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The Long, Long Afternoon: The most atmospheric and compelling debut novel of the year
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The Long, Long Afternoon: The most atmospheric and compelling debut novel of the year (Hardback)

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'A remarkably assured debut. A tale of inequality, broken dreams and quiet desperation behind a picture-perfect facade' Guardian

'A clever and absorbing debut by Inga Vesper, who bricks Joyce up in her perfect house, then smashes it to pieces with aplomb' The Times

A stunning 1950s set debut mystery brimming with atmosphere and perfect for fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men.


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 . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, 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 under-estimated.

Everyone is talking about The Long, Long Afternoon

'Beguiling and evocative. This vivid and atmospheric pageturner will keep readers guessing all the way to its satisfying finale'

Sunday Express

'A clever and absorbing debut by Inga Vesper, who bricks Joyce up in her perfect house, then smashes it to pieces with aplomb'

The Times

'Beautifully crafted, claustrophobic and compelling'

Stacey Halls, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Familiars and The Foundling

'Such a vivid atmosphere of stifling LA heat and stifling 50s domesticity'

Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures

'Breathtakingly stylish, hypnotic and masterfully gripping'

Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at the End, Waterstones Thriller of the Month

'A perfect read'

Mary Paulson Ellis

'Loved this taut slice of classic noir'

C.J. Tudor

'Beautifully written and brilliantly observed'

Simon Lelic

'Atmospheric, beguiling'

Araminta Hall

'A tasty, tense, page-turning combo of James Ellroy and Kate Atkinson with a bit of Mad Men thrown in'

Liz Hyder

'Completely gripping and kept me guessing right to the end'

Amanda Mason, author of The Wayward Girls

'This wonderful, beautifully written novel held me to the very last word'

Stephanie Butland, author of Lost for Words


Amanda Reynolds, author of Close To Me

'Evocative, stylish and gripping'

Deborah O'Connor

Fiction & PoetryCrime & ThrillersFiction & PoetryHistorical FictionFiction & PoetryModern & contemporary fiction post c 1945 Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre Publication Date: 04/02/2021 ISBN-13: 9781838772260  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
Availability: Usually despatched within 2 days. Add to Basket

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. 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.

More books by Inga Vesper

Customer Reviews

This atmospheric debut novel is both an excellent piece of crime fiction and a stunning portrayal of the strict social codes and attitudes of the 1950s with regards to both gender and race. Set amongst the white picket fences of Sunnylakes, a well-heeled suburb of Santa Monica which seems to epitomise the American dream, the mysterious disappearance of housewife and mother, Joyce Haney, strikes at the heart of the settled community. Populated by white middle classes and a place where men go out to work and women either care for children or are in the kitchen, behind the perfect facade is many an oppressed housewife. Numbed into submission and often medicated to cope with the monotony of a life dictated by their menfolk attitudes to women are only marginally less hostile than attitudes to ethnic minorities, specifically the Negro ‘help’ that clean their homes. It is Ruby Wright, the young black maid from South Central who is the first to discover the absence of Joyce Haney when she turns up to clean her home and finds her two children alone and the kitchen covered in blood. Ruby is arrested at the scene, purely on the basis of her colour, and the case is assigned to Detective Mick Blanke, newly transferred to the suburbs and broiling in the oppressive heat of August 1959. With Joyce’s husband, Frank, at a conference and vampish neighbour and close friend, Mrs Ingram, unable to shed any light on her disappearance, Blanke finds himself seeking an ‘in’ with the ladies of the Sunnylakes Women’s Improvement Committee, run by shrewd Mrs Genevieve Crane. With his boss breathing down his neck for a result and unable to crack the Sunnylakes veneer, Blanke proffers up the prospect of the hefty reward on offer to Ruby in exchange for crucial information. Compelled by her fondness for Joyce and a shot at enough money to finance college, Ruby makes the perfect detective due to the fact that the folks of Sunnylakes treat the ‘help’ with disdain and do their best to avoid casting eyes on them. A three way narrative follows with the perspective of both Detective Mick Blanke and Ruby Wright in the days after the disappearance of Joyce, and the thoughts and actions of a flighty Joyce in the hours leading up to her vanishing. The period setting, sense of place and attitudes are terrifically conveyed and give the novel a wonderfully atmospheric feel and the rigid rules and attitudes of the era adds a clever subtext to the disappearance of Joyce. The characterisation of Ruby, dismissively referred to as ‘the help’ by all but Joyce is captivating. Wary of the cops and the white middle classes she works for, and reticent to bring trouble to her door, she has aspirations to attend college and eventually to teach. Feisty enough that she is no pushover and clever enough to read between the lines, for me Ruby was the standout of the novel and I was vying for her all the way. It takes Ruby to make apparent to a cop more used to the mean streets of Brooklyn like Detective Blanke that it isn’t all picture perfect behind the idyllic exterior on show. Despite his open-minded and liberal attitude, Detective Blanke proved disappointingly colourless and lacking in nous, making him the weak link in his informal partnership with savvy Ruby. The mystery itself is easy to follow and although not particularly pacy the social commentary throughout more than makes up for this.

- 30/01/2021
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