Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylen

Long Black Veil
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
Publisher: Crown
ISBN13: 9780451496324
Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction/Mystery


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 is rather unique in what it brings to the table. What essentially begins a mystery centered around the loss of a friend develops into a detailed exploration of the lives of Judith and 4 other individuals forever connected by their past.

“You carry the past with you. Even if there’s a before, and an after, in your life. It’s still the same life. The trick is to build a bridge between that and what comes later.”

20 years ago Judith and 5 other college friends decided to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. Only 5 of them would ever leave. It was a day that would forever alter the course of their lives. Now events from that tragic day have resurfaced, and Judith finds that she must return to face a past she left far behind or a friend may be charged with a heinous crime he did not commit. But returning also means possibly sacrificing everything that she values in life.

I hesitate to label Long Black Veil as a mystery. There is an unsolved disappearance at the core of the story, but this is a beautiful examination of characterization and life.  Through an eccentric ensemble of cast, we are exposed to the trials of Judith’s journey into self acceptance and happiness. Judith is a refreshing protagonist the contributes many valuable and attractive variables that solidified the success of this story for me. It is unfortunately impossible to discuss the heart of what makes her so profound and fascinating without spoiling the book’s most rewarding and surprising facet.

“I think it’s very human, the hope that an all-encompassing love will change us into someone else, someone better. That this hope usually turns out to be false makes it no less human; the world is full of hopes far more unlikely than being transformed by love.”

While the setting is credible, this a character driven novel that relies heavily on the thoughts and actions of each individual in order to tell a complex story. The narration shifts from past to present and frequently passes between characters. But each transition is clean and easily defined, creating a fluid experience.  However, I find it fair to warn that due to the larger number of individuals involved, I found it took several chapters to acclimate myself. But once I did, it was impossible to put Long Black Veil down. This is the sort of book that beckons you to turn the light back on and read one more chapter.

Boylan’s writing is elegant and immersive. Her words carry you effortlessly through each page, creating a hauntingly lavish experience with a welcomed element of diversity that begs to be devoured. I have read reviews of those who flaws with the author’s approach to certain topics, but I cannot be counted among them, nor do I recommend reading them before approaching the book. I am enthusiastically recommending Long Black Veil to anyone who seeks an engaging and personal reading experience.

*I would like to thank Crown Publishing and Blogging for Books for supplying this copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Purchase Links:

Amazon US  Amazon UK  Book Depository

Connect With Books, Vertigo and Tea: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram

Buy Me A Tea

44 thoughts on “Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylen

  1. Enjoyed your review Danielle! I tried this book a couple months ago and I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t give it too long though and it sounds like you needed several chapters to get into it. Glad you ended up liking it:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do admit that there was concern for me in the beginning, but there is a turning point (cannot mention) that really just hit home and I found myself devouring it! It suddenly felt like I new book. I can see how you would end up putting this down though Renee. Maybe another time?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha, these kind of reviews are sometimes hard to write where a little thing about setting or character can act as a spoiler… BUT- it also indicates a complex, busy and good solid book.
    I noticed this title on Goodreads and I thought the cover was quite funky! As you know I love me character driven stories so I may just have to check this one out… when my TBR pile isn’t groaning under its weight! 😀 Fabulous review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Add it! Make sure to stick with it through the first few chapters. It takes a bit to come together, but does so beautifully. The cover will make sense when/if you read 😉 And yes, so hard to right a solid review when I have to refrain from revealing such an important element!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That last paragraph… “Boylan’s writing is elegant and immersive. Her words carry you effortlessly through each page, creating a hauntingly lavish experience with a welcomed element of diversity that begs to be devoured.” So beautifully written yourself! This is a fascinating concept for a book, and I appreciate the lack of spoilers in this review. I imagine this was challenging to write! Since you wouldn’t call it a mystery, how would you classify the genre of this book?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “20 years ago Judith and 5 other college friends decided to visit Eastern State Penitentiary. Only 5 of them would ever leave.” Now there’s two lines that instantly grabbed my attention!
    I’m not normally fan of books that switch between narrators and past and present (I’m so easily confused and I have flashbacks of trying to read Stephen King’s ‘IT’ :P), but if you say that the transitions are clean and smooth it might be a book I could get on board with.
    To be quite honest, you’ve sold me on this book with your description of the writing alone: “hauntingly lavish experience”. That’s a description that should be one of the endorsements on the back cover! ❤
    Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well I do Love me a character driven anything so *adds to TBR* I believe this one may have been a past selection for Book of the Month. The cover def sticks in your head lol. I’m curious as to what the dirt on Judith is…I have some guesses lol. I may just add this on to my next BOTM box in July, great review Danielle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just finished this and found it OK. I figured out the detail almost immediately and then it was pretty much confirmed after the first few chapters. I felt the ending was a little rushed.

    I’m not unhappy that I read this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand about the ending. It was a bit off but I didn’t have much more I wanted to see happen so I think I was able to accept it as is 🙂 I just love character driven novels and felt the group in this particular book was very interesting. I am glad it did not disappoint you even if it was not your favorite 🙂 Always love hearing thoughts!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.