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Invisible City (Rebekah Roberts, #1)
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Invisible City

(Rebekah Roberts #1)

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  4,235 ratings  ·  706 reviews
A finalist for the Edgar and Mary Higgins Clark Awards, in her riveting debut Invisible City, journalist Julia Dahl introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage.

Just months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to re
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Minotaur Books
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  4,235 ratings  ·  706 reviews

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Jun 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
One of my favorite lines from a movie what I have since forgotten goes something like this:
'I know you're a reporter. But you were once a human being.'
This line kept coming back to me as I read the very unfortunate Invisible City, a gritty murder mystery that I would not have wasted my time on, but for the tie in with the Hasidic community, a distant relative to me as an Orthodox Jew, and a strong desire to rip this book to shreds upon completing it.
IC is about a young woman named Rebekah (funky
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Award winning debut novel from Julia Dahl. Takes place in New York where the main character Rebekah Roberts is a contract journalist for a city newspaper. Covering her latest story of a woman's body found in a junkyard in Brooklyn, she comes into contact with a closed religious community largely populated by Hassidic Jews.
The author delves into this closed culture to give a closer view of a segregated community that isn't well known or seen. This book reminded me of Linda Castillo's books highl
May 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Very quick & easy - I read it in 3 days. It was an interesting, intriguing murder mystery but I was uncomfortable with how the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park was portrayed. Everyone was either mentally ill, protecting a family member who was mentally ill, or trying to escape from the community. The ending totally left me hanging and she didn't bring any closure to Rebekah's relationship with her boyfriend Tony. There's probably a sequel in the works . . . ...more
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Initial Thoughts: So I picked up this book around lunchtime and finished it before dinner. This book deals with a murder investigation in NYC's Hasidic community. Rebekah Roberts is assigned to investigate the murder for her newspaper and she uncovers quite a lot of interesting tidbits. The story is told from Rebekah's point of view and the story kept me enthralled throughout. Rebekah's voice and the author's attention to details made the story feel very much an authentic depiction of the Hasidi ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The varied elements of this novel combine to make it both a compelling personal story and a suspenseful mystery. These include a homicide in an insular religious community that to some extent operates under its own laws and a complexly drawn main character with a troubled family history and a job that has her running all over the city inserting herself in other people’s lives. Invisible City by Julia Dahl had me from its premise and did not disappoint as I read. I was so drawn to it I found myse ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Gwen by: random ARC from book club
Shelves: book-club
Reread for mystery book club, 8.16.2016

Maybe my standards have changed since the last time I read this book, but I didn't find it as bad as I did 2 years ago. While the supporting characters seem poorly depicted, Dahl does an excellent job of characterizing Rebekah, a freshly minted journalist in her first full-time position. (The mystery is still not great and full of red herrings, and I'm not planning on reading more in the series, though.)


5.28.2014 review

May 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Average - everything was average in this book: the character development, the plot, the writing. Average is being generous.

Intrepid girl reporter finds herself in "danger" in the big city. She is accompanied by the ubiquitous best fried and an extremely peripheral love interest [Insert the remainder of any other 'mystery' novel you have read here]. Nothing new to be found in these pages. This book is obviously setting up all the books that are going to be in this series. The only problem with t
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A mystery that takes you to the depths of a strange culture - that of ultra-orthodox Jews living in New York. It is a closed and secretive community that protects its own vehemently. In this case, it makes them try to cover up a murder of a young woman. A young freelance journalist with distant ties to the community is caught up in the story, and finds out more about her own family history on the way to solving the mystery and discovering the murderer. Believable and realistic, the novel sheds l ...more
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very thoughtfully written debut novel!!! I learned so much about the Hasidic community which I previously knew nothing about!!! I really, really look forward to the next in this series!!! 4.5 stars!!!
Jan Rice
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
The young heroine of Julia Dahl's new book, the first of a series, is in New York working as a stringer for a tabloid and trying to be a reporter, when she gets involved in investigating the murder of a Hasidic woman. Remembering Catch-22, she thinks,

Man is matter. Drop him out a window and he will fall. Set fire to him and he will burn. Something like that. I always remembered those lines. To me it felt like a carpe diem thing. Like, you've got this body, this life, and it's all you've got. But
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio, 2015, 2016
Just not good. The hook for this little mystery is that our heroine, an annoyingly feckless girl reporter, is the daughter of a Hasidic mother who abandoned her as an infant and returned to the fold. Now, our gal, Rebekah, writing as a stringer for the bastard child of the NY Post and the NY Times, the "Trib", finds herself living in Gowanus (my hood!) and investigating the murderous doings of NY's Hasidim.

Two big problems here for me: One, she writes about Hasidim (who she frequently confuses
Sep 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction-mystery

Stories about insular religious communities are always a bit gutting while at the same time absorbing in their details. I quickly moved onto the second in this series Run You Down. Both are mysteries involving Hasidic communities in New York. Insular communities pose challenges for law enforcement- because they can vote. In large numbers. Also, the Hasid have their own police force called Shomrim. Add murder and a tenacious reporter to this equation and you have a perfect shit storm.

And what hap
This is book #1 in the Rebekah Roberts series (2014-2017), and I finished it in only three days. I liked it. Invisible City is a semi-edgy murder tale set in New York City (kryptonite for me, a lover of any bleak East Coast setting). On a cold winter morning, young journalist Rebekah Roberts is sent out to cover a new case: the body of a young woman is found naked in a Brooklyn scrapyard. It turns out that the dead young woman was a Hasidic Jew, a disclosure that compels Rebekah, the abandoned d ...more
Jenifer Jacobs
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I don't think I have finished an audiobook so quickly (less than 24 hours) in a very long time. I absolutely loved the main character, and the writing is terrific. The story, a mystery, encompasses themes of attachment, abandonment, journalism, ethics, mental illness, and how a tight-knit religious community can inadvertently impede necessary outside interventions. The last 13 minutes of audio was a question and answer with the author that was also fantastic. I am on hold for the next book from ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent debut novel! Kudos Julia for a wonderful story and such a smooth read. I had a hard time putting it down. I definitely will read the rest of the books in this series! Thank you!!
Tellulah Darling
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Hasidic community has always fascinated me and I'm always up for a good mystery, so when I saw this book, I had to pick it up. It's a solid read. Good writing. The mystery may not be the most challenging, but it had enough interesting twists and turns to keep me going.

Mostly, I really enjoyed Rebekah's brush with her mother's community. The insights she took away from it both as a perspective on another culture and what it meant for her personally. Definitely recommend.
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating view into the difficulty of uncovering crime hidden within the closed society of Hasidic NYC, and the hectic life of a tabloid newspaper stringer, all viewed through the anxious (and sometimes unreliable) eyes of a young reporter. First in a new mystery series.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rebekah Roberts is a stringer for a downmarket NYC rag. When a woman's naked body is discovered in the rubble of a building site, Rebekah happens to be the reporter given the story.

It has particular resonance for her. The dead woman is from Brooklyn's secretive Hasidim community. Rebekah's mother was from this same community: rebelling against its strict rules, she ran off to Florida with Rebekah's (Christian) dad, had Rebekah out of wedlock, then ran back home, deserting her lover and child. So
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Invisible City first caught my attention because of its focus on Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn. That it is a murder mystery, my favorite genre, sealed the deal for me to read it. Julia Dahl delves into the secret world of the Hasidic community of Borough Park in Brooklyn, where Orthodox Jews adhere to a style of life and set of rules from a long history of isolationism. Dahl does an excellent job of shedding light on how the mix of modern world and tradition can collide in untenable situations for so ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Young (like, early 20s young - she's like, really young) heroine who works as a stringer for a tabloid newspaper in New York City gets sent to a crime scene at a scrap yard. The victim is a mother of four, a member of the ultra-orthodox Hasidic community. A stringer's job is to go where the newspaper tells you to, but the heroine is drawn to stay on the story in large part because her own mother is/was Hasidic, left the community to be with the heroine's father, and ultimately abandoned her part ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Highly readable crime drama with a New York grittiness about it. The main character, Rebekah Roberts, was interesting but I wasn’t sure how I felt about the portrayal of the Hasidic community in New York. It was interesting to learn some of the “behind the scenes “ of the community but I was curious if this was a fair assessment.
The writing here is pedestrian and gaps in the author's understanding of Hasidic culture occasionally show through, but I still enjoyed this tale of a twenty-two-year-old in over her head and struggling to understand both herself as a person and the expectations of the adult world. Bonus for having lots of female characters with complicated, multi-layered interactions.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Lighter, simple writing that was at times punchy, at times tedious. I REALLY liked the freshness of basing this on a young reporter and grew to like the challenge of identifying with her young age & then experiencing her growth (kudos to the author on this front!). From a storytelling perspective, most elements were too convenient for my reading taste & I questioned some holes & incongruous aspects, but there's a foundation here that may prove interesting. More interesting might be seeing this j ...more
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Folks have told me on a couple different occasions that I could/should write a book. I smile, say thank you and think to myself "just because I like writing, doesn't mean I could write a good book". This book lends itself to a different opinion: If this woman can get published and featured at my library's "express section". (Usually reserved for new books in high demand), I suppose I too could write a book.

That doesn't mean I would be a great author. Instead, it means that sometimes a ho hum au
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Invisible City by Julia Dahl tugged at my curiosity about Hasidic Jews. They are indeed an invisible city, unless we read a book about their life by a former Hasidic we really don’t know that much about their lives. The author is a journalist who writes about crime and if the main character could have a wish, I believe that she would like the same career.

Rebekah Roberts was raised by her father after her mother left her when she was just a few weeks old. Her father met her mother in the religion
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brooklyn’s Hasidic community inhabits the eponymous “Invisible City” of Julia Dahl’s debut novel. Into those tradition-bound confines ventures Brooklyn hipster and recently minted journalist Rebekah Roberts. She’s used to being sent out on weird, mind- and body-numbing assignments, like waiting for hours in the freezing cold to get a quote from a woman the paper calls “Porn Mom’’ (she let her boyfriend take pornographic pictures of her children). Rebekah salutes and marches wherever editors send ...more
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
I really enjoyed this book - had a hard time putting it down. The pacing is pitch perfect, the characters interesting, and the story takes into unfamiliar worlds - top it off with topicality and voila! Entertainment!

Our intrepid heroine is Rebekah, a young reporter trying to live her dream in New York City, faced with all the challenges you might imagine. Added to this soup is her own personal mystery - what happened to her mother, a Hasidic Jew who abandoned her faith to marry and then abandone
Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Any book description that deals with Jewish history, traditions or beliefs catches my eye. That's why I downloaded this premier audio book by Julia Dahl. I have very little knowledge of the Hasidic beliefs; so I can't judge whether some of the practices portrayed in this book are accurate. But I did like the protagonist, Rebekah , an aspiring reporter trying to make it in New York. An interesting twist is that her mother, who abandoned her as a baby, was a Hasidic Jew. I like Julia Dahl's writin ...more
Nov 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Truly awful. Our supossedly plucky, smart, Jewish detective knows not one single thing about Hasidic jews, tho her mom is one. "what? the women shave their hair?" It was one shocker after another for our protagonist. on her trail to solve a homicide, she never learns to wear a coat in winter in NYC -- ohhh it's so cold out! and every time she finds out a clue, the stupid reader has to hear of it twice, first when she learns it and again when she write about it. Finally, why do all young women, e ...more
Adam Merrifield
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a bad read overall, if not overly simple or predictable. It's well paced, and feels reasonably well researched but it does feel like so many other stories that try to pry into and demonize insular communities. While the blame isn't directly laid on the belief holders, it does hint that the root cause might be their society as a whole.
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Laurie R. King Vi...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Invisible City by Julia Dahl - VBC July 2016 71 53 Jul 25, 2016 12:22PM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Sep 18, 2015 04:32PM  

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Julia Dahl was born and raised in Fresno, California. After almost 20 years in New York City, she now lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband and son.

Dahl began her career as a journalist working as a fact-checker at Entertainment Weekly. Since then, she has been an editor at Marie Claire, a freelance reporter at the New York Post, the deputy managing editor of The Crime Report, and a c

Other books in the series

Rebekah Roberts (3 books)
  • Run You Down (Rebekah Roberts, #2)
  • Conviction (Rebekah Roberts, #3)

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