Book Reviews

Review: Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

While I was expecting a full blown adult mystery from Long Black Veil, what I was left with, at the end of the day, was more of a gentle – if mysterious – look at a woman’s life. At the secrets we keep and the ways our past comes back around. As Long Black Veil unravels both Judith’s past, and a mysterious death, readers become captured by Judith’s life. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


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.


TW: transphobia, deadnaming

Reading Long Black Veil was a process that both felt timeless and also fast paced. With the multiple timelines, at the beginning it was hard to get a handle on the periphery characters and also what was going on. But as I began to release some control and to just trust in the narrator, Long Black Veil ramps up the action. It’s a book about secrets and the pieces of ourselves we obscure from those around us as we unravel the past. Featuring glimpses into other characters, I can’t say that I got to know them.

This very much feels like Judith’s story and I liked it that way. There’s also a hint of unreliability thrown in, especially in these past timelines. If you have ever built a fire, that moment when you are waiting for the kindling to catch fire, for that one spark, that felt very much like the buildup. A theme that Long Black Veil also examines in this idea of change. Of shedding the layers of ourselves and becoming who we are. Of minute changes we make compared to momentous outbursts.

I definitely had issues with how Boylan portrayed the fat character. I would encourage you to check out some reviews about this before reading. Overall, Long Black Veil has an almost operatic cosmic feeling to the ending and the writing. I enjoyed the ways Long Black Veil is written and how all the pieces come together. Even though the ending was rushing to a conclusion by the ending, I enjoyed the writing of Long Black Veil.

Find Long Black Veil on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.

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