Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
The varied elements of this novel combine to make this both a compelling personal story and a suspenseful mystery. These include a homicide in an insular religious community that to some extent operates under its own laws and a complexly drawn main character with a troubled family history and a job that has her running all over the city inserting herself in other people’s lives. Invisible City by Julia Dahl had me from its premise and did not disappoint as I read. I was so drawn to it I found myself picking it up even when I only had a few minutes to spare.
After graduating with a journalism degree, Rebekah Roberts moved from Florida to New York City to look for a job in her field and possibly be near her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Rebekah suspects her mother may be living in the Brooklyn Hasidic community where her mother grew up, but she doesn’t actually know. As a young woman Rebekah’s mother had a stormy period of questioning, during which she fled the Hasidic community and married, but she left her Christian husband and their baby not long after Rebekah was born and neither husband nor daughter has heard from her since. Unsurprisingly, Rebekah has abandonment issues that surface as acute anxiety.
Rebekah did find work with a newspaper, but so far she’s scarcely written a word of copy. Instead she’s on call, chasing after newsworthy events to gather information and quotes that other writers turn into articles, and that’s how she’s on the scene when the body of a murdered Hasidic woman is found in a junkyard. At the request of the woman’s husband, a powerful man in the Hasidic community, police have scaled down the investigation and the woman's body is buried without an autopsy, raising all kinds of questions in Rebekah’s mind that, because of her mother’s background, feel personal to her as well as professional. Following the threads of the story takes Rebekah into the heart of the Hasidic community, where she is both an outsider and to some degree an insider, and may lead to a career advancing breakthrough article or bring her closer, in understanding if not in person, to her as yet undiscovered mother.
Coincidence might be a little overused in the plot, but the story had me in its grips enough that I hardly cared. I don’t know a lot about Hasidic life so I can’t say how accurate the portrayal in this book is, but the community is presented in an intimate but sympathetic light, with people of various levels of belief treated by the author with respect. This is the first of a series and I will certainly seek out the next book, though it’s hard to imagine a more powerful story for Rebekah than this one. I look forward with some confidence to seeing what Julia Dahl comes up with to match it.