was so anticlimactic for me. The big drama? Didn’t fill out like it could have. I know that there are people who will find their attention drawn into this book. I was more reading to find my attention, convinced it had to get better. There are readers who will relate to one cha
jebsweetpea More than 1 year ago
What it's about: A group of mis-fit young adults find themselves in quite the situation when they enter an abandoned prison and the gates become chained shut. When one of their friends goes missing inside the prison no one has any idea what happened to her. Once free from the prison, all are questioned and are left speculating what happened to their friend. 30 years later, a gruesome discovery is revealed in the prison when someone comes across the remains of a skeleton and the past rushes up to meet the group of friends, who by then have all went on to live different lives. The past eventually brings them all together to face their own ghosts and to finally find out what happened to their long-ago friend. What I thought: A very creative story that intertwines past with present. I liked how the author back tracked for each character to go more in depth in their life from the opening prison scene to 30 years later. With their being more emphasis on two to three characters instead of all seven, it made it that more intriguing. I could have done without the excessive language used throughout the book and some of the extra-curriculuar choices that were discussed. The main story though was interesting. Would you like it? This all depends what type of book you are looking for. I usually review Christian fiction and I will tell you that this is not that genre. Many may be appalled and offended by reading this book. All depends if you have an open mind and get more to the depth of the book. You may want to read the back of the cover before reading the book so you are not surprised by it. Blogging for Books sent me this complimentary copy to review. Opinions expressed are my own.
BillyB More than 1 year ago
I had never even heard of the author's name before I'd started reading this book, but I'll have to keep an eye out for other titles. I definitely enjoyed reading Long Black Veil! This was one of those books that I grabbed before going to bed with the intention of only reading a few pages, but I got sucked right into the story by end of the first paragraph. At first glance, the novel does seem like a ghost story, but there's no supernatural elements involved here; well, besides for part of the story taking place in a haunted prison. It's just a well-written murder mystery with several twists that I didn't see coming. Overall, I simply enjoyed reading Long Black Veil. It's a extremely well-crated mystery that stays with you long after you finish reading the final page. *Note - I received a review copy from the publisher.
Sam1219 More than 1 year ago
I am voluntarily submitting my honest review after receiving an ARC of this ebook from NetGalley. This book is a portrait of six college students who break into an abandoned prison in 1980 one night, looking for a thrill, but get more than they bargained for when the realize the doors have locked behind them. In a horrifying turn of events, the group is separated, and one member of the party ends up dead. The surviving five go their separate ways and try to move on, but they are forever changed. When new evidence is discovered decades later and Jon is charged with murder, only Judith can testify to his innocence. However, in helping Casey, Judith risks exposing secrets of her own that could destroy the life she has painstakingly built in the aftermath of that fateful night. While the mystery is good, the novel is really a character study. What captivated me was Boylan's writing style. Her lyrical, almost melodic prose flows so freely it is almost like music in parts. Unfortunately, there are some parts of the plot that don't hold up to scrutiny. SPOI:LER ALERT!!! For example, why does it take so long for investigators to discover the body if it was there since the murder occurred? Logically, the search parties should have discovered it when the five survivors emerged without the sixth member of their party. SPOILER OVER--In any case, this book is still a good, quick read, and perfect for the times we live in currently. It is incredibly thought provoking, both in a personal sense and in a larger context, begging a variety of questions. How does our past continually shape our future, even when we make a conscious effort to leave it behind? What obligation do we have to tell the complete truths about ourselves to help others, even if in saving others we may destroy ourselves and others close to us? Are lies of omission ever justified? Can one major event separate our life into a "before" and an "after" or must the two lives always converge? The book also more obliquely begs the question of whether Judith's life would have been any different if she were born now in what is presumably an age of greater tolerance (or at least was until the last election)?
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was a bit of a different story than I expected it to be only because I don't tend to read book summaries very carefully. I went into this book expecting a straight forward mystery thriller but I think that this book really a bit different. I didn't really think that the mystery was really the main driving point of the book instead the focus was on the characters and how their lives have changed since the event at the prison. I am glad that I decided to give the book a try. This book focuses on several different periods of time. In 1980, this group of friends were locked in an abandoned prison and one of them never made it out. The other main focus of the book is set in more recent times when her body is finally discovered. There are some chapters that are told entirely during one period of time but a lot of the book set in the more recent times include a lot of memories. The past is obviously still a big part of these characters present day. The book spends some time with each member of the group that was at the prison that night back in 1980. The main focus really seemed to be on Judith's life since that day. Her life is nothing like it was back then. Her situation has changed dramatically but it really doesn't have anything to do with what happened at the prison that night. I did have a few issues with the story. Judith's deception to her husband of many years just seemed like to big of a stretch. I don't really understand how a close married couple like that would be able to keep such a huge secret from each other. I also don't get how the body could of been lost for so long when it was right there the whole time. Did they not do a proper search? I also feel like I should probably warn readers that there is a scene in this book where an individual is putting shelter dogs to sleep one after another as part of his job. I know this happens and I really wish it didn't but I know that reading that kind of scene will bother some readers. The writing is what really won me over with this book. The story just flowed and even when I was questioning a plot point, I didn't want to put the book down. The point of views in the story seemed to be changed exactly when they needed to be and I always felt like the book was moving forward. The memories of the past worked into the sections set in the present worked perfectly. This was a book that I read very quickly because it completely held my attention. I would recommend this book to others. The book isn't perfect but the writing is great and the story is solid. This is the first book by Jennifer Finney Boylan that I have read but I would definitely pick her work up again in the future. I received a review copy of this book from Crown Publishing via Blogging for Books.
13835877 More than 1 year ago
I voluntarily received an ARC of Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan in exchange for an honest review. This book is labeled as a mystery/thriller, but it was too slow paced for my enjoyment. There were also so many characters introduced at once that it was too hard to keep track of who was who at first. I had to reread the introductions multiple times to grasp who was who. The concept of the storyline was an interesting one and if the book had been faster paced, I probably would have enjoyed the book more and given it a higher rating.
jojosmodernlife More than 1 year ago
Judith Carrington has finally found herself and, in her middle age, she is content. The first couple of decades of her life were filled with torment and the peace she has found would have been inconceivable in her youth. As she is going through the airport on her way home from a work trip, the front page of a newspaper throws her back into the chaos of her younger years. Casey has had it rough since the one fateful night in his early 20s. Ever since then, he has lost touch with his friends, lost his confidence, lost his hope. He is successful in business but it can never fill the void that was left in him since that night. Just when he thought it could not get worse, he finds himself as the main suspect in a murder investigation from that night. The night when, young and dumb, he and his friends decide to visit an abandoned penitentiary. Not all of them come out alive. None of them can ever forget. Decades later, the past comes back for a visit in more ways than one. The first few chapters were difficult to get through because there is so much information that is not coming together to make a clear picture yet. There are about 8 characters introduced in the first couple of pages and the plot jumps not only between past and present, but between narratives as well. It was almost enough to make me put down the book and mark it as a "DNF". However, once this has been navigated, it reads far more smoothly. Another reason why the first few chapters were difficult to get through, for me anyway, is because it started off in what seemed like a different genre at the time. It is a mystery/thriller but the mysterious villain initially seemed to be hinted towards supernatural in nature. I had feared it would become a sci-fi horror and it was starting to give me nightmares. It took me several days to read this book because I put it down often to try to understand the difference between characters or I was terrified. Fortunately, by soldiering on through the chapters, the confusion cleared and it became far more exciting and deep. It is not just a book about murder. This is a book about how even the strongest of friendships can fray. How the future is never what we expect it to be, nor are people always what they seem. It is also a book that shows several examples of how one person's choice can affect many people's lives. Even if it is to make that person's life better. As I got further into this maze of a plot, I became entranced with the secrets of the characters. The turns are sharp but the design is masterful. I felt connected to each character. I felt fear, sorrow, happiness, and hope. Small details from the beginning of the book come back to play a bigger part later. I have already recommended this book to others and will continue to do so for it is just that incredible. My favorite character in this book was a tie between Benny and Casey. Innocent little Benny whose childish mischief carries with him in age. Casey who has an excitable optimism, despite his weak self-image, and a pure sense of love. I would recommend this book for readers who can fight through the initial confusion to get to the main road. I also would recommend this book for readers who enjoy deeply complex characters and do not mind the frequent jumping from past to present. Lastly, I would recommend this book for those who like fast-paced and mostly dark plots.
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
Close college friends, a small boy, and a German teacher are locked into the old and crumbling Eastern State Penitentiary. The doors had been open when they’d arrived, and they debated about whether or not to explore it. When a cat came out, the young boy in the group, a brother of one of the college students, went in after it. The others entered, too, in order to find the child. After they had found him and were about to leave, they found that the doors were locked. As one student climbed a tree to go get help, they found that one of the students was missing. Twenty years later, the body is finally found, and the friends reunite. Only Quentin has a lot to lose, if he shows up. His whole life can be destroyed if his secret is revealed! I loved following Quentin throughout the twenty plus years of the book. That character was the most developed. However, I felt that the book, with its many main characters, was somewhat scattered. The mystery was fun, and a mystery lover will enjoy it. I was given this book in exchange for an unbiased review.