If your debut novel wins the Costa Book of the Year then the 2nd book is always going to be anticipated with some relish and Stef Penney doesn’t disappoint with this murder mystery, set in the gypsy community in the 80’s. Told through the voices of the private investigator who is trying to find a missing girl and a charming 14 year old gypsy boy the story twists and turns drawing the reader on to the inevitable – and only - conclusion.
Comparison: Barbara Kingsolver, Leif Enger, Louise Erdrich
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The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
Small-time private investigator Ray Lovell veers between paralysis and delirium in a hospital bed. But before the accident that landed him there, he had promised to find Rose Janko. Rose was married to the charismatic son of a travelling gypsy family, Ivo Janko. When Ray starts to investigate her disappearance he's surprised that her family are so hostile towards him. The Jankos have not had an easy past. They are a clan touched by tragedy - either they are cursed, or they are hiding a terrible secret. Could it be that Rose's discovery of that secret led to her disappearance all those years ago? Soon Ray wishes that he'd never asked the question.
'Penney is a good storyteller. She unfurls various mysterious plot possibilities and unearths the insecurities that lurk in families and relationships. She imagines the Romany world carefully, avoiding cliche or judgement or anything too negative ... there are moments of transcendence here, moments where Penney's writing really excels'
. 'a gripping yarn
. 'If her debut was a literary Western, then her new tale is something of a bookish version of a Bogart puzzler. As a film graduate, Penney's approach to prose is cinematic and inclusive
Independent on Sunday
. 'It would take far longer than my allotted space to explain the dense plot of this highly impressive thriller ... A terrific novel with much disturbing wisdom amid the thrills
A N Wilson in Reader
's Digest. ' ... intriguing mystery'
Woman and Home
. '...haunting tale ... this is a beautifully crafted novel with skilful characterisation and a plot which twists and turns ... this story of loss, deceit and family tragedy lingers long after you've finished the book
. 'Penney's portrayal of the gypsy way of life is sympathetic. Seemingly bizarre customs are given a context; strong love is set against deadening control ... Ivo's return trip to Lourdes with JJ, Christo and their grandmother is a marvellously atmospheric piece of writing
. '...gripping novel ... [comparing The Invisible Ones to the film Chinatown:] there is shared mood and mystery, a slow clearing of muddied waters
. 'What readers will remember is the way of life that Penney describes so evocatively and the myth-exploding details about travelling families ... I still found it hard to put down
. 'The mystery element of the story is adroitly handled, as clues and subtle inconsistencies in the Janko story are dropped in. Yet its destination is a total surprise, and if that is because it stretches the bounds of credibility, Penney is confident enough to let her characters say exactly that. The Invisible Ones is a book about love, deception, growing up, belonging, being an outsider and about how all our presents are haunted by our pasts. Its author is a supreme story-teller on top form
. 'The skill and dedication to her craft shines through in her second novel ... the intrigue that is introduces in the first few pages rarely wears thin. The book's fluidity and pace is generally maintained by Penney's excellent characterisation. Lovell is a flawed but likeable lead with stereotypical traits that have been presented many times before but rarely this well ... this time around Penney has aimed for a character piece. Her characters are her environment: deep and well developed ... Happily Penney has crafted an arresting tale that is engrossing and leaves space to amuse the reader ... After writing a bestseller at her first attempt, Penney has avoided second book syndrome, delivering a dark and remarkably gripping novel
The Big Issue
. '...this is an accomplished, polished tale ... Penney takes her time building up suspense and drawing us into the heads of her characters, but never lets up on intriguing and mysterious situations. She is a true storyteller ... she knows how to tell a story, how to reach her readers and hold them from start to finish. Indeed, she may be one of the best storytellers we have at the moment
. 'The search for the missing woman supplies a suspense which makes this a real page-turner ... Penney feels intensely the significance of space - on the one hand boundless frozen landscapes, on the other, the cramped confinement of the caravan ... A thoroughness underpins Penney's atmospheric creation and she is totally free from sentimentality ... Where will she take us next?
. 'The sense of a muggy summer in Eighties Sussex, the mysteriously unconventional tensions of family misfortune, and the lovely light lilt of Penney's writing are all confidently combined in a dark-edged puzzle novel
. '... an elegiac feel for a vanishing way of life
We Love This Book
About the Author
Stef Penney was born and grew up in Edinburgh. After a degree in Philosophy and Theology from Bristol University she turned to film-making, studying Film and TV at Bournemouth College of Art. On graduation she was selected for the Carlton Television New Writers Scheme and has since written and directed two short films.
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Quercus Publishing Plc
is an imprint of Quercus
Starting out in a small office in Dorset Street, London, the company quickly expanded, producing best sellers with each of its first two titles, Universe and Speeches that Changed the World.
As well as winning awards for their books Quercus also won Small Publisher of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards and the PLUS New Company fo the Year in the Fast Growth Business Awards.