“A scared young girl, a reluctant wife. A woman who’s been made to disappear.”
That’s what’s emblazoned on the cover of THE INVISIBLE ONES to tempt you in. Oddly enough it utterly fails to capture my experience of the book, which I read on my Kindle and therefore didn’t see the sleeve until just now, searching for the image above. Like Penney’s huge bestseller, THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES, this is a mystery but unlike that book it’s set just a couple of decades ago and on the Traveller and Gypsy sites of Britain. Ray Lovell is a private detective hired to find the whereabouts of a young girl, Rose Janko, who has not been seen by her parents or siblings since her wedding to Ivo. Rumour has it that she ran off not long afterwards with a gorgio, but her father isn’t convinced.
Told through two alternating narratives, that of Ray and that of JJ who is Ivo’s nephew, THE INVISIBLE ONES takes a bit of time to get going and contains far too many unnecessary plot diversions to be really successful as a thrilling mystery novel. JJ’s insight into life as a Gypsy and the social exclusion he experiences is touching but doesn’t feel that convincing, whilst his angst about the identify of his father and what his family members might be capable of was badly overdone. Likewise, Ray’s own story isn’t substantial enough to make him stand out as anything other than a vehicle for the truth to be revealed – he’s barely more than two dimensional and giving him a love interest in the Janko family fell a bit flat for me.
All that said, this isn’t a bad book. Penney can definitely write and THE INVISIBLE ONES both held my attention and evoked my sympathy. But as the slightly off kilter words on the cover suggest, this is either a book that is neither quite one thing or another – or one that is trying to be something which it’s not. To sum up: not a patch on THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES.