Invisible City by Julia DahlInvisible City by Julia Dahl
Narrator: Andi Arndt
Series: Rebekah Roberts #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on May 6, 2014
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 7 hrs 49 minutes
Format: Audiobook
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Just 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.

I almost didn’t get pass the first hour of this audiobook. Rebekah is young. The story is told in the first person and I had a tough time relating to her. I don’t need to hear about her and her roommate’s marijuana use, about her sex life, especially no details please. I understand that her mommy abandoned her, but she was like 6 months old at the time. Yes, I get that she has anxiety issues, but she dwells on everything – she’s young, 22, only months out of journalism school and still relatively new to New York. I was going to tire of her quickly, but once the actual mystery kicked in it was a lot better.

I will say the narrator had the perfect voice for Rebekah. It was like Rebekah was telling me the story. She did well with the other characters to, but she was best at Rebekah, which is how it should be in a first person narrative.

This is actually the second mystery I’ve read/listened to recently that dealt with an American population I’m not very familiar with, this time around it’s Hasidic Jews. They are a very insulated community, by choice, and Invisible City uses that apartness well. The Jewish community in Brooklyn has enough money and influence to more or less police themselves, so when the woman’s body is discovered, even though the police are there, she’s taken away by the Jewish people, with no autopsy and the investigation seems to pretty much stall out. But Rebekah, egged on by an old friend of her mother’s, a man who says he’s on the police force, keeps asking questions.

Rebekah is young and new at the job, which I think is supposed to excuse her from some stupid mistakes. She’s also easily offended by her boyfriend who seems like an honestly good guy who’s just trying to protect her. I’m not a Rebekah fan, still, although she grew on me a little. She just makes bad decisions, not that that’s unusual in a female amateur detective. The mystery, however was good, especially the insights into the Hasidic community. I also like how it shows the variety of people in the community – those who don’t fit and end up leaving to some extent, those who find it empowering, those who are harmed by its secretiveness and reluctance to accept help from outside.

If I could have read the same mystery with a different protagonist, I think I would have enjoyed it more. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next in the series – based on the end of this one it will have something to do with Rebekah’s mom and I don’t know that I want to read all the mother-daughter drama that’s bound to result in.

About Julia Dahl

Julia Dahl was born and raised in Fresno, California. She stumbled onto the staff of her high school newspaper in 1994 and has been chasing stories ever since. These days, she specializes in writing about crime and criminal justice. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and cat.


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