The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm giving this a 5 even though it was really a 4.5/4.75 - I really enjoyed this mystery!
Ray is a half-Gypsy (dad left that traveling life to become a postman) private detective and as such is considered acceptable to Leon Woods, who is searching for his long-lost daughter. Seven-ish years ago, Rose Woods married Ivo Janko - the Jankos being of the "old black blood" and from "somewhere in the Balkans". As is traditional, Rose became part of the Janko clan, and Leon didn't expect to have much contact with her... except no one seems to have heard of/from her in over six years. So he hires Ray to clear up this mystery.
As Ray digs into the Janko's lives, he runs into several sub-mysteries: why is there such division between Tene and his sister Lulu? What happened to JJ's father? What is this "blood" illness that Ivo's son, Christo, has? And why can't anyone give him a direct answer to the question of when Rose disappeared and where? Most important: how did he end up with ergot/henbane poisoning, semi-paralyzed and in hospital?
Interwoven with his story is that of JJ, the son of Sandra Smith nee Janko. JJ goes to school, interacts with non-Gypsy girls, and seems to want to settle down somewhat. He's a teen and starting to look for answers to some of his questions about his father - who he was, why he left, and why there are no photos or signs of him. He cares for Christo and Ivo, helping the family on their trip to Lourdes (Ivo was cured there years ago, and perhaps Christo will also be cured).
The two stories come together in somewhat surprising (and violent) ways, and its clear that neither Ray nor JJ will be the same. What I particularly liked was that not all of the mysteries are resolved, with several loose ends left untidily around for the reader to ponder. While I guess the major plot twist about 50 pages from the end, it was still ambiguous enough for me to think "maybe I'm wrong" until the very end!
Because this is a murder mystery, I'm hoping that Ms. Penney turns this into a series - in any even, her first book is on my To Buy list and I'm keeping an eye out for her next one.
ARC provided by publisher.