Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Invisible Ones

The Invisible Ones
Author: Stef Penney
Putnam, 2012
416 pages

This book is still hot off the presses, so I'm really excited to be one of the first to read it. Mostly set in England (with a portion set in France) in 1986 or so, it's a detective story and also a coming of age story, told by two characters.

Main character Ray Lovell is a hard luck private detective whose cheatin' wife has left him all messed up. Half Romany Gypsy, half gorjio (non-Romany), Ray is in the hospital when the book opens, suffering from an unknown condition that has him partially paralyzed with no memory of what has happened. Slowly, he begins to remember a recent missing persons case he worked on involving a young Romany woman. The woman, Rose Wood, married into an "unlucky" Romany family -- The Jankos -- and has not been seen by her own family since the wedding some six years ago.

Meanwhile, young James "JJ" Smith is a teenager being raised by his single mother and her family . . . The Jankos. They live in a trailer encampment on the outskirts of town: JJ and his mom, grandparents, uncle, and cousin Ivo and his son, Christo. When the book opens JJ and his family are in France, on their way to Lourdes, hoping for a miracle for Christo, who has the family curse -- an unknown illness that has killed many young Janko boys -- a source of their unluckiness.

While Ray navigates the Romany culture to find Rose (who was Ivo's wife), JJ navigates gorgjio society. He's a good kid and a good student with lots of potential, but not knowing his father (or who his father is) is eating him up inside. Eventually JJ's path will cross with Ray's, and we can only hope after reading The Invisible Ones that Ray will continue to be a role model for him.

Ray has his own demons, of course. Will he be able to fight them off? Will he get his memory back? Will he find the missing woman? Things aren't always what they seem in The Invisible Ones. Guess you'll have to read it to find out. :)