Title : Invisible City (Rebekah Roberts Novels)
Author : Julia Dahl
Genre : Mystery
Publisher : Minotaur Books
Publish Date : May 6th, 2014
Source : Netgalley / Publisher ARC
Rating : 4.2/5
Rebekah Roberts is a journalist, a stringer to be precise. She has been working for the Tribune for a while, called in to cover quick-turning stories. She’s a pro at the stakeout. This time it is the murder of a young Jewish woman of an orthodox Hasidic sect. The community is very closed in and tightly knit and Rebekah is having a hard time getting an angle on the story. Because of its political pull even the city police and administration are being very careful of offending religious and community sentiments.
Entwined with all this is the fact that Rebekah is part-Jewish, born of a Jewish mother of just such an orthodox sect. Her mother Aviva has disappeared soon after her birth, leaving her non-Jewish boyfriend and baby to return to the fold. Rebekah has grown up outside of the Jewish culture, knows very little about her mother – her father is reticent, and the hurt of abandonment still lingers.
This is a murder mystery at heart but it takes its time building up. Rebekah’s own feelings about the Jewish community and her mother in particular color the narrative. More than the actual mystery, I liked the social-cultural aspect of the book. It draws you in because the protagonist is an independent free-thinking young woman thrust into close proximity with people with whom she should have shared a common bond, but doesn’t. Rebekah tries to understand the cultural traditions that bind women of this orthodox sect, and comes up with some surprising discoveries. It also helps her bring closure to the search for her mother.
I liked the fact that Rebekah was drawn in great detail. We knew how she thought, what she thought about, and what gnawed at her – a very interesting protagonist caught at cultural cross-roads and in the process of filling a big missing chunk of her identity. For a debut novel, Dahl does very well, skillfully balancing Rebekah’s personal story with the mystery itself. It was interesting getting a look-see into another culture, and I was vested enough in Rebekah’s life that I wanted closure and peace of mind for her. Of course I read on to find the identity of the killer, but getting a strong psychological-social aspect to the story was a bonus.
This was a good read – I would read Dahl again. If you love mystery this is a great pick.