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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Invisible Ones

The Invisible Ones
Stef Penney
Putnam, 2012

Ray Lovell is a private investigator who was hired to find a missing woman. Rose Janko is a young Gypsy who went missing seven years earlier. Half Romany himself, Ray knows that he was selected for the investigation based more on his ancestry than his professional skills. Even though Ray knows the culture, he was surprised at the level of hostility that the Janko family showed him, but he knows the family has been touched by tragedy and distrusts outsiders more than usual. It seems that the family has inherited a curse which afflicts the male members – an illness that Rose’s husband was lucky enough to be healed from. Unfortunately, Rose’s son also suffers from the illness, and according to her husband, that’s why Rose abandoned them. Ray suspects from the family’s response to him that something bad has happened to Rose, and when a land excavation project reveals the skeleton of a woman who died several years before, he prepares himself for the worse.

As Ray becomes more involved in the family’s history, he meets a female relative that intrigues him. Ray’s been divorced for a couple of years now, but the divorce was not his choice and he’s had trouble adjusting to single life. Knowing that it’s a bad idea to mix business and pleasure, Ray tries to distance himself from seeing this woman, but the more he tries to uncover the Janko family secret, the more he finds himself drawn to the members of the family, especially this woman. As he starts to learn more about the events that happened seven years earlier, Ray experiences a head injury lands him in the hospital for several weeks. The book begins after the accident, as he recovers in the hospital, not remembering a thing that has happened. As he attempts to recover and remember the case he’s investigating, little bits come back to him as he struggles to make sense of the mystery that he’s stumbled upon.

I had high expectations for this title since I enjoyed her first novel so much. It did not disappoint, although it is very different in tone, setting, and plot than the first one. Penney has a skill for building a special world inside her books by focusing on unique characters and places that come alive. This literary mystery is not the most exciting or suspenseful book you will ever read, but it is hard to put down anyway. There is a subtle tension that builds slowly throughout the story – we know there is a terrible secret that must be revealed, but what is it? WHAT IS IT???? Well, I won’t reveal it -- but it’s a good one and well worth the itchy, uncomfortable feeling that builds inside you as you turn each page. All I can say is, I should’ve seen it coming.


Other novels by this author:
The Tenderness of Wolves (2006)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (2004)
As private investigator Jackson Brodie investigates three resurrected old crimes, he finds himself caught up in a story of families divided, love lost and found, and the mysteries of fate.

The Old Wine Shades by Martha Grimes (2006)
Richard Jury considers the authenticity of a fantastical tale, told by a stranger and fellow patron at the Old Wine Shades pub in London, about a string theory scientist's wife, son, and dog, who disappeared without a trace nine months earlier.

Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lahane (2010)
Private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro revisit the case that troubled them the most when the missing girl they found twelve years earlier--only to see her returned to a neglectful mother and a broken home--goes missing again.

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