I read this just because I felt like it – a book about a private investigator and gypsies just sounded intriguing. And I was familiar with the author having read The Tenderness of Wolves years ago, so I thought I’d give this one a try.
The Invisible Ones
by Stef Penney
2012 / 432 pages
read by Dan Stephens – 11h 23m
rating: A- / literary crime
The book opens with Ray Lovell in a hospital bed having no idea how he got there. He knows he’s a private investigator and most other personal information, but nothing specific whatever about what happened to him to get him in this situation. He remembers bits about what he was working on. A man named Leon Wood had asked him to investigate the disappearance of his daughter Rose who had been missing for seven years. At the time of her disappearance she’d got married to a man named Ivo Jenko.
The complicating twist is that Leon and Jenko are both from gypsy (Roma) families and this means that virtually no non-gypsy investigator will be able to get close enough to the case to get any information. It just so happens that Ray is gypsy although not immediately connected – his father left a traveling group and married a non-gypsy after which he assimilated into English society. Ray was brought up in a pretty conventional manner.
All this takes place in a few chapters alternating with a secondary plot line about a gypsy boy named JJ who is living with his mother and family on a patch of land still occupied by “blood.” JJ speaks to us in 1st person as he tells about how he and his family take care of Ivo’s motherless son, the 7-year old Christo who has a rather unusual genetic disease. JJ also wonders about who his father is and which girl at school can help him.
Ray Lovell gets involved with the family while he investigates, then bones are found and JJ gets food poisoning. It’s a tangle of twists and turns with the ending being a total surprise and it ain’t over until it’s over.
This is NOT a page-turning crime thriller but there are twists in the plot which cause the reader to bolt upright and speed along for awhile. Mostly it’s the story of the search for a young gypsy woman but it’s also an exploration of lives and loves in a proud, poverty-stricken, ingrown family of people culturally different from their neighbors.
The theme of “otherness” pervades every plot thread.
Dan Stephens does a remarkable job of narrating.