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Book Review: Invisible City

June 1, 2014

Jacket Image, Invisible City by Julia DahlInvisible City
Julia Dahl
St. Martin’s Press
May 2014
I received an advance copy to provide an honest review

This had everything a good mystery needs: a strong sense of characters and their voices; an even stronger atmospheric sense of place; a really interesting look into a community and culture that gave me a chance to learn and be curious; well-developed voice for the narrator, whose own story colored her observations but didn’t get in the way of the plot; excellent suspense; and of course, the power to keep me glued to my couch, engrossed and reading and ignoring homework I should have been doing. Did I mention that I read this in February?

I know, I know, I should probably begin with giving you a brief description of the plot, saying that Rebekah Roberts is starting to follow her dream of being a reporter in New York by working as a freelance stringer. And that going to Brooklyn to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman is a story that has more layers for Rebekah, whose own mother left the Orthodox community in Brooklyn when she met Rebekah’s father, but abandoned them both to return to her faith when Rebekah was just a baby. So, Rebekah comes to the case with a complex relationship to it. And there is also a fascinating look into the relationship between the Orthodox Jewish community and the NYPD.

I had no idea about the complex relationship between the NYPD and the Orthodox community, and was especially intrigued by the way that could complicate police procedure. That, in addition to Rebekah’s own history, complicates the way Rebekah covers the story and tries to pursue the truth. Another aspect that impressed me was Rebekah’s real acknowledgement of her own anxieties, both the anxieties and stresses that made sense in context, and the physicality of living with anxiety. Especially well done.

I meant to write my review of this earlier. Part of the delay was, of course, grad school. (Sigh) But part was the fact that I loved it as a really good, solid mystery with a chance to read and learn about cultures and watch culture and place and expectations. So I was afraid I’d gush if I reviewed it right after I read it. But… I let some time go by, and I’m still just as ready to say this is a must-read for mystery lovers, especially those who love a good mystery set in New York.

Interesting footnote: I first met Julia Dahl when I was a student in her features writing class. I went into reading Invisible City hoping I would like it, but not knowing I would love it as much as I did.

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