The Invisible Ones is an intriguing mystery about a private investigator who is half Romany. Ray Lovell's father was a gypsy who married a gorgio, a non-Romany, and who gave up the traveling life to settle down in a house.
The novel opens with Ray in the hospital after a car accident, but the injuries from the accident are not as important as the fact that when he was found, he was paralyzed and unable to talk. The doctors are trying to discover what happened: brain tumor, stroke, drugs?
The next chapter starts at the beginning, when Ray reluctantly takes on a missing persons case from Leon Wood, a man searching for his daughter Rose, who disappeared seven years ago. Leon is an English Gypsy and has chosen Ray because he knows that Ray, as half-Roma, is the only investigator who might be able to discover what happened to his missing daughter. Ray with his half-Romany heritage is the only one who can make any headway with members of the Romany community who would refuse to communicate with outsiders.
The next chapter introduces J.J., a fourteen-year-old member of the Janko clan, whose mother is a Gypsy, but whose father was a gorgio. J.J. is bright and caring, but he, too, is a kind of half-breed who doesn't completely fit into either community.
The chapters continue to alternate between Ray and J.J. as the author introduces information about clannish Romany life and customs and develops the characters first from Ray's perspective, then from J.J.'s.
Ray meets one dead end after another is his attempts to find out what happened to Rose after she married Ivo Janko. J.J. has his own mysteries and concerns to unravel.
Ray is a likable protagonist, but frankly, J.J. steals the show. We root for each of them as the mystery deepens and twists and as both man and boy try to come to grips with some personal problems.
There are no gruesome scenes, there is no serial killer, but the mystery has some dark elements that keep it interesting. Stef Penney is a skillful writer who doles out information that keeps you turning the possibilities over in your mind in a way that makes you appreciate her ability to keep you involved, but she is never condescending.
Fiction. Mystery. 2021. 399 pages.