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Magwood on Books

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Reviewed: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, Quercus

The Invisible OnesHaving had my fill of South African thrillers, I turned with anticipation to The Invisible Ones.

Stef Penney won the Costa Award in 2006 for her debut novel The Tenderness of Wolves, which was set in Canada in the 1860s. She’s taken her time with this second book, and it’s been worth the wait. The Invisible Ones is a marvellous mystery set in the Gypsy, (or as they are now known) Traveller community in England.

Small-time private investigator Ray Lovell wakes up in a hospital barely remembering how he got there. He has been looking into the disappearance of a young Traveller wife. The only reason he was given the case is that he’s half-Romany himself, otherwise the community would shut out any gorjio – non-Gypsy – investigator. Gradually he rebuilds the story of his investigation and its startling story.

This vanishing world is intriguing, with its ancient lore and customs, and Penney illustrates beautifully the pride of a people forced to live on the margins of society, disdainful of the idea on living “in bricks”. The story twists and turns until it reaches an astounding climax. A gripping read.

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