Review: “Invisible,” James Patterson, David Ellis

Pros: Meticulously plotted for the most part
Cons: Emmy’s stupidity
Rating: 4 out of 5

Invisible is about Emmy Dockery, an FBI research analyst who’s convinced she’s detected a serial killer that everyone else has missed. He covers up his crimes with fires, but the police and arson investigators never find a reason to suspect any foul play. Emmy manages to rope her ex-fiance, Harrison Bookman (“Books”) into temporarily coming back to the FBI as a special agent (they want him back enough that they’re willing to take him back on a temporary basis). They’re allowed two more people for their team, but Emmy’s boss, Julius Dickinson (“Dick”, of course) refuses to believe anything Emmy finds and seems to have it in for her. One of the crimes Emmy attributes to this killer is her sister Marta’s death, which results in her going well beyond the bounds of anything she should be doing.


The torture details, and some brief details from another murder, are lurid. This narrative dips its toes into ‘torture porn’ in a couple of places. For the most part I get it, since it comes out largely as the coroner, Lia, discovers some very interesting details in an autopsy that have totally escaped local MEs. It is pretty fascinating how the killer seems to have engineered the perfect crime, and some of the detail is needed for that. (It was a detail from an old case that went too far for not enough reason, in my opinion.)

It comes as no surprise when Dick tries to push Emmy into having sex with him–he makes it clear she’ll never get what she needs to work her case if she doesn’t do what he wants. It’s also no surprise that Emmy expected as much and sets things up so she can prove what he said. But while it’s great that she gets the FBI support she needs, I’m amazed that Books didn’t at least suggest that leaving Dick in his job, with the freedom to try to force other women, would be a bad idea.

It is not unusual to see a serial killer tale include a killer’s musings and notes, or manifesto, or dialogue with the good guys. I will say that it’s used in an unusual way that I appreciated. I thought it added nice depth.

Having the main character be a research analyst instead of an agent is excellent. It’s a nice change from the usual, and allows for different kinds of plot twists. I won’t give away the one that I loved, and how it lead to some very nice surprises. Once the bad guy realizes the good guys know he exists he does some intelligent things that I appreciated. In fact, he’s smart enough that it seems the good guys needed a little deus ex machina in order to find him at all–as far as I could tell, a character’s hunch is the only reason why the good guys narrowed down their search to one state.

I wish the authors had made Emmy a little less stupid. Running into a potentially dangerous situation without allowing the armed, experienced people (who are right there on the scene) to go first is horrid. She should be well aware of the number of ways that could jack things up (even not taking into account how dangerous it is for her). She could mess up her own entire investigation. I get that she’s way low on sleep and extremely obsessed, but this event made her seem stupid.

There are some nice red herrings in here, as well as plenty of interesting detective work. The serial killer has decent smarts. If it weren’t for some of the details about Emmy and that one leap of faith, Invisible would be fantastic.

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