If you want a book that will chill you to the bone while you are sitting on a hot beach during this or any summer, you need to read INVISIBLE. This stand-alone thriller from James Patterson and David Ellis will have you looking over your shoulder for weeks after you finish the last page.
INVISIBLE features a somewhat odd and very smart protagonist in the form of Emmy Dockery. When we first meet Dockery, her job as an FBI analyst is in jeopardy (through no fault of her own, as we come to find out), a situation that is not helped by what some would classify as her obsessive and erratic behavior. Dockery’s twin sister died tragically in a housefire a year prior to the events in this book. To all appearances, her death was accidental and classified as such. However, there are several minor elements that don’t ring true with Dockery, and she begins researching to see if there have been similar instances where others have died so terribly.
"Patterson and Ellis infuse INVISIBLE with a cinematic feel --- I could see it on the big screen in my mind’s eye the entire time I was reading it --- thanks to its near-perfect pacing and occasionally quirky but very smart characters."
As newspaper clippings and copies of Internet articles begin to fill the walls of her apartment, Dockery slowly comes to the conclusion that her sister’s death was not accidental but rather is part of a much larger sequence of similar events that have been occurring for years. The problem is that no one will believe her, and for good reason. In virtually every incident, the death-dealing fire has been classified as accidental in nature. Furthermore, in each case, the fire has left the victim’s body all but impossible to autopsy.
Dockery appears to be grief-delusional, even to retired FBI field agent Harold “Books” Bookman, who was not only a bright star in the agency’s firmament but also her fiance at one time. When Dockery contacts Books --- who, ironically enough, is running a bookstore in his retirement --- he wants nothing to do with her or her theories on both a personal and professional level. Dockery, though, is both obsessive and persistent, and slowly but surely persuades Books that a pattern exists outside of her imagination, and that a killer has operated for years with impunity without leaving any clues or discernible pattern, numbering Dockery’s sister among his many victims.
When Dockery finally obtains frightening and irrefutable evidence that there is a killer among us, the chase is on. Yet knowing that a killer exists and finding him or her are two entirely different things. And as the narrative alternates between an account of Dockery’s efforts and the killer’s recorded diary, the paths of the FBI analyst and the killer slowly but inexorably intersect toward a final and extremely deadly confrontation from which neither will walk away intact.
Patterson and Ellis infuse INVISIBLE with a cinematic feel --- I could see it on the big screen in my mind’s eye the entire time I was reading it --- thanks to its near-perfect pacing and occasionally quirky but very smart characters. One also learns quite a bit about the aftermath of fire and what it does to a body; as a result, the book is packed with forensic information that is worth the price of admission all by itself. People who study this sort of thing postulate that any number of serial killers are operating under the radar at any particular moment, and this thriller certainly provides fodder for that proposition in an immediate and very frightening way. You may read INVISIBLE on the beach, but you’ll leave the light in your hotel room on at night.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 27, 2014