This year I have set myself a goal for reading 60 books in 2018. I’m using Goodreads to keep track of this goal. After finishing Long Black Veil I’ve read 4 books this year, and it tells me that I am 2 books ahead of schedule. Yay me!
Book 4/60 – Long Black Veil
Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan is the 1st review I’m doing for 2018, but it is the 4th book I’ve read this year. (reviews of the previous 3 novels to come)
The back cover of this novel promised me this:
On a summer night in 1980, tragedy strikes six friends. Thirty-five years later, the consequences o that night threaten to pull them back in. New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Finney Boylan delivers a powerful thriller that asks: In any life that contains a “before” and an “after,” how is it possible to live one life, not two?
None of this would have ever happened if Rachel hadn’t insisted on Quentin seeing this painting. (Get a Print)
What Is Long Black Veil About?
The first it looks like it is going to pay out on the promise of a thriller!
Our characters are: newlyweds Casey and Wailer, with Maisie and her brother Benny, Rachel and Quentin. They had gone to see a painting called The Large Bathers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. An old German professor is with them as well, seemingly a good friend of Quentin’s.
Since it was close by, Tripper convinced the group of 6 to walk to Eastern State Penitentiary which had been closed and empty since 1972.
Of course the gate was unlocked and of course they friends all went in despite most of them thinking it was a bad idea.
Once inside Benny, who is on the Spectrum, runs off in pursuit of a cat. While the friends separated in search of the child, someone locks them in.
I settled in thinking I’m about to have a good “lets explore the abandoned creepy place while some killer inside stalks us” read.
Well, that didn’t happen!
One of “Those” Books
Poof, suddenly its 7 years in the future and I was going, “Ohhhhh. It’s gonna be one of THOSE books.”
When I read a story I prefer a linear tale. When the time starts hopping back and forth and sideways and between different characters it gets to be a bit much for me.
Anyway, I resigned myself to reading one of “those” books.
The trapped stay in the empty prison only lasted a few hours, but during that time one of the members of the party disappeared. While that is thriller-esque the group moves on with their lives. They don’t even go all Scooby Gang and try to find out what happened to the missing party. No amateur sleuthing for this group.
Then we get to the REAL story in the book.
One of our cast of characters is transgender. They feel trapped in their life and can only think of ONE way to change that. They fake their death, move to the other end of the continent and transition into their mental sex. The real story of Long Black Veil is that of Judith living her second life. She finds herself in the position of telling her husband and adopted son the truth that she had been hiding from them all this time.
My Opinions of Long Black Veil
Okay, I liked the story enough to read it in just a couple of days and rate it 4 our to 5 stars.
This is not a thriller or a whodunit. That part of the story is almost inconsequential to the rest. You could get rid of the whole, “Lost in the Prison” part of the story while still having a whole tale.
I would have preferred this to be two different novels. The Eastern State Penitentiary tale could have been creepier and better. The friends should have worked hard to figure out the mystery and it could have all played out the same way.
The story of Judith could have been a sequel which intertwined itself with the first story. I actually feel a bit cheated that I didn’t get to see more of Judith’s transition. Her struggles with how she came into her new life, her early life with her husband and son would have been a good read.
In the end I sort of felt cheated. The author wanted to tell Judith’s story, so she baited a literary trap with the promise of haunted prison shenanigans.
About the Author
Some people may be outraged at the though of an author portraying a trans person BUT, Jennifer Finney Boylan was previously James Boylan. She made her own male to female transition in 2000. You can read more in her autobiography She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Long Black Veil from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions in this review belong to me. This review contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one I get a small commission, at no extra cost to you.