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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Big Fat Gypsy Mystery
I don't envy Stef Penney the task of writing a follow-up to the Costa Award-winning The Tenderness of Wolves, and I'm glad she's gone for something completely different rather than trying to emulate her phenomenally successful debut novel.

The Invisible Ones is at heart an old-fashioned murder mystery, complete with an accident-prone, unlucky in love private...
Published on 10 Sept. 2011 by Denise4891

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok, but...
I've given this three star on account of the ending which didn't really tie up many loose ends for me, it feels like there's more to come if you know what I mean!

Other than that I really enjoyed the read, I couldn't put it down and I really wanted to know what happened next! Some things really took me by surprise, it's just a shame that the ending leaves you...
Published on 6 Sept. 2012 by Nooka


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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Big Fat Gypsy Mystery, 10 Sept. 2011
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Hardcover)
I don't envy Stef Penney the task of writing a follow-up to the Costa Award-winning The Tenderness of Wolves, and I'm glad she's gone for something completely different rather than trying to emulate her phenomenally successful debut novel.

The Invisible Ones is at heart an old-fashioned murder mystery, complete with an accident-prone, unlucky in love private investigator in the shape of Ray Lovell. I warmed to Ray instantly (it probably helped that he reminded me a lot of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie). When we first meet him he's lying in a hospital bed with no memory of how he got there. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Ray was hired by Leon Wood to find out what happened to his daughter Rose who disappeared six years earlier, shortly after her arranged marriage to fellow Gypsy, Ivo Janko. It also transpires that Ray was chosen to investigate Rose's disappearance because he too is of Romany descent.

As we know from the recent TV documentaries, Gypsy and travelling communities tend to be very private and wary of outsiders. That is certainly the case with the Jankos (with good reason), but other than that this isn't an in-depth exposé of Gypsy life and culture. The Jankos aren't part of a large travelling community but are living on the edge of `normal' society, with some members holding down jobs and going to school. They keep themselves to themselves due to a `family curse', the hereditary blood disorder which has resulted in very few male children making it past puberty. Ivo suffered from it as a child and his son Christo is now badly afflicted by it.

Ray's investigation unearths a number of skeletons which the Jankos would prefer to keep buried. Along the way he encounters quite a few red herrings which send him (and the reader) off down the wrong path, and the final twist is a bit of a shocker which I only saw coming at the very last minute. So all in all a very enjoyable read, but once again I stress that it's a very different kettle of fish to TTOW so don't be expecting more of the same. I'd certainly recommend it to fans of Kate Atkinson and other intelligent/less gruesome crime writers, and I did wonder whether Stef Penney had any plans to turn it into a series - I think there's plenty of mileage left in Ray and I'd like to see him investigating other crimes, both within and outside of the travelling community.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different, very good, 10 April 2012
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Hardcover)
I loved Stef Penney's first novel, set in Canada in the 1860's and feared the leap to her second novel, set in England in the 1980's, was going to be too big. Of course I was wrong and fell in love with The Invisible Ones. It's as powerful and beautiful as her debut, but in a very different, more subtle way.
What starts off as a noir detective thriller soon becomes a mystery novel, the characters slowly working their way into you, becoming real people. And what a great pair they are (the story jumps back and forth with ease between two perspectives): the flawed and scarred private investigator and the innocent teenager, both with big hearts, both to some extend outsiders in the Romany world.
Stef Penney proves (again) to be a great storyteller, being able to describe places and people seemingly without ease, but with great beauty and strength, her pen (well - keyboard, I assume) sometimes as sharp as a knife. I willn't spoil the end for you, but it's not as farfetched as some readers apparently think... Just go with it.
It's a book that is intriguing from the start, growing on you as you read, becoming a page turner almost impossible to put down. After I finished, the two main characters lingered on in my head for a long time, the places kept haunting me, the strong atmosphere surrounding me. A mystery that's more than just about the plot, an imaginative book rooted in a real world, a treat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Follow up to Tenderness of Wolves, 20 Mar. 2012
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Hardcover)
'When I woke up, I remembered nothing - apart from one thing. And little enough of that: I remember that I was lying on my back while the woman was straddling me, grinding her hips against mine.'

Ray Lovell, a private investigator wakes up in hospital, confused and semi paralysed. As he starts to make sense of what has happened we are drawn in to the story with him, sorting hallucinations from real events. He issearching for a woman, missing for six years after marrying Ivo Janko. Lovell has been chosen for the job because he is is half Romany, though brought up gorjio by his parents. As is so common now there are two alternating narrators - the other being JJ, Janko's illegitimate 14 year old cousin who is trying to navigate adolescence with the added complication of being regarded as a dirty gypsy. JJ's narrative has spark and some real pathos. There is a road trip to Lourdes in the hope of a miracle saving six year old Christo, Ivo's son, who has the mysterious family disease that led to two of his brothers and two of his uncles dying young.

This is Penney's first novel since Tenderness of Wolves. It's not the knock out that novel was, and it lacks pace at times but it is very readable and held my interest throughout. Other reviewers have mentioned the twist at the end. I had guessed it some time in advance, so for me the book's merits have to be more about the insight in Romany life and in the telling of the mystery story. It succeeds but not quite holding you in the same page turning manner as her debut novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well constructed mystery story, 21 Jan. 2013
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Hardcover)
Stef Penney set herself an extremely high bar for her second novel, her first having won the Costa Prize and critical acclaim. 'The Invisible Ones' is a very different novel in terms of setting and theme, but is just as well written. It is narrated in the first person by two characters, alternating a chapter each. One is Ray, a private detective hired to investigate what happened to a young woman who went missing from a reclusive Gypsy family several years before. The other is JJ, a teenage boy and part of the family in question. Ray is an interesting, believable character, whereas JJ's 'voice' is not entirely convincing as that of a teenage boy and rather inconsistently written. However I can happily forgive that since this is a very compelling and absorbing story, tightly plotted and well paced, which is hard to put down. The story is original and surprising, and whilst I worked out the conclusion a few chapters before the protagonist did, it was still a pretty good twist. The characters are well drawn and intriguing, and the writing style is clean and very easy to read. Overall, this is an excellent novel that will be enjoyed by those who like 'literary' fiction as well as fans of the crime genre. Looking forward to her third novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars ‘As it turns out, the memory loss may be the least of my problems.’, 29 Dec. 2014
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Kindle Edition)
This novel is set in the world of the Romany people, a world in which the Romanies themselves are trying hard to maintain traditional ways of life. A world that Ray Lovell, himself of Romany descent, thought he’d left behind him. Then Ray is asked to trace the missing wife of Ivo Janko, and soon discovers that the Janko clan has many secrets. Rumour has it that the missing wife ran away after it became clear that her child was afflicted with a genetic disease, leaving the baby behind with her husband and family. While the Jankos resist Lovell’s investigations, his ancestry enables him to make some headway. The search for Rose, the missing wife, takes Ray (and us) into a confusing maze of clan connections and half-truths.

The narrative is divided between Ray’s investigations and the thoughts of Jimmy Janko, who is known as JJ. Like Ray Lovell, JJ is of mixed blood and is trying to survive in two very different worlds: school, and the caravan. The caravans (there are five on the Janko site) allow little privacy, and contact with the outside world is regarded as unclean. But surely someone knows where Rose is, or what has happened to her?

I found this novel absorbing, with its glimpses into a totally unfamiliar way of life. Ms Penney made these characters come to life as recognisable individuals, with their own backgrounds, prejudices and values. And the ending? Well, I didn’t see it coming and I didn’t want to believe it. But it works. While this is a quite different novel from ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ in many ways, they share an atmosphere of isolation. In ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ it’s created by the physical environment, in this novel it’s a consequence of cultural difference.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lived up to its predecessor!, 18 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Paperback)
It was going to take a lot to follow Penney's first book, 'Tenderness of Wolves'... but The Invisible Ones is a worthy successor.

Set in southern England, the story is told by two characters;
Ray is a soon-to-be divorced PI, whose father was once a gypsy. This link to a minority culture leads to him being asked to investigate the disappearance of a gypsy girl, Rose, who hasn't been heard from for over six years, since her marriage to Ivo Janko, a gypsy man.
JJ is a 14 year old gypsy boy, and nephew to Ivo, Rose's former husband. He is beginning to mistrust his small, isolated family, and finds himself suspecting that all is not as it seems.

Throw in the possible attempted murder of Ray, a mysterious genetic illness afflicting only the men of the Janko family, the discovery of skeletal remains on a former Janko site, and the difficult coming-of-age journey that JJ is experiencing, and you have the ingredients for a really enjoyable read.

The mystery may not be too difficult for the reader to solve, however the unravelling of family secrets and how those concerned will live with the truth keeps you interested to the end.

Thoroughly enjoyable, would definitely recommend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok, but..., 6 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Paperback)
I've given this three star on account of the ending which didn't really tie up many loose ends for me, it feels like there's more to come if you know what I mean!

Other than that I really enjoyed the read, I couldn't put it down and I really wanted to know what happened next! Some things really took me by surprise, it's just a shame that the ending leaves you hanging.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Education, 15 Dec. 2012
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Hardcover)
I too bought this book on the strength of her debut novel. There were many aspects of this which I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the things that I like to take away with me when I finish a book is the feeling that I have learnt something, be it educational or something a little deeper.

It was so refreshing to read about a community that so few of us will have had any real contact with and I think she has hit on a winner with the main character of Ray. However, she may well decide that her third book will again be something completely different.

As an avid reader of thriller/psychological novels I have to say that I am becoming a little tired of the same formula being trotted out by some authors. When you have read a few you actually know what is coming next. Although I had an idea of what was about to unfold here the style in which it happened did take my breath away.

A thought-provoking, enjoyable, as well as disturbing novel. Sincerely hope that she comes up with something as original a third time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Invisible Ones, 18 Sept. 2012
This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Paperback)
I loved this book, the story line is brilliant & I have to say I couldn't put it down once I had picked it up. The two sides of the story are great & I just wanted to keep reading & reading. Just when u think u have it all right in ur head an amazing twist of events will start to change your view. Just a fantastic book. I think its a MUST read x
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A gyspy soap-opera, 7 Sept. 2011
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This review is from: The Invisible Ones (Hardcover)
I snapped this up when it was recently published as I have fond memories of Penney's debut, The Tenderness of Wolves. This book couldn't be more different.

Set in 1980s England, the novel consists of two points of view; Ray, a private investigator who is employed by the parents of Rose Janko to find out what happened to her 7 years ago that caused her disappearance and JJ, a teenage gypsy who comes of age and finds out some truths about his secretive, close-knit family. The case of missing Rose brings Ray, also of gyspy blood, into contact with the Janko family to whom JJ belongs, and both sides struggle to come to terms with gypsy blood, family, and secrets.

As I said this is a very different novel to Tenderness and while it definitely isn't as 'special' as Tenderness, it was still a skilfully told story which left me thinking about the pages I recently read. The denouement is a little too 'soap opera' for me which spoiled the read somewhat, but as Penney did 'fairytale' with Tenderness, and now 'soap opera' with Invisible Ones, I guess she is trying out different story types. She is a skilful writer and a story is safe in her hands.
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The Invisible Ones
The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
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