Cover image for An invisible woman
An invisible woman
Strieber, Anne.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Forge, [2004]

Physical Description:
286 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
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FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Kealy Ryerson has everything a New York socialite could want: wealth, power, a devoted husband and loving children. She was at the salon, getting her hair done, when her cell phone rang and her life changed forever. It was her husband, a high-profile defense lawyer. Run! he said. Take the children and get out of the country. Go now. Trust no one. Within a half hour he was dead, shot down in the street as he left lunch with the district attorney.Kealy cannot run. Her apartment is under surveillance, and she can't get her passport or any money. Her credit cards have been cancelled. She's wanted by the police. She and her teen-age kids are on their own, on the streets, with only her wits to keep them alive - her wits, and some surprising new friends. Kealy is determined to discover who has done this to her and her family.She discovers that she has a invisible advantage - because without her fancy clothes and expensive make-up, her jewels and her hair stylist, no one recognizes her. Not the police, not her husband's partner, not her best friends. A poor woman of a certain age is someone that no one really looks at. But she can watch them. She can follow them. She can use their blindness against them, and walk invisible among the people who want her dead.

Author Notes

Anne Strieber is Whitley Strieber's wife and his collaborator on all his bestselling novels. They've worked as a team on the novels, the radio show, the web site, and the film and television work for decades. In a change from their usual way of working, AN INVISIBLE WOMAN is a project that Anne originated, and that Whitley collaborated on.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This entertaining if routine thriller from newcomer Strieber pits a Fifth Avenue matron against a shattering conspiracy that blurs the line between friend and foe. Upper-crust New Yorker Kealy Ryerson, freshly coifed, nipped and tucked, receives an urgent call from her lawyer husband to grab the kids and run. Overnight, all she has known and loved has become sinister. As Ryerson's comfortable world crashes around her, she must find out who sabotaged her high-powered mate, falsified mob connections and froze her funds. In a dangerous encounter with her police chief ex-husband, who looks right past her, Kealy discovers that without the glitter and makeup that's her usual uniform, a middle-aged woman can simply disappear. Kealy's teenage children, torn from their insulated private schools, join their mother and hopscotch subways to find sanctuary on the wrong side of the tracks. A shaky friendship reaches across class lines as the family of her daughter's school chum joins forces with them to cheat death and pursue justice. A few of the characters defy stereotype, including mob boss Sal Bonacori and his wiseguy-wannabe son, as well as Ryerson herself, though she disappointingly reverts to type in the end. Agent, Russell Galen. (Nov. 3) Forecast: Since Strieber is the wife of bestselling author Whitley Strieber, and Peter Straub provides a blurb, expect more than usual attention for this debut thriller. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When Kealy Ryerson gets an emergency call from her lawyer husband telling her to flee the country at once, she panics and runs to him instead, wanting an explanation. But she never gets one because her husband, his private investigator, and then the district attorney are killed in succession. In this first novel from the wife of Whitley Strieber (Communion), the heroine gathers her two college-aged children and hatches a plan to run-with no idea whom or what she's running from. Kealy, a New York City socialite, faces class and racial differences and is never sure who she can trust-the police, her husband's co-workers, a mafioso client, or the family of her daughter's schoolmate-but she quickly learns that her survival in part hinges on her ability to become invisible to others. The often choppy dialog and mildly annoying subplots hinder this thriller's pace, until about halfway through when scenes begin to tighten, and the pieces fall into place. Public libraries should expect some demand from readers curious to see what a best-selling author's wife can deliver.-Samantha J. Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



CHAPTER 1 O n the day her world ended, Kealy Ryerson was at war, but not with the enemy who was at this moment loading his gun. She was at war with crow's-feet, blue-spotted legs, and a rebellious waistline. She used to laugh off the effects of the years. "I'm just gonna be me, however I happen to be." And Jimmy was cool with that. Yeah, sure. You bet. In fact, what had happened as she floated so easily through her forties was that she slid into a bubble of invisibility. Or, rather, partial invisibility. Because she was not invisible to other women her age, far from it. They were watching every little detail of her disappearance and, she suspected, feeling the same quiet sense of relief that she did when somebody else suddenly found herself dealing with butt drop or turkey wattle: Not me, oh God, not today. Men, however, are not like women. To them, women who are not flushed and trembling with youth are not there ... at all. At first, what a woman notices is nice. The world is becoming mysteriously less annoying. Then it hits her: I'm not annoyed all the time because construction workers and sleazeballs have gotten more polite. But then she asks herself, Has that guy over there cuddling a hundred-pound beer gut and eyeing the femmes really changed? And then he whistles. The familiar piercing wail of the jungle male actually kind of relieves her ... until she realizes that he's not whistling at her, he's whistling through her--at that darling thirtysomething marching along behind her. He's mine, she screams in her heart. Don't you dare take my pig away from me! But the truth is that her sleazeball doesn't even know she's there. For him, she has ceased to exist. And then some jerk steps in front of her in line at the deli, and she kicks the guy--and he's astonished. He didn't see her, he's so sorry! Then she thinks, My God, what about my husband? She does an inventory of the weeks, the months. No, he's not sleeping around. But he is sleeping. A lot. Emergency surgery! She pages through Vanity Fair, Vogue , all the usual suspects, for names of doctors to the stars. She finds Dr. Clayton Ambrose. He hasn't done any stars, but her GP recommended him. Kealy had gotten a week to herself by telling Jimmy and the kids that she was going to London to the Chelsea Flower Show. Jimmy certainly didn't want to go to any flower shows, and the kids wouldn't even want to hear about it. She'd spent her recuperation in a room at the Helmsley, ordering off the Atkins menu and watching soaps until her eyeballs fell out. When she'd "come back" from her sealed chamber, there had been an extraordinary reward. Him: "You look wonderful!" His dear smile into her still slightly puffy eyes said, I know and I'm on your side. Then the kiss, and he really meant it and she was young again and all was well ... tolled the bell. Now, this morning, she was walking down Madison, having just left Georgette Klinger's salon where she'd had a postlift facial and makeup in preparation for tonight's Defense Bar Awards dinner at the Yale Club. A construction guy muttered, "Lick me," as she passed, and she was proud, yes, proud. Behind her, she heard a female voice mutter angrily, but she didn't look back. Then he started making a sound like--what? A parrot? An alarm clock? Oh, no, my God, that's not him, that's my cell phone. Can't be. Nobody has the number. The phone is for emergencies only. She fought it out of her purse and opened it. "It's me, hon." "Jimmy?" "Get out of town. Right now. Take a plane. Run." "Run?" "Do it! Now!" The line clicked, went dead. She became as still as a mouse in a snake pit. This phone was for defense lawyer hazard numero uno--the dreaded Cape Fear scenario where the crazed client comes back from stir with blood in his eye. And she had just heard The Message: It's happened Run. But then what? And where? And what about the kids? And Jimmy himself, for God's sake. Immediately, she hit callback. It rang, rang again--"You have reached James Ryerson. Please leave your message at the sound of the tone." What the hell? The damn thing had to still be in his hand. Drought parched her throat. Jimmy didn't talk in riddles. Jimmy was straight with you, always. Jimmy expected this to be done. N. O. W. Yeah, just drop everything and jump in a plane. Come on, Jimmy, this is me. I'm your wife, not your child And you're scaring me, Jimmy, my God, but you are scaring me! Shaking hands punched in a call to Al Sager, Jim's tough inhouse PI. Al had been with Jimmy since before he and Kealy had been married, doing the investigations that pulled in the key witnesses and uncovered the crucial evidence that enabled Jimmy's clients to walk out of the courtroom ... or didn't. Al always knew where the boss was, who he was with, even what they might be discussing. "Where's Jim?" she asked, her voice under pressure trading its uptown posh for a snarly twang. "At lunch with the Manhattan DA," Al said. "They're at Louis's on Chambers Street." Kealy's boiling thoughts were stilled by surprise. With McGarrigle? Jimmy was a defense lawyer. He fought McGarrigle, he didn't eat lunch with him. Unless he was desperate. So he was desperate. God, please, I love him so-- "You want me to reach out?" Al asked, interrupting what must have been a pretty long silence. "No," she said. She closed her phone. She pounded along the pavement, trying to think this thing out. Jimmy had called her with this warning in the middle of a meal with the DA. Sweat popped out across her upper lip. Her life had seemed so safe for so long that she literally rocked as she walked, fighting dizziness and a speeding heart. Jimmy would have explained things carefully, that was his way, unless--well, there could be only one reason that he'd been so brusque, sounded so curt. He wasn't with McGarrigle at all. He was in trouble right now. The call had been a last-ditch attempt to warn her about something that was already happening to him. She lunged into her purse for her phone. Okay, how did you get information on the goddamn thing? She hit 555-1212. No good. 1411. No damn good! 411. Thank you, God. "A number for Louis's Restaurant in Manhattan." They rang it automatically. One ring. Two. Answer, oh, God. Three. "Louis's." She talked past her heart, which had all but stoppered her throat. "Martin, this is Mrs. Ryerson. Is my husband still there?" "Yes, ma'am. Do you want me to call him?" "Please." She waited on the corner of Madison and Fiftieth, amid the bus reek and the clangor of construction. "Mrs. Ryerson, he says to telephone him from the plane." "The plane?" "Yes. That's what he said." She closed the phone. Her lips, now as dry as leaves on a cutting cold day, slid open. What about life, appointments, commitments? Above all, what about their teenagers, both away at school? Her stomach began digesting itself. She stepped to the curb and hailed the cabs that were streaming uptown like a school of schlocky old carp. All were full; none stopped. A bus roared past followed by another school of cabs. All full. Then an empty appeared, sweet and clean and just made for a desperate lady. She hailed, it glided to the curb--and something crashed into her from behind. "Sorry, I didn't see you," a crisp voice snapped as a blisteringly handsome guy dressed in Paul Stuart perfection slipped into the cab. "That's my--" It took off. The hell of it was, she knew the guy had been telling the truth: he had literally not registered her existence. Now here came a hack so blown that even New Yorkers were staying away. She hailed it, practically getting in front of it to stop it. She approached, drew open the door. The totaled-out crackhead peering over the seat at her was wheezing louder than the practical joke under the hood. She entered. The backseat stank of cheap air freshener and luncheon meat. The cabbie, she saw, was munching a sandwich. Okay, Kealy, what now? Do you go to your man or do as you're told? "Where to, lady?" Come on, Kealy. Do it your way or do it his way. "Lady?" Jimmy's face blazed into her mind, the confident, bright face with the careful eyes. Beloved, dear face. "Look, lady, I gotta move!" She pictured herself out at LaGuardia buying a ticket to LA or Bangor and her heart began hammering. "Okay," she said, "okay." "Where?" "Just a second!" Horns erupted behind them. She had to go, he'd told her to go! But, what if--oh, God. "Take me to Louis's Restaurant on Chambers, please." She twisted in the seat, struggling in her purse for some Turns or something. Her stomach had not only turned to fire, it seemed to be attempting to escape through her esophagus. "Please hurry," she added as she gobbled the antacids. He said nothing. Didn't hear her, no doubt. Men had a tendency to hear only the essentials from invisible women, and sometimes not even those. Had she still been on male radar, they'd be flying right now. "Let's go down the drive," she suggested, trying for a more sultry tone. "Lady, the drive, they got construction in the Twenties. It's a nightmare." Damn and double damn. Now they were passing the reason that she didn't like the route down Second Avenue. Il Nido, with its big, black door. And, most especially, the spot in front of it where her previous life had shattered into a million pieces. She sighed, stared, drawn inevitably back to the hell of life with her first husband, Henry Henneman. Officer Henneman. Henny. Henny had been so beautiful. He'd swept his Upper East Side princess deep into the exotic, burly, shivery-exciting world of cops. She'd gone for him. Totally. Things had been great ... for about six weeks. But then she'd noticed a distance. At first, it was more as if he wasn't really present on the inside. He was charming, attentive, but not there. She discovered that all of his talk was cop talk, and all of his interests were cop interests. When she'd automatically bought her usual seasoners for the opera, he'd thrown his first full-bore fit. He not only hated opera, he resented its mere existence. It went over his head, and things that went over his head made Henny mad. She had been attending the Met regularly since she was eleven. Giving it up made her feel strange and sad. This sadness was like a seed that grew and sprouted, invading her life like an eager cancer. As her husband's white-hot ambition drove him up the promotion ladder, his distance and her sadness had grown, and fast. In the end, her most intimate contact with him was defined by the sound of a shaver behind a closed bathroom door. Finally, her marriage had become a great big list of ifs. If Henny could be a person at home and not a cop all the time. If he could reciprocate some of the love she felt for him. If he could be less mechanical in bed. If it were less than a month between times. A lot of ifs, but her big, strong boy in blue was too involved in his cop world to notice. Being the wife of this young god had turned out to be a ritual of loneliness and left-behind. She'd fought both their Ozone Park lifestyle and her boredom by going to work. Her dad was a lawyer. She took her Cornell degree a step farther and become a paralegal with a Legal Aid job paying $18.35 an hour ... and met one James Ryerson, defense lawyer to the highest of high-profile baddies. She didn't see him often--an inexperienced para like her didn't exactly run in the same crowd as a superlawyer. But then--well, one day after he'd been around the Legal Aid office for no real reason yet again, she'd just decided to call him. She'd suggested a drink. He'd taken her to dinner at Lutece. Dear old Renee, the headwaiter, had asked her if she'd been away. Sitting there in the Garden Room again, back in the cushioned world she'd given up for love, she had cried all over her foie gras. Jimmy was smart, full of humor, full of drive, sparkling like some perfect male crystal. He had bespoken tailored everything and had a big S-Class that he drove with casual aggression. His was a life like the life she'd grown up in, and this desperate, lonely girl had just let him take her in his arms and carry her back up the elevator to the big rooms with the paneling and the views. Jimmy's gentle pleas had compelled her to take Henny to a fateful dinner. She'd chosen one of the elegant haunts of her previous life, Il Nido. She had told him there not that she had a lover, but that she wanted to call it quits. As her words sifted away into the dark of the restaurant, Henny had taken a long pull on his wine, then smiled slightly--one of those inturned, ironic smiles of his that said that he knew, had always known, even from the beginning of damn time, and he, the detective god, was not surprised--never--by the betrayal. Then, a surprise: he'd confessed that he was ready to call it quits, too. She had a lover, okay, then he could admit it now: he had a mistress. He'd hammered one white hot rivet into her heart after another, revealing that he'd had her since before they'd been married and had never even considered giving Mindy Barner up. Sergeant Mindy Barner had driven him home nights, had eaten at Kealy's table, had been her advisor in the art of handling a New York City cop. The pain had been greater than anything she'd ever known before, the agony she'd felt as her veal piccata slowly got cold. "I needed a wife from upstairs," Henny had told her. He'd used her dad's political connections. They were the kind that could help a young cop one hell of a lot, and they had. Look at him now, two decades later. He was chief of detectives and would be chief of police soon. Despite all the years, Henny was still an open wound. In the whispering of her soul, she still loved him. No she didn't. That was ridiculous. It had been two decades. She'd loved a kid, not the man he had become. She didn't even know Chief Henneman. He was out of her life. Be that as it may, the cab was banging across Fourteenth Street before she could once again release the image of Il Nido's door from her mind. At least those lonely thoughts had pushed back the terror for a few moments. Then a new fear chilled her heart. What if this was another breakup? But no. Jimmy came sliding over to her side of the bed at least two nights a week. He still trembled when he held her, still devoured her with his eyes, whispered words of mad love in elevators, made her laugh, came home with crazy little presents, liked nothing better than spending time with his girl. "Come on ," she muttered as they hit a developing traffic backup north of Canal Street. But then an ambulance--a rattling old meatwagon, in fact--appeared. It was blasting on its siren to clear a path for itself in the morass ahead. She was punching Louis's number in again on her cell phone when she became aware that not only was the whole area howling with sirens, the cabbie didn't know how to trail an ambulance, and they were losing ground fast. Now, wait a minute, what was going on around here, anyway? What was that huge blue-and-white van about? She'd never seen anything quite like the gigantic, bleating monster, honking the loudest horn she had heard in a lifetime of Manhattan horns. Ahead, conventional police cars were unloading cops who were rushing out into the street waving their arms. When she saw that they were stopping traffic, the fear came back and it hit her hard. She got out of the cab, paid the doper, slipped and slid her way among the steaming, honking trucks and raging taxis to a jammed sidewalk. People were pressing curiously toward the disturbance ahead. As she pushed past one person and then another, she cursed under her breath, a tight little "Oh, shit." Then she understood that the police activity was focused on Chambers Street where Louis's was, and she began to run. Copyright (c) 2004 by Anne Strieber Excerpted from An Invisible Woman by Anne Strieber All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.