The Invisible Ones
by Stef Penney
Review by Mel Jacob
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425253212
Date: 04 December 2012 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Roy Lovell, a private detective wakes in a hospital uncertain who he is or how he got there. Eventually he learns he drove a car into a tree. He is partially paralyzed and has trouble speaking, but is told he hasn't suffered a stroke. Later, he learns he was drugged and poisoned. The story is set in Britain in the 1980s.
As his memory returns, he recalls he was working on a missing person case. Lovell is half Gypsy/Romany/traveler. Another gypsy hired him to find out what happened to his missing daughter Rose. Because of Roy's background, the father believes Gypsies will talk to him. The woman disappeared years ago after giving birth to a child.
The narrative alternates between Roy and J.J., a young member of the family into which Rose had married. That family has a history of male children dying young. J.J.'s mother married outside the family, and J.J. has no health problems. The family takes a trip to Lourdes hoping the water will cure the youngest boy, Rose's son. It cured his father who suffered the same disease. They are also proud of their heritage and dedicated to seeing the line continue.
The search proves difficult because of the time passed and the reluctance of the gypsies to provide information. When Roy talks to the Jankos family, he learns little. They are clannish and claim no knowledge of where Rose went.
The novel focuses on the nature of a cultural group that exists on the boundary of society and how members of such a group relate to others. Family relationships are at the core of the mystery. Most readers will not be prepared for the solution to the mystery of Rose's disappearance. While much of the novel is dark, it has its bright spots. Those who like a different type of mystery will find the read interesting and informative about this marginal group, but also about the relationships of the characters. This is Penney’s second novel.