A Lockdown February might seem the ideal time of year to be transported to the hot Californian sun, but be careful what you wish for – as Inga Vesper’s taut, compelling debut shows us, even the sunniest of places can hold the darkest secrets.

The Long, Long Afternoon, published in the UK today by Manilla Press / Bonnier Books, is a tense book club mystery that was the subject of a four-way auction when it was submitted back in November 2019.  Manilla Press, the literary imprint at Bonnier Books, was launched in February 2020, with the aim of ‘creating conversations on wider issues’.

The Long, Long Afternoon, addressing issues which are just as relevant today as there were back in the 1950s – when this stunning book is set – fulfils that brief perfectly.


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 . . .

Dealing with issues such as sexism, racism and the cracks underneath the surface of the American Dream, this book – which will appeal to fans of Tangerine, Small Pleasures and Mad Men – is one of February’s Books of the Month in The Independent, and was called ‘an assured debut that lays bare the American Dream’s fault lines’ by Woman and Home.

The Long, Long Afternoon has also clinched publishing deals in the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Poland, alongside receiving heaps of praise from fellow authors:

‘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

‘Loved this taut slice of classic noir’

C.J. Tudor

Inga 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 science journalism. 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.