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

    Paperback:
    Mar 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


I wait beside the door to the office trailer, studying the men’s interactions to whittle down the number of people I’ll have to approach to get the information I need. A man in a hooded sweatshirt and work boots comes around the corner and I stop him.

“Excuse me,” I say, flashing a smile for a moment, then cringing as the cold sinks into my teeth as if I’d just bitten down on a Popsicle. “Sorry to bug you, but do you work here?”

The man doesn’t look me in the eye, but says, “Uh-huh.”

“Were you here when they found the body?”

“I was in the cab.”

“The cab,” I say, pulling my notebook and pen from my coat pocket. “What happened?”

The man shrugs and looks over my head. “I was just pulling up loads. That barge was supposed to be out hours ago.” He lifts his chin in the direction of the flat boat sitting on the canal, a pile of scrap in a low mound on its belly. “I was just pulling, and Markie started screaming over the radio. Shouting. I looked out the window and saw a couple guys running.”

I’m scribbling as fast as I can, trying to maintain eye contact with the man and write something legible enough to dictate back to the desk. In my notebook, his quote becomes: pull loads, mark scream radio, look wind saw guys run. I nod, inviting him to tell me more. “Could you see her from the cab?”

“I thought it was a guy, because of the hair.”

“The hair?”

“Well, not the hair. There’s no hair. She’s bald.”

I stop writing. “Bald?”

The man nods and lifts his eyes to the crane. “Her head was … I could see it.”

“What could you see, exactly?”

“I saw her foot first, then, well, once I saw the foot and I knew, I could tell. Her color, she didn’t match the scrap.”

“What were you thinking?”

“I fucking picked this lady up. I didn’t fucking see her in the pile and I closed her in the hook and … I was thinking, I don’t know. I was thinking how cold she was.” He shivers and wipes his hand across his face.

I need more. I need him to say something like, “I couldn’t believe it—I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

“Wow,” I say. “I mean, could you even believe it?”

He shrugs and shakes his head. That’ll do.

“How long have you worked here?” I ask.

“Almost a year.”

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

“A dead body in the pile? No.”

“Can I ask your name?”

He hesitates. “Nah, I think … I think that’s enough.”

“Are you sure?” The desk frowns on anonymous quotes. “Even just a first name?”

He shakes his head. Last ditch, I smile and lean in a little. “Are you sure? It would really help me out.”

“I think I probably helped you out already.”

“What about … Markie?” I say. “Do you think he might talk to me?”

“Maybe.”

“Could you maybe point him out for me?” I’m smiling again, cocking my head, trying to make my eyelids flutter.

He looks around, his hands deep in his pockets. He nods his head toward a group of Hasidic men and workers huddled at the wheels of the excavator.

“Don’t tell him I gave you his name.”

“How can I tell him?” I ask, trying one last time. “I don’t even know your name.”

He nods. No smile of recognition. Just a nod. I wait another moment, then say thank you and turn toward the crowd at the base of the scrap pile, which is more like a mountain range than a mountain. It spans hundreds of feet along the canal, rising and falling in peaks and valleys of broken steel. The scale of the piles is dizzying. Mack trucks parked at the base look like plastic Tonkas in their shadow. The grapple is shaped like that claw you manipulate to grab a stuffed animal in those impossible games in the lobby of Denny’s. I stuff my notebook in my coat pocket and my phone rings. It’s a 718 number.

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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