The day after Jon Casey and Wailer Curtin got married in 1980, the newlyweds decide to visit the abandoned ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary at night with four of their college friends; Rachel Steinberg, Maisie Lenfest, Tripper Pennypacker, and Quentin Pheaney. Benny, Masier’s brother, and Nathan Krystal, an old teacher also tag along with them. But once they get inside this creepy prison with its labyrinthine corridors, they soon get lost and separated, and the night ends with the new bride’s disappearance.
Dudley, the lead detective, investigates the case for decades even after he retires without catching a break. When new evidence turns up, it looks like finally, Dudley can charge Casey with murder. Wailer’s parents had died when she was young and had left her a vast inheritance. Casey had been made a joint owner of Wailer’s trust upon their marriage, which gave Casey enough money to open a chain of restaurants after Wailer’s disappearance, and for Dudley, that made Casey the obvious suspect. However, there is one person who can prove Dudley wrong and vouch for Casey’s innocence. But coming forward to support Casey might bring that person’s long-held secrets to light.
When I started reading Long Black Veil, at first I found it a bit difficult to follow the story-line because there are so many characters! But once I figured out who was who, the book was a page turner. More than the mystery in the Long Black Veil, for me its characters were the strength of the novel, and Judith Carrigan especially stood out. I don’t want to give away much, but through Judith, Jennifer Finney Boylan explored the issues of gender identity, and I loved the fact that Boylan brought up prejudices it entails, sadly even today, so poignantly. Judith’s pain is real. Her fears are real. I can not imagine anyone not being moved by the portrayal of Judith (and the people who she represent) at the end of the book, so this book comes highly recommended!