Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
Rose Janko is missing. It has been seven years since she disappeared, and nobody said a word. Now, following the death of his wife, her father Leon feels compelled to find her. Rumour had it she ran off when her baby boy was born with the family's genetic disorder. Leon is not so sure. He wants to know the truth and he hires a private investigator to discover it - Ray Lovell. Ray starts to delve deeper, but his investigation is hampered by the very people who ought to be helping him - the Jankos. He cannot understand their reluctance to help. Why don't they want to find Rose Janko?
Stef Penney is a chameleon. If you liked The Tenderness of Wolves and like me, you were blown away by her voice, her lyrical tone and how your heart lifted because of the beauty of the prose, you'll be surprised when you pick up The Invisible Ones as the two books are as different from each other as, I don't know...jam and peanutbutter.
Still set in the past, but far closer than Tenderness, we meet Ray Lovell as he's engaged by a young girl's father to try and find her. The only thing is, the girl went missing some time ago and no one spoke to the police about it...and the family she married into say she's run off with another man. What makes matters difficult for Ray is that he needs to get in touch with a gypsy family to find more information and no one can give authorities the run-around as effectively as a gypsy. Ray should know, he is one.
I realise that the book might be seen as a commentary on gypsy culture and we expect something akin to the tv shows that have been on these past few years but trust me, this is nothing of the sort. Ms. Penney works hard building up Ray and the investigation. The story is part-told by a young gypsy boy and seeing things from his point of view is a brilliant ploy of the author - so we get to see how they react to Ray and we also see how they react within the family.
The writing is harsher, less polished than Tenderness, but there is a definite reason for this - the book is more crime and investigations so the language and Ray's great voice makes sense. Ms. Penney's strengths lie in her characters. We are totally immersed in Ray's world and that of the gypsies we come to meet throughout his investigation because she makes sure we come to care about Ray and the case. She's a clever girl.
The story unfolds in expected and unexpected ways but our steady compass of Ray remains the same - his own preconceptions and ideas about gypsy life and family get challenged and he comes up against an adversary he did not expected. I realise I'm sounding obtuse but you really do not want to let the cat out of the bag on this one. If you pay attention as you read it, you'll see the clues but what you make of it, until you come to it...that's entirely up to you.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Invisible Ones but think that readers who are still in love with Tenderness and who don't want to have the memory replaced, should be wary. I think she's got a great range and her courage to do something as different and as noir as this, should be recommended. If you've never read Tenderness but you are a crime fiction fan, give this a go.
And a big thanks to Quercus who kindly let me have a copy after I gushed at them in their offices a while ago about how much I loved The Tenderness of Wolves and how it is one of those books that will always stay with me, until my memory goes. *grin* I think they probably just gave me a copy of The Invisible Ones to get me out the door and to shut me up. Here's a video from Stef chatting about The Invisible Ones.