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'Invisible City' by Julia Dahl: Murder mystery set in Brooklyn

Mystery and murder mix in Hasidic Brooklyn
courtesy of Minotaur Books

Invisible City by Julia Dahl


With "Invisible City," Julia Dahl explores the world of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and other environs. Her protagonist Rebekah has a tenuous connection to that world -- her mother was a Hasidic Jew who left Rebekah and her father right after Rebekah was born to return to the closed world that she had grown up in.

Rebekah moves to New York from Florida to work as a journalist. Was part of the reason she came to New York her desire to learn more about the mother who filled so much of her childhood and adolescent years with angst and emotion?

When she works a story about a Hasidic mother found murdered, and she learns that the police are not really investigating the murder, Rebekah is determined to find out what really happened. By investigating the murder, Rebekah is also able to learn more about her mother's world -- a world away from the Florida childhood Rebekah had with her father, a Lutheran minister.

As Rebekah finds out, it's difficult to learn much about a community that keeps itself apart from the rest of the world. They don't read newspapers or attend public schools. They have their own stores where they shop. And, as Rebekah learns, they have their own "police" department. As was also described in the YA book "Hush," the Hasidic do not go to the police with their problems.

In "Invisible City" the characters explain why this is so, but readers will draw their own conclusions. Both "Invisible City" and "Hush" deal with how the Orthodox community deals with sexual abuse. And it's not satisfying.

At the beginning of the book the reader wants Rebekah to meet her mother -- finally. Yet Dahl cleverly holds off on a mother-daughter reunion. Until the last page, where she hints that there may be that reunion, but in the next book. I'm in.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books for review purposes.

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