Excerpt from Invisible City by Julia Dahl, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Invisible City

A Rebekah Roberts Novel

by Julia Dahl

Invisible City by Julia Dahl X
Invisible City by Julia Dahl
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  • First Published:
    May 2014, 304 pages

    Mar 2015, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt

“What’s your name?” I ask.

The boy hesitates. He lifts his face toward mine and our eyes meet for the first time.

“Yakov,” he says. “Yakov Mendelssohn.”

My phone rings. It’s an “unknown” number, which means it’s probably the city desk. I smile at the boy, then turn and walk toward the beer cooler to take the call.

“It’s Rebekah,” I say.

“Hold for Mike,” says the receptionist.

I hold.

“Hey,” says Mike. “Is photo there yet?”

“Nobody’s called me.”

“Fuck. Is the M.E. there?”

“No,” I say.

“Any ID?”

“Not yet.”

“Is anybody at the scrap yard talking? Any workers?”

I haven’t asked. But I can’t say that. “I haven’t found anybody so far. They’ve got it mostly taped off.”

“Well, keep trying. See if you can talk to whoever found the body.”

“Okay,” I say. I know—and Mike knows—that whoever found the body has likely been whisked off to the neighborhood precinct for questioning. But editors in the office often suggest you do things that are essentially impossible on the off chance you get something usable. Once, after the FBI had raided a pharmacy that was selling illegal steroids to cops, I spent an entire day in Bay Ridge looking for people who would admit they’d bought steroids there.

“Look for beefy guys,” advised Mike. “Maybe hang out outside the gym.”

I took the assignment seriously for about two hours. I actually approached several men—one in a tank top with shaved calves, one exiting a tanning salon, one carrying a gym bag—and asked if they’d heard about the raid and if they knew anybody who uses steroids. Not surprisingly, no one did. I finally gave up and just started walking the streets. I struck up a conversation with some men smoking cigarettes outside a bar and told them about my assignment. They laughed and said good luck.

When I called in to report that I’d found nothing, Mike was gone and Lars, a younger editor, laughed when I told him what I’d been asked to do. “Don’t you love assignments like that?” he asked.

I tell Mike I’ll do my best and hang up. When I turn back from the cooler I see that Yakov is gone.

I approach the man behind the counter again. “Cute kid,” I say.

“He is son of owner,” says the man.

“Of the gas station?”

“No,” says the man. “The scrap yard. I watch him grow up, but he never speak to me. None of them do.”


“The Jews,” he says. “You must be special.”

I shrug.

“You say there is … a woman?” He points his chin toward the yard across the street.

“Someone found her this morning. I can’t believe they haven’t gotten her inside yet. Have the police been in?”

“Here? Yes.”

“Did they say anything? Did they ask you anything?”

The man shakes his head.

I drop my coffee in the trash can by the door and step outside. The cold air stings my face. I look down and aim the top of my head into the wind.

There are half a dozen police cars at the entrance to the scrap yard. I linger a few moments at the corner of the administrative trailer, watching as small groups of men—they are all men—rock on their heels, rubbing their hands together and gazing up at the long arm of the steel excavator, still motionless, with torn metal and a frozen limb hanging from its clenched fist. From this close, I can tell the victim is white. Good, I think. That’s one piece of info to give the desk. The Trib loves dead white women.

Excerpted from Invisible City by Julia Dahl. Copyright © 2014 by Julia Dahl. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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