Wednesday, November 18, 2009

David Levien's Frank Behr series, books 1 and 2

City of the Sun

MP3 book/audiobook read by Scott Brick
Books on Tape, Incorporated
ISBN: 1415945543

Where the Dead Lay
Kindle book

Books 1 and 2 in the Frank Behr Series, by David Levien

General comments on the series thus far
I'd call this hard-edged detective fiction that is actually about a PI (who was *formerly* a detective). The strengths of the series are that the main character, Frank Behr, is tortured and self-hating while also being smart and able to get out of his own misery (mostly). He has been wounded emotionally by the death of his child, so he has the tortured psyche thing going. He misses his work on the police force (he was let go), so he has the "I am a fuck-up who has nothing to lose" thing going. He's observant, thoughtful, ruthless, quiet, and sad--all of which makes for, to me, a very interesting character; he sounds like a lot of others, but I did not find him stereotypical or wooden.

Series takes place in Indianapolis, which I like because it's city without many pretensions to grandeur--and yet there are compelling stories to be told, etc. The book draws from the nonentity-ness of Indianapolis in a way; what I mean is, it doesn't rely on the well-known image of a certain place (NYC, LA) to carry itself. It provides its own world-building.

The series focuses alternately on Behr, the victims of the crimes he is investigating, and the perpetrators, so you get multiple points of view on the crimes/investigations. In the the first book, City of Light, Behr works with a father/mother whose child has been kidnapped. In Where the Dead Lay, he works on two cases, one of which involves someone he knows.

What is great about the series?
The books are impossible to stop reading/listening to; the author is great at suspense and dialogue, IMO. Frank Behr is extremely likable and interesting in his self-hatred. The author is sensitive to racial tension/class tension and seems to be interested in what causes people to act criminally. The crimes are so horrific as to be unforgettable.

What do you not like so much about it?
The crimes are so horrific as to be unforgettable. The worst crimes are inevitably perpetrated by lower-income "redneck" racist white people--it'll emerge later on whether that is the case throughout. The author does try to portray these people in all of their hateful complexity. The books have big "movie" finishes--I see that the author was a screenwriter, and so this makes sense. But with great characters like Behr, it's not always necessary to have a big violent payoff--IMO. Not all who read crime series feel the same.

What about the audiobook in particular?
It's read by Scott Brick, who is one of the best readers out there.

What about the Kindle version in particular?
A couple of spacing issues/typos. I get the sense this is a Kindle formatting issue, not a print publisher problem, but I don't know.

Will you read more in the series?
I will. I found the first book more compelling/focused in tension and plot, but I liked part of the second. The series could be at a turning point: some fairly formulaic character development things happened in book 2, and I'm interested to see how the author will respond; in my opinion, he'll either keep his character interesting or stereotypify him.

These are great crime novels, I have to say--it's great to find a new series that has such promise. I hope the author keeps them strong/interesting.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Dude--did you get a Kindle?

  3. I did--couldn't take the wait for the nook!

  4. I am an avid reader~ I read David Levien's City of the Sun, enjoyed it very much. Then I bought his second book. Where the Dead Lay. I was disapointed in it, and don't know if I want to purchase any more.