Originally published: 4 February 2021
Author: Inga Vesper
Published by: Manilla Press
Genre: Literary Crime
Length: 400 pages
Dates read: 13-18 January 2021
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. And at some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney vanishes from her home.
Ruby Wright arrives for work at Sunnylakes that day expecting the usual: chores she despises; sore joints; prejudice from her employers. And at least some kindness from Joyce. Instead, she encounters two terrified toddlers and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor. Joyce is missing.
Detective Mick Blanke, recently transferred to the area, is assigned the case, but before long he realises it is Ruby who holds the key to this mystery. She knows more about the secrets lurking behind the starched curtains of Sunnylakes than he ever could . . .
I just knew I was going to love this as soon as I saw the book trailer on Twitter – The Long, Long Afternoon had the sort of cover that drew me in and I just knew this was the sort of story I would enjoy.
A deeply evocative novel, The Long, Long Afternoon is set in the wealthy suburb of Sunnylakes, California in 1959. Joyce Haney goes missing from her affluent home one normal sunny afternoon. Ruby arrives at the Haney’s house to clean and discovers Joyce’s eldest daughter outside on the lawn alone and blood in the kitchen. Set in the world of perfect housewives who all belong to the Sunnylakes Women’s Improvement Committee, on the surface, Joyce seems to have the perfect life – married with two young children. No one is able to say who would want to hurt her or where she might of gone.
Told mostly from the point of view of Ruby and Detective Mick Blanke (and occasional chapters from Joyce) this is described as a literary crime novel. I loved all the characters. Ruby is hard working and is generally treated like dirt by most of the women in Sunnylakes (Joyce being the exception) and has aspirations to become a teacher. The casual racism she is subjected to is shocking but very much of it’s time. She is immediately arrested on suspicion of hurting Joyce based just on the colour of her skin. But she likes Joyce so is keen to help Detective Blanke solve the mystery of her disappearance. Detective Blanke treats Ruby with civility and respects her opinion but at times feels out of his depth dealing with the ladies of Sunnylakes and their petty politics.
A wonderfully written debut novel full of secrets, tension and shocks, this might well be an early contender for one of my top 10 books of the year! Just brilliant!
Many thanks to Inga for reaching out to me through my blog last year and arranging for a copy of a proof to be sent to me.
About the author:
Inga Vesper is a journalist and editor. She moved to the UK from Germany to work as a carer, before the urge to write and explore brought her to journalism. As a reporter, she covered the coroner’s court and was able to observe how family, neighbours and police react to a suspicious death. She holds a MSc in Climate Change Management from Birkbeck College. Inga has worked and lived in Syria and Tanzania, but always returned to London, because there’s no better place to find a good story than the top deck of a bus.