Cover Image: The Long, Long Afternoon

The Long, Long Afternoon

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Long, Long Afternoon really gives a sense of time and place - and I loved that about this book. We’re steeped in the 1950’s suburban world of perfect housewives, dosed up on their happy pills, trapped in their blissful domestic lives, keeping a perfect home and looking their best at all times for their hardworking husbands. Meanwhile, they employ black maids for a pitiful wage, taking advantage of them and treating them appallingly. 
Ruby Wright arrives to start her afternoons work at Joyce Hanley’s house, and instead finds her young daughter outside and a screaming toddler upstairs in her bedroom. When Ruby goes in to the kitchen, she is confronted with a room awash with blood and signs of a struggle. 
When the police arrive, they arrest Ruby for murder. After all, she was the first person there - and she’s black. 
Detective Mick Blanke takes on the case. It’s an interesting book, because not only is Mick solving the crime (with some considerable help from Ruby), he’s also showing the social divides in the USA at this time - rich and poor, black and white. He’s clearly not comfortable about the way that white people treat black people in Santa Monica, but he’s still not quite brave enough to call people out on their racism. 
This is an engaging, quick read - or perhaps I read it quickly because I didn’t want to put it down. It’s a clever, unpredictable story. In all, it’s a book I’d recommend without hesitation!
Was this review helpful?
When Ruby arrives at the Haney house to work her usual two hours of cleaning, she finds the two young children alone and a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Joyce Haney has vanished and nobody seems to know where she’s gone. Once Ruby has convinced the detective in charge of the case, Mick Blanke, that she’s not involved, he enlists her help in uncovering the secrets of Sunnylakes.

I really enjoyed the Long, Long Afternoon. It takes a while to get going, and Joyce Haney isn’t the easiest character to like, but Ruby more than makes up for it. Her quirky attitude to life, and especially the men in it, gets you on her side from the start. Life is tough for her, but somehow she still manages to keep things together. 

Somehow I found the ending both unexpected and obvious, if that makes any sense at all. Somehow it all comes together with a gripping climax, and the truth about poor Joyce Haney, and the secrets she kept, is revealed.  A very enjoyable book.
Was this review helpful?
A compelling mystery set in 1950s California which deals with race, class and gender issues. I enjoyed the atmospheric writing style and loved the fabulous front cover. However I was disappointed by the ending, it was a bit too over the top for my liking.
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book a lot and finished it in just a couple of days. It's a great premise for a start - a woman goes missing with suggestions that she has been hurt in what appears to be an idyllic setting.

The town's name, Sunnylakes, conjures up all the images associated with the stereotype of 1950s America - surburban idylls, happy housewives at home in spacious homes with lush gardens, but with secrets and miseries not far behind the scenes.

In the book, mother of two Joyce goes missing, leaving behind a pool of blood in her kitchen. Her "help", Ruby, shouldn't really care in some ways. What does the possible murder of a relatively privileged white woman have to do with her?

But it's clear that Joyce wasn't just another phony housewife. Instead she had felt some affinity with Ruby as they both come from the "wrong side" of the tracks. And as the book progresses, we learn that Joyce has suffered abuse in her childhood that presumably have harmed her mental health.

Ruby sets out to help Mick, the detective in charge of the case, get to the bottom of the mystery. Along the way we are treated to brilliant snapshots of what life is like for different groups of people in society. Ruby's boyfriend Joseph goes to a "committee" that he hopes will help liberate black people from racism, but it's only for me.

Meanwhile white women such as Joyce had their own committee aimed at liberating them from the idea that life should revolve around men. Black women such as Ruby wouldn't be welcome though.

Mick is a really interesting character too, his story trundling along as the plot develops. He's clearly in a slightly stultifying marriage, yet still loves his wife.

I really appreciated the fact that the author shunned all stereotypes in her writing of the characters. The women characters in particular are great. But also Mick, in treating Ruby like a human being at a time when most other cops would sooner shoot her than speak to her, is really well drawn.

It's a very good plot and, because everyone has secrets, it isn't easy to quickly tell what has happened to Joyce. I loved the way it ends and the last line is brilliant.

I would highly recommend it, and hope the author writes some more books soon!
Was this review helpful?
A very strange,twisted novel. A mystery to solve mixed with racial tension and bigotry. I knew he guilty party easy on but we took a long winding road to get there.
Was this review helpful?
An intriguing who dunnit with an oppressive setting and characters who are trying to find their place in a world full of sexist and racist attitudes. Ruby is a strong woman who fights against injustice and doing right in a world that is seemingly against her. We get to know Joyce through the opinions of others and this view only exaggerates the claustrophobic setting and story. A great debut.
Was this review helpful?
This was an enjoyable thriller. While I correctly guessed the twists early on in the novel, I think it plays around in a really fun way with the 1950s housewife genre. Set in Sunnylakes California, the story follows the disappearance of Joyce Haney, a popular housewife with the perfect husband and two beautiful daughters. But when Ruby, the family’s ‘help’ turns up to work one day to find a blood soaked kitchen, the two distressed girls inside the house but no sign of Joyce Haney the story takes a dark turn. Where is Joyce? What happened to her? A page turning thriller that will grip you until the end! 

Thank you to the author Inga Vesper, Bonnier Books UK and Netgalley for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Ruby Wright earns a pittance as 'The Help' to two households in Roseview Drive, Sunnylakes. For Joyce Haney, Ruby might wash the floors and clean the bathrooms and change the beds, but she is also treated with respect. Joyce confides in her, does not mind her looking after her two daughters Barbara and Lily, and Ruby likes her. True, she has to be gone before Mr Haney gets home but at least it isn't as bad as 'doing' next door for Nancy Ingram, a young widow living on her own who treats Ruby as if she is a nasty smell.
The social and racial injustices of 1950s America is portrayed in a way that is not overtly political but very succinctly details the huge divide between people based purely on the colour of their skin in fictional form. It is hard to read about the way Ruby is treated so badly but this is one young woman determined to go to college and in the meantime find a way to have her voice heard.
Unfortunately though she is caught up in a crime that initially she is arrested for. Thank goodness for Detective Mick Blanke who soon sorts this out, and amidst the poverty and unrest Ruby becomes a detective herself, unable to settle without understanding what happened in that kitchen, that afternoon when she found Barbara hiding behind trees near the house.
The stark inequalities nestle up against a thrilling and entertaining whodunit with Ruby the feisty, hopeful and inspirational heroine. I liked the fact that Mick gave her a chance, unlike his colleagues, and that he seemed to follow police procedure unlike other inept police officers. I enjoyed Genevieve Crane's role as Head of the Women's Improvement Committee who wanted to show women how to free themselves from loveless and manipulative marriages. Deena Klintz serves to underline that there is a hierarchy amongst white people too. She lives on her own in a trailer park, works in a diner and is mostly looked down upon by the members of the committee apart from Joyce.
Set in sweltering heat, the tension rises along with the temperature to bake an immersive story, with characters adding a mix of toppings that might seem sweet in places but can leave a very nasty aftertaste.
A plot with bite, get ready to sweat it out in Sunnylakes. But if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you Netgalley for my copy of this book!
I was so drawn to the cover of this book, there is just something about it that made me want to read it.
The premise of the story has so much promise but it just fell a bit flat for me.
It was obvious from early on who was behind everything which then made the story less dramatic.
When it was being narrated by Mick, he kept talking about a previous case but only casually mentioning it, as if we should already know the story and who the people were and what went on, yet this is the first novel by this author! It felt like a back story we should have already known and there was something missing.
I really liked Ruby and could really feel what it was like to just be 'The Help' back then.
The story is set in 1950's America yet alot of the story seemed so relevant to today as well and didnt feel like it was being told from an historic point of view which I quite enjoyed.
Overall I was expecting a gripping who-dunnit but it just wasn't gripping enough for me unfortunately.
Was this review helpful?
A mystery set in America in the 1950s, in a town where everything has to be perfect. But behind the well-kept gardens lie many secrets. Joyce has disappeared, leaving her husband, Frank, and two young children. Her ‘help’ Ruby is suspicious and it’s up to her to tell the police everything they need to know. A very enjoyable book, mysterious, full of suspense. I would recommend this to a friend, actually, I already have!
Was this review helpful?
I just loved this read. The style of writing drew me in from the very first paragraph.

Joyce Haney appears to have the perfect life and home as do all the residents of Sunnylakes, California, in fact it's a little bit of a Stepford Wives community it seems. 

This is the 1950s so prejudice abounds in all manner of ways. Ruby, the help, is arrested even though she only found the blood on the kitchen floor. No one is interested in what she has to say except a Detective from Brooklyn who isn't as immersed in the California treatment of others as his colleagues are. 

I found the character of Ruby so well drawn and felt for her as one after another prejudices and physical attacks were hurled against her. It really brought to life for me how awful it was. Bit by bit we discover that Joyce, although more privileged, was in a living hell of her own. 

For some reason I wasn't expecting the mystery element of the book and the good old fashioned detective work. I became immersed in the 1950s and didn't want to leave despite it not being a nice place a lot of the time.
Was this review helpful?
Set in 1950s wealthy American suburbs, “The Long Long Afternoon” by Inga Vesper is a crime novel which deals with the perception of the women in society, racism and class. When a housewife, Joyce Haney, disappears one hot sunny afternoon from her immaculate house, leaving behind two small children and stains of blood in the kitchen, a newly arrived detective, Mick Blanke, is assigned to the case. The disappearance is discovered by Ruby Wright, her Black maid, who is immediately arrested and presumed guilty. But when Blanke starts looking into the seemingly perfect lives of the residents of Sunnylakes, he discovers rifts and hidden secrets. 
This addictive read is told from the perspective of different characters – detective Blanke, Ruth Wilson (the help whose assistance in the investigation he enlists) and Joyce. Through those narratives we learn about the women’s struggles and all-encompassing misogyny as well as the racism that Ruby and her family faces from her employers and society in general. Ruby was definitely my favourite character and I admired her determination that was driving her towards bettering her life. I must say that I had found most of the male characters deeply unpleasant – even the detective was in places condescending and full of superiority – and felt sorry for the women who were forced to behave in certain ways by societal expectations, not always working to their advantage. The ending of the book brought a satisfying conclusion, despite being slightly unrealistic, but I hope to read more about the central characters in the future!
Was this review helpful?
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.

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 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 Manilla Press for inviting us on this Blog Tour and thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.
Was this review helpful?
One, hot summerafternoon  in 1959, wealthy wife and mother Joyce goes missing, leaving a pool of blood in her kitchen, her oldest daughter agitated and alone in the garden and her baby with a very full nappy crying in her cot. Whathas happened to Joyce? The case is investigated by discredited cop Mick Blanke, who has to cut through snobbishness, middle class repression and racism to get to the truth. As a crime mystery, the plot needs to be tighter- witnesses are let off too lightly and it seems that progress is only made when they volunteer information or when things are discovered by accident. The denouement is a little ridiculous, as the perpetrator would have required superpowers to have been able to act as they did. However, the book’s strength is in the portrayal of the society of the time at a key moment. Women are seen as trophies for their husbands, are expected not to work but to keep a lovely home and family while remaining attractive for their men and keeping up appearances. Racism is endemic-  the police called to Joyce’s home after she goes missing automatically arrest Rose, her black home help, who comes to work and finds the children and the bloodied kitchen. She is treated abominably and disregarded as a witness by Blanke’s colleagues, while her mother’s death in a hit and run has been dismissed and her community is under threat of eviction and job loss as building plans  threaten to destroy their homes. The scale is about to tip as the 1960s loom and feminism and the civil rights movement start the process of change in America. The toxic environment that led to Joyce’s disappearance would soon lose its power.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Manilla Press, and the author Inga Vesper.
This was a solid and involving mystery thriller, and an intriguing premise. I was drawn in immediately, and the story was fast paced and interesting, despite some convenient events to move the plot forwards.  
My one complaint is that the denouement felt predictable and a little farcical, out of tone from the rest of the book. Some of the characters also felt flat and under developed.
A decent thriller, if you're happy to suspend disbelief a little! 3.5 stars.
Was this review helpful?
The Long Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper.

Wow! What a fantastic book – this is one of those reads that you never want to finish.
Its August 1959 in Sunnylakes, Santa Monica and we seem to be on the set of the 'Stepford Wives'. Sunnylakes is an area of perfect wives, children, homes and manicured lawns, the American Dream on the face of things but with a dark undercurrent of wives turning a blind eye, a diet of sleeping pills, anxiety medication and amphetamines, gossip and rumours and where every house has alcohol hidden behind the towels in the airing cupboard.

Joyce Haney is one of these wives or was until she's discovered missing by 'the help', one of her children's 'waiting' outside and the baby is screaming in her cot and there's blood all over the kitchen.

'The Help' Ruby Wright is a wonderful character. It's hugely uncomfortable reading about the constant prejudice she faces. One of the Wives takes the opportunity to slap Ruby across the face with the excuse that she was 'hysterical' after discovering that Joyce is missing. She's immediately arrested after the police are called and the police think they have their suspect without even considering any other alternatives.

Enter Detective Blanke, a cop who has been transferred from New York following an 'incident' and he at least, doesn't seem quite as racist as his fellow cops. But understandably, Ruby is wary of Detective Blanke and clams up when he asks for any help she can offer about Joyce Haney's home life.
But Ruby is incredibly smart and she makes it her mission to figure out what has really happened to Joyce. Being the invisible Black maid, she manages to glean a lot of what is happening behind closed doors. Through her we learn more about the apparently distraught husband, the overbearing Mother-in-Law, the predatory neighbour/supposed best friend, the ex-lover and the down-on-her-luck waitress.
Of course it's Ruby who solves the case, but of course it's the white cop who takes the credit.
Is it a happy ending for Ruby? She may be on to better things but you just know that her life will still be swathed in misogyny and racism and she'll always have to fight so much harder than everyone else to make her way forward in life.

* Thanks to Bonnier Books and Netgalley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Not my usual type of story but I was drawn in as it was based in California (albeit decades ago) which makes for a diverse setting.  Great whodunnit style story with class and prejudice thread right through it.  Very enjoyable..
Was this review helpful?
So good on so many levels. A very intriguing mystery told through flashbacks and different narrators but also dealing with shocking racism in 1950s America and the lot of the suburban housewife. White man ruled in every way. Ruby is the help, hired by two homes opposite each other, and she is bright and ambitious and feisty but she is black so has to clean for low wages to get by. One of the employers goes missing and there is blood in the kitchen and so begins a journey for Ruby that makes her step up to the mark. I loved this book, raced through it, was entertained, ashamed, intrigued and enlightened by it, a gem.
Was this review helpful?
Shades of Marilyn French's 'The Women's Room', the women of Mad Men, 'the first essay in Joan Didion's 'Slouching Towards Bethlem' about a murderous housewife, The Help', and Judy Blume's 'Wifey'. The ending jumps the shark somewhat. It is a cinematic ending, rather than a novelistic one but I enjoyed the ride, nonetheless.
Was this review helpful?
This book had me from the very first page - I couldn’t put it down!  Beautifully written, this detective story is engrossing and compelling.  Set in 1950s California it deals with much more than ‘whodunnit’, tackling such things as race, inequality and the lot of the suburban housewife.  The characters are well rounded and very real and while the weightier aspects of the novel are treated with a light touch, they are quietly intense.  I enjoyed this novel so much I hope that the author might take some of the characters into future publications.
Was this review helpful?