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


“It’s Rebekah,” I say.

“Becky, it’s Johnny!” Johnny, the photographer from Staten Island, is the only person in the entire world who has ever referred to me as Becky more than once. “Where are you?”

“I’m at the scrap yard.”

“Where? I’m here. I’m in the Camaro.” Johnny and I have worked a couple stories together. I turn around and see his silver Camaro parked across the street, near the air pump at the gas station. Johnny once told me that he “owns” Staten Island. On one of my first stories, he told me to follow him in my car to a subject’s house; then he slid through the end of a yellow light on Victory Boulevard. I gunned through the red, annoyed. Later, in the parking lot where we were scoping for a recently released sex offender, he leaned against my car and said I should be more careful going through reds. They got cameras, he said. Did you see a flashing light? I said maybe and he said he’d take care of it. Write down ya’ plate number for me. I’ll ask a buddy. I wrote down my number and gave it to him; he wrote “Rebecca” beside the numbers. I didn’t correct his spelling. I never got a ticket, though I doubt that had anything to do with him.

I catch his eye across the street and walk over to his car. My former car, a 1992 Honda Accord, died when winter came. It had never seen snow. I sold it to someone for two hundred dollars. On my first day working after it was towed away, I had to tell the desk when I called in before my shift that I couldn’t drive. I worried I might be out of a job. At my interview, Mike specifically asked if I had a car. A good stringer is an asset—we run around the five boroughs to crime scenes and press events, knocking on doors, bothering neighbors; we can get the information or the quote or the photo that sells the story—but a stringer with a car is considered an even bigger asset. Stringers with cars can get to Westchester to sit on big houses owned by sloppy, greedy politicians or doctors or professional athletes. Stringers with cars can knock on doors in Long Island for four hours and get back in time to get a quote from someone in Queens before the first edition deadline. But when I stopped having a car, nobody seemed to care. My guess is that Mike simply forgot I’d ever told him I had one.

“Becky! Get in.”

I go around the Camaro and sink into the passenger seat. The car smells like home. There is a coconut-scented palm tree hanging from the rearview mirror. Johnny’s got the heat blowing high, and I put my hands up close to the vents in the dashboard.

“Warm up, girl,” says Johnny. Johnny is a flirt, and though he’s always overfamiliar, I never feel like he’s actually leering at me. I don’t think I’m his type. Johnny likes big hair and tight sweaters and big blue moons of eye shadow. In Staten Island, he does well. Or so he says.

“Have you talked to the desk?” I ask.

“Dead lady in the pile,” he says.

I lean toward the windshield and point. “Look, you can see her. Right there. In the crane.”

Johnny looks and points. “There? That…” He’s stuck for what to call what he sees, which is a leg. “Jesus!” He twists around and grabs his camera from the backseat. “Watch the car. I’ll be back.” He throws open the long door and slams it shut behind him. As he trots across the street in his cropped red leather jacket, Johnny is adjusting his lens, snapping a photo, and then checking the image in his viewfinder. He gets to the edge of the yellow police tape and snaps away. Click click twist twist look. Click twist look. After a couple minutes, I can see the cold start to slow him. He stomps his feet and rubs his hands together. More clicking. He kneels down, maybe getting the tape in the shot, and jogs toward the trailer where the worker I spoke to is standing, smoking, staring at the crane.

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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