Jennifer Finney Boylan has designed Long Black Veil as a whodunit — an existential whodunit about living with all your selves ... To the author, the prison is more than a setting, it’s also a powerful symbol for the closeted life she once led ... Although Boylan’s awkward handling of the two time frames depletes the tension, she has a good grip on the dynamics of her narrator’s current and past selves and the battle to keep them from fighting to the death.
Those who pick up Jennifer Finney Boylan’s new novel, Long Black Veil, may be expecting a traditional horror story. The premise seems familiar at first glance, using well-loved tropes...subverts the genre and focuses on identity, relationships and the human experience ... Alternating between 1980 and present day, Long Black Veil follows the six friends as the repercussions of that night send reverberations through the rest of their lives ... Boylan has crafted a plot full of whodunits, faked deaths and new identities, and delivered an elegant tale that does justice to both the high emotions of youth and the hardened regrets of middle age. Her pacing keeps the reader racing through time periods, life events and characters.
Long Black Veil by well-reputed author Jennifer Finney Boylan, although a page-turner, is a cumbersome read ...first chapters are akin to entering a maze, and as the book progresses there are more dead ends and false starts than any inkling of a clear path to the safe center. After several confusing chapters, astute readers may have the characters straightened out, but the hard work demands too much ...strongest parts of the book occur when Boylan writes from the point of view of the trans character who finds marginal redemption ... Boylan is a prolific and strong writer. At her best she evokes the hair-raising chills Joyce Carol Oates can. But this book is not her best.
Long Black Veil is absolutely fantastic... A virtuosic mix of family drama, mystery and thriller, the novel centers on the remaining friends, thus enabling the reader to discover what has been going on with them in the years following the incident at the penitentiary ...main focus of the book is on the short period in the present, the timeframe in which Wailer’s body has been found until the service is organized for her ... This storyline is beautifully incorporated into the book and resonates with a very strong message about fears, secrets and the past ...is simply magnificent; it is masterfully written and thrilling, and full of complex characters. Boylan shows how wrong decisions and stupid mistakes can cost us the future, but also how important it is not to live a lie.
It’s 1980, the day after Casey and Wailer’s wedding. Led by their friend Tripper, they decide to visit the ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary ... While they’re exploring, they discover that they’ve been locked inside the prison, and before they’re released, one of them will go missing. After this tragedy, the friends drift apart only to be brought back together—decades later—when a body surfaces, the disappearance is revealed to be a homicide, and one of the group is the chief suspect ...a nifty little setup for a thriller, and Boylan uses the murder mystery as a frame for interrogating our ideas about identity in ways that are both thoughtful and darkly comic ... Boylan is skilled at creating intriguing, three-dimensional characters; even those who prove to be inconsequential emerge as real, unique individuals, but in the end, character development rather overwhelms the plot.
At the start of this madcap thriller full of hidden identities from Boylan, a night of goofy postcollege mischief goes horribly amiss in Philadelphia’s shut-down Eastern State Penitentiary in 1980 ... Boylan’s bluff, witty prose ('my actual innocence got on his nerves') charms away any impatience with more far-fetched aspects of her loopy plot. And embedded in the whodunit is a heartwarming midlife love story, in which hard-won candor, tenacity, and a generous sense of humor are the most saving of graces.