Piker Press Banner
April 15, 2024

The Invisible Ones: Book Review

By Wendy Robards

The Invisible Ones, by Stef Penney.

You take your fragile secret out of the darkness and expose it to the light. You lay it on the ground, where anyone can tread on it. - from The Invisible Ones -

Ray is a private detective who is working through his own personal demons after separating from his wife. He doesn't like missing person cases, so it is with some reluctance that he listens to a Romany man tell him about his missing daughter, a girl gone six years now. Despite his reticence, Ray finds himself pulled into the case and promising to find out what happened to Rose Janko all those years ago after she wed a Gypsy named Ivo.

JJ is Ivo's nephew, a fourteen-year-old boy without a father who has grown curious about his family's secrets. He loves his cousin Christo, Ivo's son, who is suffering from a mysterious family disease. JJ wants nothing more than to find a cure for Christo and uncover the identity of the father he has never met.

As Ray and JJ get closer to understanding what is hidden beneath the surface of the Janko family, things get more dangerous, and what appears to be the truth ends up being something entirely different from what they expect.

Set in Northern England in the mid-1980s, Stef Penney's second novel takes the reader on a convoluted journey to uncover a mystery. Rich in detail about the nomadic life of the Romany people, The Invisible Ones is an intriguing and well-written book. There are two narrative threads which intertwine. JJ's point of view is that of an insider, while Ray (although part-Gypsy himself) is clearly viewed as an outsider. In large part, the novel deals with the idea of identity and how the cultural, familial, and individual roles we play come together to form the complete person.

Strange, isn't it, how you can think of yourself as one thing for ninety-five percent of your waking life, and then an encounter with something or someone jerks you into remembering you're something else, that other five percent that's always been there, but slumbering, keeping its head down. - from The Invisible Ones -

Penney has a way of constructing her novels to provide tension. This novel had me guessing right up until the end when Penney inserts a twist I did not see coming. Despite some moments of implausibility, the plot of this novel held up in the end.

Readers who enjoy suspense mysteries embedded in family sagas will enjoy The Invisible Ones.


  • Quality of Writing: Four stars
  • Characters: Three and a half stars
  • Plot: Four and a half stars

Overall Rating: Four stars out of five

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".


Article © Wendy Robards. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-02-06
0 Reader Comments
Your Comments

The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.