Book Review: Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Cover for Long Black Veil
© Crown Publishing, 2017.


“From the New York Times bestselling author of She’s Not There, a new novel about a woman whose family and identity are threatened by the secrets of her past.

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.” (Source: Goodreads)


Last month, I received my first physical review copy of a book: Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan. I heard about the title through a friend of mine and, after I reading its synopsis, I felt excited. Despite the story’s label as a thriller, the majority of the story focuses on Judith Carrigan and her secrets. The plot’s so-called mystery is a minor detail in this narrative.

I don’t do a lot of research before I read a recommended book. For the most part, I look at its genre, the back cover blurb, and its general rating. I don’t read other reviews until after I complete the book. By doing this, I avoid pre-conceived notions of a story’s characters. With that in mind, there are details of this book I will not discuss. Some of this is due to a desire to keep this spoiler free. Others are not my story to tell. These facts help to define Judith as a character, but they do not exonerate her.

A dark past isn’t uncommon. For Judith, there are skeletons in her closet capable of destroying her entire life. She can either sacrifice what she has built and save an innocent man or let things unfold. It is this latter option that she leans toward and, as a result, she strikes me as being nearly as selfish as Flynn’s Amy Dunne in Gone Girl. I have mixed feelings about Long Black Veil because of this. Part of me wants to comfort Judith while another part of me wishes to throttle her.

Despite centering around Judith instead of the decades old mystery than haunts her, Boylan excels at creating an intriguing narrative. It’s the passion with which she writes Judy that warms my heart to her, that provides me with the ability to feel even a modicum of sympathy for her struggles. Like all of us, Judy has a right to happiness.  Boylan pens Judith beautifully as she reaches for that penultimate feeling that eludes many of us.

In stark contrast to my complaint regarding the story centering around Judith, Boylan somehow manages to give readers too many insights into this unraveling mystery. The story beings with six characters. Seven, to be technical. Throughout its pages, we end up with no less than six different perspectives. This makes it a difficult to follow at times, especially in regards to Judith’s memories. (Again, this is a detail you will discover by reading the book, so I will not divulge it.)

Boylan succeeds, despite the plethora of perspectives, at keeping the story moving along. The further in you read, the more twists you encounter – some of which threw me off entirely. While this is not one of my favorite titles and likely will not merit a re-read, it was not unpleasant.

I would like to thank Blogging for Books for providing me with a copy of this book for the purpose of unbiased review.

Rating: 💀💀💀

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