Long Black Veil is the story of Judith Carrigan, whose past is dredged up when the body of her college friend Wailer is discovered 20 years after her disappearance in Philadelphia’s notorious and abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. Judith is the only witness who can testify to the innocence of her friend Casey, who had married Wailer only days before her death.
The only problem is that on that fateful night at the prison, Judith was a very different person from the woman she is today. In order to defend her old friend and uncover the truth of Wailer’s death, Judith must confront long-held and hard-won secrets that could cause her to lose the idyllic life she’s built for herself and her family.
Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publication Date: April 11, 2017 by Crown
Long Black Veil holds a lot of promise, but it tries to be too many things. I initially picked this up expecting it to be a bit more plot-driven based on the synopsis, but it turned out to be more of a character study. This is NOT similar to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History by any means and I’m baffled by the comparisons that have been drawn between the two books.
While I could have accepted that and still enjoyed the novel, the characters really fell flat for me. There was something awkward and comical about the dialogue and their interactions often felt a bit cartoonish in nature. I also found it a bit strange how Casey’s obesity was constantly brought up (often in a derogative manner by not only Casey himself, but every other character in the book as well) and this clashed with the lack of physical description of everyone else. I wasn’t quite sure why this was a detail that needed to be highlighted almost every time Casey was discussed.
Judith’s story was the most effective part of Long Black Veil and I think the novel as a whole would have had more of an impact if it had focused more on her instead of being derailed by other characters. While I understand that the murder was the starting point to understanding Quentin’s transformation into becoming Judith, the transition back onto the other characters and their involvement in that night at the penitentiary really took away from Judith’s story for me.
Ultimately, this was a disappointing read for me. Considering that the novel was a character study, I would have liked to see stronger dialogue and character development in order to feel more engaged with the writing.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.