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The Invisible Ones [Hardcover]

Stef Penney
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Jan. 10 2012

In a hospital bed, small-time private investigator Ray Lovell veers between paralysis and delirium. Before the accident that landed him there, he’d been hired to find Rose Janko, the wife of a charismatic son of a travelling gypsy family, who went missing seven years earlier.

Half Romany himself, Ray is well aware he’s been hired more for his blood than his investigative skills. Still, he’s surprised by the intense hostility he encounters from the Jankos, who have been touched by tragedy—they’re either cursed or hiding a terrible secret. Ray can’t help but suspect that this mystery in their past is connected to Rose’s disappearance.

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'A supreme story-teller on top form' The Times. 'A beautifully crafted novel with skilful characterisation and a plot which twists and turns ... this story of loss, deceit and family tragedy lingers long after you've finished the book' Daily Express. 'Penney has a real gift for storytelling and this tale [...] is pretty compelling from the beginning' Glasgow Sunday Herald. 'Highly impressive thriller ... a terrific novel with much disturbing wisdom amid the thrills' A.N. Wilson, Reader's Digest. 'A marvellously atmospheric piece of writing' Financial Times. 'Chilling' Daily Express. 'a story teller on top of her game' Independent. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Stef Penney was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, was an international bestseller and received the prestigious Costa Award. She is also a screenwriter.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Original and different Jan. 26 2012
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
The Invisible Ones is Stef Penney's second novel, but a first look at this author for me. It won't be my last - I'll be hunting down her first book- The Tenderness of Wolves.

The opening scene is one that will hook you into the story from the first page. Ray awakes in a hospital bed, paralyzed and with no memory of how he came to be there. Penney takes us back to the beginning and on the journey of how Ray ended up where he is.

Ray Lovell is a small time private investigator - he mostly does cheating spouse cases and avoids missing persons after a case went really wrong. But when Leon Wood comes into the office asking Ray to hunt down his daughter Rose, he hesitates. Wood is a traveller - a Romany - a gypsy. Leon has approached Ray as he knows that he is half gypsy himself. The case seems impossible. Wood has not seen his daughter in 7 years - since the day of her wedding in 1978 to Ivo Janko, the last in a line of 'black blood' travellers. But - he agrees.

As Ray delves back into a world he knows, but isn't a part of any longer, he is met with resistance, lies, indifference and hostility. No one is overly concerned where Rose is. "Suddenly I am absolutely determined to find her, because no one else seems really bothered".

The Invisible Ones is told from two parallel viewpoints - that of Ray and of JJ - a fourteen year old boy who is part of the Janko family - in alternating chapters. This was guaranteed to keep me up late - I simply had to keep reading to find out what was happening with the other character. The narrative with Ray flips from present to past as his memory slowly returns.

Ray and JJ are both on journeys, although they may not realize it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  75 reviews
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, lies & Gypsy spells... Nov. 30 2011
By Patto - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The spell worked on me. I had to put my life on hold until I finished reading this book. How could I resist the likeable mongrel Gypsy private eye with his private life in shreds? Or the secretive Gypsy family plagued with death and disease? Or the mad behavior of the Gypsy shaman?

Private investigator Ray Lovell is half Gypsy, which is why a Gypsy father hires him to look for his missing daughter Rose. An outsider won't get anywhere questioning Gypsies. Thanks to Ray's relentless probing, we get a fascinating look at the lifestyle of present-day Travelers in England. Rather than living in caravans, they live in trailers. That may not sound exotic, but you'll see. It is.

And the family Rose married into is particularly mysterious. There have been a shocking number of deaths among them.

The structure of the book is quite clever. Chapters are alternately narrated by the dogged, self-deprecating investigator without a clue - and a charming young Gypsy boy equally clueless about what's going on.

The author is an accomplished writer who handles her outré subject matter with grace and wit. The characters are fascinating people, from the old Gypsy man obsessed with pure black blood to the grouchy femme fatale in red high heels.

The plot withstood all my efforts to unravel it. I loved the shocking beginning. And although the ending is a bit far fetched, I went with it.

I'd definitely recommend this book to readers in search of a new kind of thrill from their next thriller. And readers who might like a genre bending mix of mystery and literature.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed June 10 2012
By Bibliophage - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Meh! And another for good measure! Meh!
Not a patch on The Tenderness of Wolves

I loved her debut novel ~ it had a great sense of place and time, with an interesting and diverse set of characters who were threaded through intriguing plotlines.

This also had lots of characters, but they didn't always hold my interest. I found the alternate chapters in the voice of the young teenager lacked verisimilitude (at time I wondered if he was supposed to be a bit "slow" given the clumsy dialogue and thoughts expressed by the character). In fact, the male pespective from her characters didn't ring true.

The gypsy theme was interesting and and an unusual background for the detective novel but it lacked "noir" for me. The investigation drags, probably because there are so many asides about the characters and their love lives, and ultimately it is too convoluted.

I didn't see the big twist coming at the end ... and I wondered if the author knew it was coming ... or decided as she wrote the last chapters just which of the red herrings she would follow up. Too much, too convoluted, and yet, too superficial.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down! Dec 12 2011
By Daffy Du - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The Invisible Ones combines a mystery with a fascinating look at the culture of Britain's traveling people--Gypsies who continue the peripatetic lifestyles of their colorful forebears. Today their homes are trailers, towed by vans and trucks, rather than the horse-drawn painted wooden wagons of old, but many of their traditions remain intact, even as they navigate the modern world.

The book is set in the 1980s and is told from the perspective of two key players: Ray Lovell, a private investigator who is half Gypsy, and JJ Smith, a 14-year-old boy who's a member of the traveler family Ray is investigating. Rose Woods, who married JJ's uncle Ivo, disappeared seven years earlier, and her father, recently widowed, is fearing the worst, so engages Ray to find her or at least determine what happened to her. He is convinced that only someone with a Gypsy background will gain the access necessary to carry out the job. Ray is reluctant because of an earlier missing person case that ended badly, but business is slow, so he accepts the job, becoming entangled in the lives of the extended Janko/Smith family, a mystery in and of itself.

Stef Penney, a screenwriter, is an excellent novelist, with a born storyteller's sense of pacing, knowing just how much to reveal to keep her readers captivated. She's adept at getting inside her main characters' heads and has recreated a world most people know little or nothing about, especially its modern-day incarnation. As the story unfolds, mysteries build upon mysteries, and I devoured the book, enjoying every page.

Now I'm keen to read her first book, The Tenderness of Wolves.

Five enthusiastic stars. Highly recommended.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very good, unusual mystery Jan. 12 2012
By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
After I have read "The Tenderness of Wolves" I knew I would impatiently wait for Stef Penney's new book. I know many of the other readers felt like this, too. We had to wait a while... But here it is. "The Invisible Ones" although set in a completely different environment, fulfills the expectations - it is a great, complex mystery, with interesting social background, wonderful detective figure and other interesting characters, and intriguing turns of action.

Private detective Ray Lovell, who usually works on cases of unfaithful spouses, receives a visit from an elderly man, Leon Wood, a Gypsy, who recognizes Ray as one of "them" (although Ray is only half Romany) and therefore entrusts him with a mission of finding his daughter Rose, who has been missing for seven years. Ray, melancholic after losing his wife (he is delaying signing the divorce papers) is initially hesitant, but he quickly gets drawn into the mystery and gets emotionally involved.

Rose Wood had married Ivo Janko, a beautiful young man from the "pureblood" Gypsy family, but then she disappeared. The Janko family claim she run off, but her father is convinced she must be dead. Ray interviews the members of the extended Janko family, and gets to know Ivo and his son Christo, marked by a hereditary disease, Ivo's father, Tene, the family patriarch, his sister and her husband, and their daughter and her teenage son JJ (who is narrating the chapters alternately with Ray). But the most interesting for Ray, and hiding her own secret, is Tene's younger sister, Lulu.

The mystery immerses the reader in the world of the Travelers, showing the differences between them and "gorjios" and the attitudes of both groups to one another, seen from different angles and generational perspectives. The story is really good, Ray, although he is a decent private investigator, has to go back on his trail several times - a lot of clues turn out to be false or misleading. I really enjoyed the whole concept and I was not disappointed in Stef Penney's idea and her writing.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By David Keymer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"It feels like two different world, Gypsy and gorjio living side by side but not face to face." That's Ray's observation: he's a private eye who's been hired to find a missing woman, a Gypsy, and all he finds is one dead end after another. The gorgios [non-Gypsies] he talks to don't even notice the Gypsies who live next to them and then move on to another site, perpetual itinerants, and the Gypsies stay distant from non-Gypsies because they don't trust or understand them. Ray's half-Gypsy himself, which is why he was offered the job. The Gypsy father of the missing woman doesn't trust non-Gypsies. Besides, he knows that other Gypsies won't talk to a P.I. who isn't a Gypsy himself.

The woman has been missing for seven years but her father is just getting around to worrying about her. No one else Ray talks to seems to think anything untoward happened. Then Ray winds up in a hospital with a major stroke, memory loss, paralysis and the works. Someone has poisoned him but Ray can't remember who did it, much less why it happened.

This intriguing novel pursues its narrative forwards (Ray after the stroke) and backwards (what happened beforehand), using two narrators, Ray himself and J.J., a young Gypsy boy who is the nephew of the missing woman's husband. Ray and J.J. both are appealing narrators and they offer differing perspectives on the clash of worlds, Gypsy and gorjio. J.J. for instance cannot imagine living in a house as opposed to a trailer and Ray has lived in houses all his life. It's mokady (unclean) for a Gypsy to have a toilet inside the house and thus unthinkable. Above all, there is the Gypsies' secretiveness, honed on countless slights from the gorjio world. It makes Ray's progress difficult.

The virtues in this novel are substantial: its picture of Gypsy life, similar to the life of the rest of us in some ways but in others, irretrievably alien; the author's sympathetic portrayal of Ray and J.J.; the slow unraveling of an intriguing mystery; the appealing kind-of-a-love story. On the other side, the novel has substantial flaws. Ray has a back history which explains his melancholy but it's formulaic, a case of a little too much and a little too obvious. The solution to the case is too extravagant, not quite believable. But this is a book worth reading. For three quarters of the book, the mystery works. Throughout the book, the human relations do. And the picture painted of modern day Gypsy life in rural England is fascinating.
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