Review: The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes wilt under the California sun.

At some point during the long, long afternoon Joyce Haney, a seemingly happy housewife and mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind only two terrified young children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

With the stifling heat of Tangerine and the gripping pace of Little Deaths, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and, ultimately, underestimated. 

Review

I absolutely loved this atmospheric literary crime fiction set in 1959.

Joyce is a housewife who suddenly goes missing one afternoon. Her Maid came to work and found her babies alone with no sign of Joyce. Alarm bells went off when she also found a blood stained kitchen. Where is Joyce? Did someone take her? Did she just up and leave? Whose blood is on the floor and how did it end up there? I had so much fun seeking answers for these questions.

This is my first read of a literary crime fiction set in the 1950s. I like how the author brought the setting and time period alive through her vivid description. I could visualize the time then and especially the place of women in society. This was also a time that was marked with racial inequalities and this was evidenced in the portrayal of different characters and themes. The author managed to portray all these dynamics without losing focus of the mystery at the heart of the narrative.

The character development is this story was done quite well. I liked Ruby. She was a black Help working for the white families. We saw her being forced to be subservient despite maltreatment and disrespect. There was a lot of heartbreak in her story as we get to witness the racism that she experienced. However, there is also strength, love and courage. I adored this brilliant character. I also really like the Lead Detective, Micky, who tried to rise above the racism and treat everyone equally. There are quite a number of other characters who stood out for me.

The mystery was captivating. I couldn’t guess what happened to Joyce as there were so many red herrings. At some point, I thought she had been taken. Other times, I thought she had just walked out on her marraige. I know I would have. Being a Housewife in the 1950s and dealing with the male dominance was enough to drive any woman crazy.  I was surprised by the reveal about what really happened to Joyce.

This is such a well-written, evocative, fast-paced narrative. I loved the setting, characters and vivid description of the time period. I truly enjoyed reading The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper.