Penney is an interesting and unique writer. Her characters are not extremely likable but plot and setting sustain the Invisible Ones. I found this novel a difficult read at times. Ray, the main character, is engaging and three dimensional and even memorable, perhaps because he is himself wounded in several ways. Ray is also part Romany, a fact that has led to his hiring. The narration is split, alternating chapters are told by Ray and JJ, the young nephew of Ivo. JJ provides an interesting counterpart and a different insider's view of the Janko clan. He is a somewhat naive narrator because of his young age, but it seems abundantly apparent from the start that JJ is himself, either withholding something vital to the investigation, or about to stumble onto a big clue. While I enjoyed these two characters and their opposing narratives, I found this to be stylistically jarring at times. There are few writers who can flawlessly juggle this alternating viewpoint style of narration. While I grew to expect the alternating chapters, and even understod why it was necessary in this story, I felt the chapter transitions might have benefitted from a minor massaging to make it flow better.
The setting of the story is very unusual and Penney scores points for that to be sure. The cultural elements are rich and believable. This is a world where some characters are full gypsy (Romany) and others only half. Intermarriage is frowned on and Rose, it turns out, was only a half Romany wife. There were many moments I felt it took far too long for the climax of the story to speed up the pace of the plot and create any urgency at all.
Penney is an interesting author, a bit mysterious herself. Born and raised in Scotland she was for a time agoraphobic. Her first novel The Tenderness of Wolves was an international bestseller. This is the first novel I have ever read by Penney.
The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, Viking Canada, January 2012, $30.00, 416 pages, Fiction
This one gets $$$ out of $$$$$. If you enjoy mysteries with strong and compelling cultural backgrounds you will enjoy this novel. I was not compensated for my review but receive a free copy of the book for review purposes.
Thanks to Bronwyn Kienapple, the author and Penguin Canada for asking me to be part of this blog tour.