Monday, September 30, 2019

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

A group of college kids visit the ruins of an old prison for fun one day.  There is Tripper, the everything guy who had it all; looks, money and charm.  Quentin was a dreamer and all the girls loved him, especially Rachel.  Maisie was a former girlfriend of Tripper's and had brought along her young brother.  Casey and Wailer had just gotten married the night before; Casey an overweight man with an enormous heart and Wailer was exotic with her foreign background.  Their old classics teacher was accompanying them as well.  The day ended in tragedy with Wailer missing and the police suspecting that she was killed but no body was ever found.

It's thirty years later and the book picks the group's stories back up.  During a renovation, Wailer's body is finally found and the police are determined to get answers.  None of the group is where they thought they'd end up.  Trapper is a lawyer with a child off to college and a failing marriage.  Casey is wealthy and has a chain of restaurants specializing in comfort food.  Maisie has spent her life taking care of her brother, Ben, who never recovered from the trauma of that day.  Rachel is a teacher and bored.  And Quentin is the biggest surprise of all.  The group thinks he is dead and he is, in a way.  After that day, he finally found the courage to fake his death and run away to transform as Judith.  Judith has a husband and family she's never told about her past and has much to lose if the truth comes out.  Who killed Wailer?

Boylan has written an intriguing mystery that has interesting characters.  The only flaw is that the book seems to be mostly a vehicle for discussing the transgender experience as that is also the author's experience.  This may be intrusive for some readers who are looking just for a mystery.  For most though, the novel will stand as an interesting read with characters who are relatable.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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