Contemporary, Mystery/Thriller

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

On a warm August night in 1980, 6 college students, a teacher, and a young boy sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. But they soon discover that they have been locked in – and they aren’t alone. When the friends get separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy. After they are rescued, they go their separate ways, trying to move on. Decades later, they are brought together again when new evidence is unearthed  and one of them – Casey – is charged with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith can testify to his innocence. But in order to do so, Judith will have to bring long-held secrets to light. If she chooses to help Casey, she may end up destroying the life she has fought so hard to build. In any life that contains a “before” and an “after,” how is it possible to live one life, not two?

If you go into this book thinking it’s going to be a big thriller, you will not be so happy. While this novel does have its thrilling moments, it is better classified as a character study on how a tragic event can change one’s perspective on life and oneself. There are 2 aspects of this story that intertwine and finally connect at the end: the events that transpired that fateful night at the prison, and Judith’s journey to become the woman she is now. I really liked this story because it was just such an interesting way to combine a mystery with a character-driven story. The writing style was a bit difficult to get into; at times, it felt disjointed and hard to follow. However, the overall story was intriguing and kept me going. I liked the journey that this story took me on, and I liked putting the pieces of the puzzle together. For all the buildup that led to the final moments, I found that the actual motive for the murder and the cover-up was a bit disappointing, as was the final ending where justice was supposedly served. As a character study novel, this was a fantastic story that explored the different ways that a tragedy can change a person. If you are looking for a strong mystery or thriller, however, then this isn’t the one for you. Since I really enjoyed reading this novel, I am looking forward to reading more novels by this author!

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