I love ghost stories. I love reading them and watching supernatural shows on the television – whether it’s one of a dozen ‘haunting’ shows or a movie. If you’ve ever read any true ghost stories or watched Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, or whatever, I’m sure you’ve seen or read about Philadelphia’s famous Eastern State Penitentiary. The prison was opened over 180 years ago and was the world’s first true “penitentiary.” Besides its grand architecture, it was also designed to inspire ‘penitence‘ – true regret within the prisoner. It was common for harsh punishment to be inflicted; inmates dunked into water and hung to an exterior wall during the winter months; there was a chair used that when the inmate was bound to it, their circulation was cut off; there was the underground cell called ‘the hole’, where inmates who were sent there had no light, no human contact, no exercise, no toilet, and little food and air. There is plenty more if you wanted to read into the history or the place.
Eastern State Penitentiary is considered on of the most haunted places in the United States. You can find thousands of stories online to read about the experiences of others who took a tour through the prison.
In Jennifer Finney Boylan’s newest novel, Long Black Veil, that’s where six college students went – the Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. While inside the dilapidated building, they become lost, they’re terrified, they’re not alone. Eventually, there is a tragedy and only five leave the prison.
That’s how the book begins – like a horror novel. The. Black. Veil. Horror. Ghosts. Supernatural. Death.
But that’s where that ends.
After the beginning, which takes place in 1980, nine years after the prison had closed its doors, the story then comes to present day – well 2015 – and the body of the missing friend is found. This event brings the other five back together. In this part of the novel, I won’t give away the secret here, but one of the friends has a lot to lose if a secret gets out.
As for the story: the book was less of a mystery novel as I had expected. It’s more of a character study about what has changed the characters lives since the events took place at the prison – but the biggest event that the novel follows (with one of the characters) didn’t happen because of that night at the prison. I questioned some of the actions about the deception and the found body that seemed a little far-fetched.
The best part of the novel is Boylan’s writing. Everything from the flashbacks to the character shifts held their tension and flowed effortlessly which made this an easy read. Once you start reading this book, you won’t want to put it back down.
I was given the Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan in exchange for an honest review. I would recommend this book. If you’re expecting a ghost story and horror novel, you won’t find that here. But you will find a good story with interesting characters and a secret that could destroy lives.
Have you read Long Black Veil? Tell us what you thought of it in the comment section below.