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Where the Dead Lay Mass Market Paperback – June 22, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Christopher Reich Reviews Where the Dead Lay

Christopher Reich is the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Deception, Numbered Account, and The Runner. His novel, The Patriots Club, won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Novel in 2006. His latest thriller, Rules of Vengeance, will be published in August 2009. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Where the Dead Lay:

Welcome to the Jungle. Open the first page of David Levien’s terrific new novel Where the Dead Lay and you’ll find your shoes firmly planted on the mean streets of Indianapolis, Indiana. This is tough turf, home to hell-bent criminals, double-dealing lawyers, lost souls seeking redemption, and a brooding P.I. named Frank Behr who, as his name implies, is the toughest of them all. It’s a dark world full of shifty, dangerous characters and Levien paints it as a masterpiece of grays and blacks. We’re talking Caravaggio here. Chiaroscuro. We’ve walked these streets before, in Detroit, D.C., and Miami Beach, with authors like Ross MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, and Peter Blauner. But it’s been a while since a new author has shown up to rival them. Enter Mr. Levien.

His first novel, City of the Sun, established his bonafides. I read it in a day and I came away shaken. This was a crime novel of a different order. Sure it had solid plotting, an unbeatable ear for dialogue, and compelling characters. But it also had a depth of humanity and pathos that lifted it out of the genre. Where the Dead Lay continues in this rich and satisfying vein.

When Frank Behr’s Brazilian martial arts instructor is brutally murdered, Behr is compelled out of friendship, and a student’s duty, to investigate. The serpentine trail leads to the city’s underbelly, notably to the Schlegels, a family of small-time hoods with big-time ambitions, and no compunction about doing whatever necessary to realize them. Levien’s writing shines in his depiction of the bad guys. They don’t come to life so much as walk in your front door, sit down on the edge of your bed, and put a gun to your head. They are real. They are scary. Behr has plenty of his own problems to sort out along the way. The “dead” referred to in the title are as much from the past as the present. It’s Behr’s internal struggles that make him a memorable hero and lend the book its eloquent voice.

Where the Dead Lay delivers on all counts.

It is crime fiction at its finest. —Christopher Reich

(Photo © Katja Reich)

Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by David Levien

Some Things You Need to Know

Many people ask me for advice on writing a crime novel, how to go about it and what they need to know. The question provokes in me the immediate desire that they had asked someone else—say a Hammett, or a Chandler, or an Ellroy, a Leonard or a Child—someone with a pile of books to his name and a patina of mastery, and not me with my two crime titles (City of the Sun and Where the Dead Lay) so far. Though the responsibility and length of a proper answer is daunting, here is a short one: you need to know at least a little bit about a lot.

You need to know a little bit about guns, a touch about surveillance, at least something about police procedure. Some knowledge of the law can be useful, perhaps a basic understanding of fighting and physical violence. You need grounding in the facts or history of crime—the way organized crime works, about various frauds, how a gambling ring takes its profit, the elements of extortion, the layers of a drug operation. This stuff and more is the stock in trade for my character Frank Behr—it’s what keeps him alive—so I’ve had to learn it.

You may not have an ex-police officer, Secret Service Agent, and private investigator for a stepfather (who also happens to be a great guy) as I am fortunate to, or count amongst your friends ex-cops and various experts in the field. But if you can get a ride-along or develop some relationships with law enforcement, it will surely help.

More than all that though, you need a sense, or at least a theory or idea, as to why these people do what they do. This goes for the bad guys as well as the good guys, your heroes and your villains alike. Whether you are dealing with dissociative personalities, sociopaths, or full-blown psychopaths, or drawing the obsessive types who pursue them. What makes them get started crossing that line, or trying to hold it, and what makes them keep going when the odds are against them? It’s not easy supporting oneself by scamming or dealing or boosting, and it’s no easier trying to stop it.

Oh yeah, then you’ve got to write it all down. Now that’s the part where real advice is called for, and again, please ask someone better qualified than me to give it. But if you do set out, and you happen to find yourself frozen by the specter of the thousands upon thousands of crime books, many of them true works of literature, that have come before yours, you could always resort to what so many of the greats have from time to time—steal a little.—David Levien

(Photo © Peter Andrews) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Indianapolis PI Frank Behr juggles two cases in Levien's disjointed follow-up to City of the Sun. When Behr's Brazilian jujitsu instructor is shot to death execution-style at the Brazilian's martial arts studio, he decides to investigate unofficially. A real job soon comes Behr's way when a high-powered PI firm asks him to track down two of their missing investigators, who disappeared in the middle of a case involving derelict properties being used for illegal gambling dens. In taking a close look at the gaming dens, Behr comes face to face with a family of thugs who have launched a turf war to secure a monopoly on neighborhood crime. Despite the book's hefty body count, Levien is more interested in exploring the nature of violence, contrasting the controlled beauty of jujitsu with the unpredictable dangers of gunfights. While readers will admire Behr's determination to solve his friend's murder, some may feel that case distracts too much from his formal assignment. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307387216
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307387219
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on July 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The debut novel of the Frank Behr series by David Levien - "City of the Sun" - was hands-down terrific, and I gave it a five star review last year. When I saw the second book of the series was out, I snapped it up in eager anticipation. Unfortunately, "Where the Dead Lay" fails to live up to that early promise, and a comparison of the two books is inevitable.

Whereas in "City" Behr was moody and introspective - somewhat like Dave Robicheaux - in "Dead" he just comes across as cranky and mean. Levien successfully enmeshed us in Behr's grief over his dead son in the first book, but barely even tries to do anything like that this time around. At the end of "City" Behr seems to have reached an accommodation with his grief, and at least a measure of redemption for his sense of guilt. But in "Dead" we pick up the character as if that has never happened. Behr's girlfriend Susan is pregnant with his child, he's unhappy about the fact, but there's not really any examination of why that's so. It's almost as if this entire side plot is an afterthought, and isn't dealt with meaningfully in any way... including a definitive resolution.

Worse yet, Behr's opponents in this work are a mélange of redneck boneheads without a lick of smarts among them, a trailer-trash family of wannabe crime lords focused on taking over the "pea-shake" market in Indianapolis, evidently a form of gambling similar to the numbers racket that's popular with the lower classes and immigrants. These venal hoods are nothing but dumb muscle, yet somehow have managed to carry on their activities without arousing any interest from the authorities at all.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Frank Behr arrives at his friend, Aurello's martial arts studio and finds that he's been murdered. Frank surmises that it must have taken three men to overcome Aurello.

Something burns in Frank and he knows that it is the need to take revenge on the killers. As he begins searching for their identity, he's asked to look into the disappearance of two private investigators from one of the prestige agencies. At first he declines but his old boss, Capt. Pomeroy, gets him to reconsider with the possibility that it might help Frank get back onto the police force.

Frank is told that there are "pea-shake" houses where gambling takes place in low rent, condemned buildings. Someone has been attempting to take over this action and they are killing or beating the people who would be their competitors.

As the tension mounts, we follow Terry Schlegal and his three sons, together with a former con named Knute, as they plan to take over all of the pea-shake houses; according to Financial Gary, this would be worth tens of millions of dollars.

The novel moves with breakneck speed with plenty of action and violence. The author knows how to write a thriller and captures the reader's attention, not letting go until the final page.

I enjoyed the story and the protagonist, a mixture of strength, bravery and integrity with just the right amount of tenderness. The Schlegal family were well described villans, unique in their madness and combined immorality.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Wilson on August 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's the thing: David Levien can write. There's passion and soulfulness and a lot of sorrow in his descriptions of how his private detective, Frank Behr, sees the world, and that alone sets Levien apart from most of the more famous mystery writers of the day. Levien appears to be writing because he needs to, not just 'cause he's got a multi-book contract to fill (success is not always good for a writer). "Where the Dead Lay" isn't nearly as potent as Levien's stunning first novel, "City of the Sun", but tonight it had me lingering at a coffee shop counter long after I'd finished my meal, and it's kept me up til 1:30 in the morning to finish. Tonight, Mr. Levien reminded me that there is no sweeter day than the one you've spent with a really good novel and for that I am most grateful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bonner '62 VINE VOICE on November 28, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I took this book on an overseas bsuiness trip and didn't finish it. When I got home I read two more books before I got around to picking up this one again. I'm glad I did. While the first half marches in place the last part moves right along. The bad guys are a family of toothless trailer park juice heads (but their mom loves them). This isn't a ringing endorsement and there are a lot of better books to read but I actually got caught up in how the hero rounded up the bad guys in the end. The author laid the groundwork for having the hero become a PI and kind of Stone Barrington type "consultant" to the Indianapolic PD and a Kroll type high end PI firm. I'm not tempted but if you like the book more than me then feel free to give any follow-ups a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brook J. Cross on October 4, 2010
Format: Audible Audio Edition
Other reviewers have covered the territory of those in the "disappointed" category like myself quite well. I'll just add a little. Levien is still a good writer and Frank Behr can be a compelling character but here he was just too unhappy and too mute to make it interesting for a full book. You find out your girlfriend that you love and live with is pregnant and you then don't call her or speak to here for 3 days or a week. That's too weird a reality to want to believe in or follow. Man up and talk. It's possible to be manly and a street fighter and still talk and be occasionally happy. Makes me yearn for Lucas Davenport. But don't quit. Sun City was really worthy.
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