Reviewed on 16th February 2021

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

Genre: Fiction / Mystery
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The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper Synopsis

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper Review

Stepford Attitudes, Mad Men Vibes, and a Compelling Mystery!

I have to admit, when I picked this book up, I was really excited. It had been one of the most ‘anticipated books of 2021’ in the latter part of 2020 and I had heard so many great things about it. When I finally got my hands on a copy and was asked to review it for the blog tour, I was over the moon. They say never judge a book by its cover, but how could you not want to dive in when looking at such a beautiful and intriguing cover image? The image sets up the story perfectly, a touch of the retro covered head to toe in mystery and questions backlit by the sticky warming orange hues of the hot summer Californian sky.

Everything about this book intrigued me, the blurb sucked me in, and I won’t deny that my passion for mystery novels may have stoked the fire of interest in me. You see, mystery books are where my love of literature began. Agatha Christie’s murder mystery novels sparked my love of fiction, and this book promised to be a true representation of what a mystery novel should be. It didn’t disappoint.

Blurb:
Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

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While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .

The Long, Long Afternoon is set in the beautiful white picket fence location of Sunnylakes, California. Under the warm orange skies, set back in the 50’s, this suburban neighborhood is shaken when Joyce Haney disappears, leaving behind her baby daughter and a bloody kitchen scene. In this perfect, almost Stepford wife-esque white American neighbourhood, the only people left behind that might know what happened are the little girl from next door, Barbara, and the ‘help’, Ruby Wright. When Detective Mick Blanke takes on the case, it seems that no-one wants to listen to the black woman from the wrong side of town. But Detective Blanke has nothing to lose and the determination to get to the bottom of this very strange disappearance.

The atmosphere and ’50s attitudes are so well depicted in this book, with racism dealt with in a toe-curling but believable manner. The ‘women belong in the kitchen’ attitudes that dominated the mindset of those in 1959 place you right at the centre of the conflict at the heart of this wonderful novel. Although we are given a glimpse of Joyce’s life in her own words, it’s the cleverly crafted words of others that give us a true idea of the life this ‘fish out of water’ was living. Not quite the sparkling Stepford wife that so many of her neighbours conform to.

Vespa’s writing is dappled with beautiful prose and expertly crafted mystery and intrigue. Although the language in this novel is deeply atmospheric and at times confronting and claustrophobic, the novel is very much plot-driven with clues scattered and breadcrumbed throughout the book. Perfect for those true mystery readers who miss the genius of the original mystery writers. The Long, Long Afternoon is not a complicated book to read. As I mentioned, it is confronting at times yet, but not a difficult read; in fact, I devoured it in a day. It is told from three perspectives, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the action that unfolds.

The thing that stood out to me about this well-crafted debut novel, is the beautiful poetic prose. The descriptions and in-depth inner thoughts really do grip you tight and hold you hostage until the end of the book. It’s intricately drawn and expertly woven and shows real promise from a debut author.

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper is a superbly crafted and well-executed debut novel, and at times, it is so much more than that. It’s a statement about the strict social codes of the ’50s and the attitudes that moulded the minds of many in regards to both race, class, and gender.” It’s an exploration of attitudes that are now somewhat changed (mostly), wrapped in a cloak of mystery and intrigue. It is the perfect book for those looking to escape back into the world of the perfect mystery novel.

Although we are given a glimpse of Joyce’s life in her own words, it’s the cleverly crafted words of others that give us a true idea of the life this ‘fish out of water’ was living. Not quite the sparkling Stepford wife that so many of her neighbours conform to.

Many Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers and Zaffre Books for inviting us on this Blog Tour.

The Long, Long Afternoon is published by: Zaffre Books
ISBN: 978-183877-2-277

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