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

I can’t imagine why they haven’t brought the poor woman down yet, though I’m sure Johnny is thrilled he got here in time to get his shot. In the time I’ve been working for the Tribune, I don’t think they’ve ever actually published a photograph of a dead body. I worked a scene out in Queens in September where a kid had tried to ride his bike Back to the Future–style behind a delivery truck and ended up with his head spread open on the pavement. The photographer took dozens of shots of the lump beneath the white sheet in the middle of the road, and the blood-dark pavement around it, but we published a picture of the truck, and the driver sitting on the sidewalk with his head in his hands. They also didn’t use the quote I got from a witness who described the sound the boy’s head made when it hit the blacktop. But photographers, like reporters, know they have to get every angle, every detail—just in case. In case their editor is in a particularly perverse mood; in case the Ledger has the image or the detail and we need to match it.

Johnny seems to be trying to talk to my worker and his friend, but neither’s lips are moving much in response to his questions. My guy points to where he pointed me, to the group of men beneath the crane: workers, Hasids, police. Johnny jogs over, staying just on this side of the yellow tape. An officer in his star-brimmed hat stands guard, and I watch Johnny show his badge and try to sweet-talk him into letting him get closer for a shot. The officer listens without engaging. His eyes dart around him. Johnny is persistent. He’s pointing and gesticulating as if this stranger was an old friend to whom he was recounting some wild encounter.

My phone rings. It’s the desk.

“I need whatever you’ve got for first edition,” says Mike. I read him the quotes from my construction worker. “Still no ID?”

“No,” I say, about to explain that the poor woman is still dangling forty feet above the canal, when suddenly everyone begins running: the crane is moving.

“I gotta go,” I say, opening the car door. “They’re bringing her down.”

Outside, Johnny is frantically changing his lens. “This shot is gonna be shit. Shit!”

I leave him be and get as close as I can to the excavator, pressing against the police tape. The cage is swaying, and as the long yellow arm guides it slowly toward the ground it makes a low, rattling moan. The workers and police step back, forming a circle around the base of the cage. The two Hasidic men from the bodega, now joined by several other men dressed just like them, stand to the side. Everyone is watching the leg. The thigh, the knee, the bare foot. And as it gets closer to the ground there is more. Her skin has color, bluish white, like skim milk. When the cage gets within a couple feet of the ground, it stops abruptly. A policeman shouts something I can’t understand to the crane operator, and the operator shouts something back. The metal arm shudders, pulling the cage up. More shouting. Now the officers all have their hands up, they’re shuffling back and forth, looking like circus clowns scrambling to catch a trapeze artist. Finally, the bottom tip of the cage touches the frozen ground. The new slack shifts its contents, pressing down on the body. There is more shouting, and the officers move in, touching the cage, touching the metal scraps, not touching the woman. It’s hard to imagine how they’re going to get her body out without crushing her.

Within moments of each other, two vans pull up. One has blue and gold Hebrew lettering on the side. The other says KINGS COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER. A uniformed officer lifts up the yellow tape and lets both vans enter the yard. Out of one jump Orthodox men in broad-brimmed black hats, with neon green vests over their coats and white strings hanging from their hips. Out of the other jump men in blue jumpsuits. They all run toward the body.

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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