The narrative of The Invisible Onesswitches back and forth b...moreThis and other reviews can be found on my blog, Just a Lil Lost
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5/5 stars)
The narrative of The Invisible Ones switches back and forth between Ray, a private detective and JJ, a young boy who lives with his Gypsy family - the Jankos. Ray, being part Romany himself, is hired by the father of Rose, a missing woman who hasn't been seen since she married into said Gypsy's family years ago. The Jankos are an eclectic bunch, ones who move from site to site and generally keep to themselves & are distrustful of others. Afflicted with a hereditary disease that affects the males in the family, the Jankos believe that Rose left without a word was because she didn't want her ill son. Finding himself deeper and deeper into this reluctant family's lives, Ray must figure out what happened to Rose and what the family is trying to hide.
My initial thought on Penney's book was that it was just another detective mystery, but almost right off the bat it proves to be so much more. All the characters are so well developed, allowing you to really get a feel for who these people are. The altering viewpoints allow for additional insight, yet maintaining the mystery as both Ray and JJ try to find some answers to their questions. While the "main" character may be Ray, JJ really shines through and shows some growth and depth in his character. While the timing in Part 2 felt a bit confusing, the overall pacing & layout of the story is well done. Just when you think you have the story all figured out, the ending will leave your jaw hanging open.
As one character mentions to "let sleeping dogs lie", this old adage seems to be a very appropriate theme for the entire novel. Once you start pulling and pulling at that string, digging deeper and deeper, you better be prepared for what you uncover. A fantastic read that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat till the very end!
Set in Old Havana,The Beggar's Opera follows several main characters as they race again...moreThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil Lost
Set in Old Havana, The Beggar's Opera follows several main characters as they race against time to solve a brutal assault & murder of a young boy. It's Christmas morning when the boy is found in the water, and Inspector Ramirez is heading up the investigation. Ramirez races against the clock to secure an indictment, all while he believes himself to be suffering from the same disease that his grandmother had - seeing the ghosts of unsolved crimes.
What a whirlwind of a crime novel! I was immediately caught up in the story from the beginning, with Blair's depictions of the Havana city and way of life absolutely engaging. The writing is full of detail and research, but not over-done as to make the reader feel lost or overwhelmed with law jargon or Cuban slang. The descriptions of Havana hotspots and landmarks paint a vivid picture of the setting to this mystery.
One thing that I picked up on throughout the book, which really had no relevance to the story, was the constant mention of things being Chinese. Chinese tape recorders, Chinese table tennis, Chinese bicycles... I didn't understand why, and it really started to bug me. I think I ended up noting at least 6 instances of this, thinking that China was somehow going to make its way into this story about Canada/Cuba but to no avail. [Edit: Peggy explained that it was interesting to see how reliant Cuba was on China for so many things because of the embargo. However, maybe a small precursor would be helpful for those who don't know much about Cuba or the embargo. Learn something new every day! :)]
That factor aside, I loved Blair's storytelling and story-weaving in this debut novel. The Beggar's Opera keeps you wondering and guessing right to the end with the twists and revelations. As it's narrated by the several main characters, you get to learn new evidence and information as they learn it. The pacing is fantastic and all the breadcrumb clues that are laid out in strategic detail along the way make for a satisfying payoff.