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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

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.


  1. I read Stef Penney's first book and didn't like it all that much. The jury is still out on this one for me!

  2. I have The Tenderness of Wolves on my TBR pile. One day I might even read it!

  3. Marg - I haven't read The Tenderness of Wolves, and thought I'd check the library on my next visit.
    I know the book got some fanfare when it came out, but for some reason, I never followed up on it.

    Aren't books where the "jury is still out" strange? I have a couple of those, too.

    Kailana - :) I'm about to give up on my TBR pile. I have a nice stack of books, I haven't read, but still keep going to the library instead of reading what is right here. I have to be in the mood for a particular book.

    Right now, I'm craving good science fiction and mysteries, when I should be reading the nonfiction I've got right by my chair.

  4. I absolutely want to read this. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. I am very interested in the gypsy/traveller life and culture. I've just emailed the library.

  5. Nan--I found the book interesting for several reasons, including the gypsy culture. Hope you enjoy it!