England, in modern times…
“A lot of people don’t realize there are still Gypsies living on the road in this country… They like to think that Gypsies are something from the past…. Picturesque maybe, but essentially gone.”
Private investigator Ray Lovell knows for a fact that there are still Gypsies around, because he is one himself, although no longer a traveler. As THE INVISIBLE ONES opens, Ray lies in a hospital bed, immobile and suffering from amnesia. With the passage of time, bits and pieces of his memory slowly trickle back to him. He remembers a woman, but not who she is. He does not remember driving his car through a fence and has no idea where he had been coming from before he crashed. Then, finally, he remembers the case he was working before his accident.
"Stef Penney brings her Gypsies to life, showing how passionate they are about the lifestyle they have chosen, how strong the family bonds are that they form, and how they scoff at those who prefer to live in buildings."
Ray’s name attracted Leon Wood, a man wanting to hire someone who would understand “their kind”. A non-Gypsy could never be trusted, so he turned to Ray. It seems that Leon’s daughter Rose went missing nearly seven years past and Leon has, at long last, decided to try and find her. Naturally, the trail is cold after so many years have gone by. But, although most people by now have assumed Rose died since there has been no attempt to contact her family, Ray agrees to give it a shot.
As he knows, in the world of Gypsies, women don’t have such an easy life. Once they become daughters-in-law, they occupy pretty much the lowest rung on the ladder. And Rose had double strikes against her when you consider the port wine mark covering a portion of her face. Why her father waited years before hiring someone to find her is anybody’s guess. Maybe he was experiencing guilt pangs, having married Rose off to Ivo Janko in a rush, without regard for her desires. To him, the Janko family seemed like a good opportunity. After all, they are genuine Gypsies, living in their trailers, eschewing brick and mortar. But who could blame Rose if she skipped out soon after the wedding?
The curious thing is that there was a child. Would she really have left him and never looked back? What mother would do that? Ray begins the arduous journey to discovering what happened to Rose and why. The answers he finds are shocking.
Another Janko child, JJ, intertwines the story of his family with Ray’s working of the missing person case, lending another perspective and a nomadic flavor to the mystery. This little Gypsy boy has closely observed his mother and his uncle Ivo --- Rose’s husband --- his great uncle and grandparents, as they live in their own tight community. JJ knows that they harbor a secret, but he can’t quite understand what it is. With the innocence of youth, he wants to help Ray find out.
Between the two viewpoints, a richly textured picture takes shape. Stef Penney brings her Gypsies to life, showing how passionate they are about the lifestyle they have chosen, how strong the family bonds are that they form, and how they scoff at those who prefer to live in buildings. Besides a darned fine story, wow, what an ending.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 12, 2012