Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Invisible City

Author: Julia Dahl
Genre: Suspense
Type: e-book Advanced Reading Copy
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
First Line: "I was in Chinatown when they called me about the body in Brooklyn.'

Book Description from GoodReadsJust months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, an Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she’s also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah’s shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD’s habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can’t let the story end there. But getting to the truth won’t be easy—even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it's clear that she's not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider.

In her riveting debut Invisible City, journalist Julia Dahl introduces a compelling new character in search of the truth about a murder and an understanding of her own heritage.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Minotaur books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  I do love me a great mystery.  If a little extra 'somethin'-somethin' is thrown into the mix, all the better for this reader.  Invisible City is the debut novel by Julia Dahl and I found it to be quite impressive.  Not only did she write a compelling mystery but she included the intriguing addition of the ultra-private Hasidic community into her storyline.  I enjoyed getting a very personal look into what it would be like to be a woman in the Hasidic community. 

"Most Heredi in Brooklyn are descended from Holocaust survivors.  My mother's entire family - six brothers and sisters, her parents and grandparents - were murdered by the Nazis in Poland.  We know intimately how quickly our goyish neighbors can turn on us.  We know that to survive we must rely on one another, we must support and protect our fellow Jews.  We do not do this because we do not believe that sin should be punished. 
"The strength of our community is vital to our survival.  You look at us and you see black hats and wigs and you think we are to be pitied.  You think you know better.  But you don't see more than you see.  You think the prohibition against men and women touching is misogynist.  You don't see the tenderness, or passion, with which a husband touches his wife after she is niddah.  You think that clothing that exposes you flesh makes you free.  but in my modest clothing I am free from the leering stares of men.  I am free to be judged by my intellect and my actions, not my body."

Personally, I found learning about the Hasidic community fascinating and it was my favourite part of the book.  Seeing their 'cultural baggage' and the legacy of hate, condemnation and discrimination that they continue to deal with on a daily basis was eye opening.  I appreciated how Ms Dahl compassionately and respectfully showed the strong sense of community and determined self-preservation of the Hasidic culture.  

Ms Dahl also spent time letting the reader get to know Rebekah.  Sure she's a new reporter and has to deal with the chaos that comes with that job but it's seeing how Rebekah is still dealing with the absence of her mother, her acute anxiety disorder and getting to know her Hasidic roots is what really solidified Rebekah as an interesting protagonist for me.  Rebekah is young, impulsive and new as a reporter and I liked that she faltered and make mistakes.

Invisible City was a solid mystery with enough twists to keep me guessing.  But this book also has the added benefit of educating the reader (at least this reader) on the Hasidic community - a community that I knew very little about before picking up this book.  The book was nicely paced for the most part -- although I will admit to a little bit of a lull in the middle of the book.  Overall, this was an impressive debut mystery read and I'm interested to see where Rebekah's search for her past takes her in the future books in this series.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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