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City of the Sun: A Novel Hardcover – February 26, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Frank Behr Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Screenwriter Levien's debut crackles with raw intensity as it hurtles from a placid Indianapolis suburb to a dingy Mexican outpost. Paul and Carol Gabriel are devastated when their 12-year-old son, Jamie, disappears on his paper delivery route one morning. Fourteen months later and with the police no closer to finding Jamie, they hire PI Frank Behr, an imposing ex-cop with a checkered past. Behr soon discovers that Jamie's disappearance was no random grab but part of a larger operation run by Riggi, a real estate tycoon who deals in everything from drugs to stolen children. Reluctantly allowing Paul to accompany him, Behr tracks Riggi's men to Mexico, where he and Paul discover the true extent of Riggi's depravity as they race against the clock to find Jamie. Levien expertly weaves a subplot involving the tragic death of Behr's own young son into the complex kidnapping story, and the moments shared between the two grieving fathers are heartbreaking. Fans of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch will be particularly delighted. (Mar.)
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"CITY OF THE SUN is one of the best books I've read in years.  Compelling doesn't begin to describe it.   All consuming is more like it.  A gripping, lightning-paced trip to the dark side of town that will leave you shaken, and the better for it.   A great read!"
–Christopher Reich, New York Times bestselling author

“Here’s what to expect when reading City of the Sun: relentless suspense that will not let you out of its grasp, and a cast of characters who are so utterly real you’ll forget you’re reading fiction. David Levien’s novel is moody, riveting, and special.”
–Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of The Woods

City of the Sun is hard, mean, beautiful, touching–a dazzling novel. With this book, David Levien has placed himself among the best writers in the field. Elvis Cole and Joe Pike would be proud to call ex-cop Frank Behr their friend.”
–Robert Crais, New York Times bestselling author of The Watchman

“One of the toughest, most gut-wrenching, and most believable suspense novels I’ve ever encountered. If David Levien pulled any punches, I was too dazed to notice.”
–Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling author of Deep Storm

“Crackles with raw intensity…complex and heartbreaking. Fans of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch will be particularly delighted.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Veteran screenwriter David Levien imagines with icy, almost sadistic precision in his thriller City of the Sun.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A nerve-jangling novel that places ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.”
–Carol Memmott, USA Today

“A remarkably assured exercise in grabbing you by the throat and shaking you until the very end.”

“Levien is obviously schooled in suspense…A rare thriller.”
The Daily News

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385523661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385523660
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,778,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian Baker VINE VOICE on February 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In many ways, this compelling debut by David Levien is a retelling of the John Ford/John Wayne classic.

In "The Searchers", a young girl is kidnapped by raiding Commanches, and an aging ex-Texas Ranger -- aided by her adoptive brother -- tracks her down through the underbelly of Texas, their own contentious relationship turning into a partnership of mutual respect along the way.

In "City of the Sun", a young boy is kidnapped, and an aging ex-cop -- aided by the boy's father -- tracks him down through the sub rosa world of sex slavery, their own strained relationship turning into a partnership of mutual respect along the way.

"The Searchers" was a classic, and "City of the Sun" ably steps into those shoes as a literary retelling of a story with such raw emotional power.

The characters are fully three-dimensional and believable; you can feel the anguish and torment of the parents as their marriage slowly disintegrates in the aftermath of the kidnapping, and they desperately hope for the best while slowly growing to accept that their son has died, with all the attendant self-blame and guilt.

Frank Behr, the ex-cop, is meanwhile trying to deal with his own demons, and come to terms with the death of his own young son many years before.

A novel of complexity and great depth, written in a fluid and fast-paced style, this is a very solid five-star performance.

According to the flyleaf, this is the debut of a series featuring Behr; if so, I eagerly await the next installment.
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Format: Hardcover
CITY OF THE SUN is a fantastic work of fiction. You realize this within the first few sentences, the ones that sink hooks into your brain with every letter. These letters coalesce into words, sentences and paragraphs, and before you know it, the night is gone and the book is done. You're still on the edge of your seat, and your eyes are bleary (maybe a little wet, too).

Though this is not David Levien's first novel, he has been known primarily as a screenwriter. You may have seen his work on the film Ocean's 13, the television show "Tilt" and a number of other successful projects. None of what has gone before, however, will prepare you for this stark tale of good versus evil in its most basic form.

What Levien does is create a perfect modern noir tale around Frank Behr, a damaged, quietly bent ex-cop turned private detective whose people skills are somewhat lacking but whose strength and courage seem inexhaustible. Behr is based in Indianapolis, hardly a city one thinks of as being a hotbed of danger. But Levien transforms it into a fearsome locale within a few pages, with one simple yet horrific act: the disappearance of 12-year-old Jamie Gabriel while he is on his early morning paper route. The author gives the reader just enough to know that Jamie is in a very bad, if unknown, place. Unfortunately his parents, Paul and Carol, don't even possess that much knowledge.

With no trace of Jamie more than a year after his abduction, and a lackluster police investigation, the Gabriels turn to Behr, who reluctantly agrees to take the case. Still, he informs them that they must work from the assumption that their son is dead.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hard knuckled P.I. Frank Behr reluctantly agrees to help Paul and Carol Gabriel search for their son Jamie, who has been missing for over a year.

Frank knows that the chances of finding Jamie are slim. He tells the Gabriels that even if they do find where the thirteen year old boy is, they might not find him alive.

Jamie never returned from his job of delivering newspapers. He loved being on his new bike and Frank uses this knowledge to get his first clue. He is able to contact one of his old snitches and gets the name of someone who used to steal children's bikes and resell them.

As the case moves forward, Paul Gabriel feels compelled to be doing something himself to aid in finding his son. He pleads with Frank to allow him to join Frank in the next part of the case. Maybe because Frank had lost a son himself, he breaks one of his cardinal rules and lets Paul join him.

The reader follows this dramatic story as the investigators get a lead and then something stands in the way of further success. It is like peeling an onion, a little at a time.

The novel shows a parent's faith and family love. The Gabriel's never give up and their faith holds them together. The story is well plotted with realistic characters and moves well with suspense that maintains the reader's interest.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When thirteen-year-old Jamie Gabriel disappears while delivering his early morning paper route, his upwardly mobile parents, Paul and Carol, think at first he must have left early for school. With hard graphic certainty, the reader knows otherwise. Jamie has become the victim of a child prostitution ring.

What follows for the parents is an exercise in depression as days, then weeks go by and the police learn nothing. Oh, they're polite enough, but bottom line - they think Jamie is a runaway.

Fourteen months pass. The Gabriel's have tried two private investigators. The police haven't logged two hours on the case in over a year. Paul and Carol? Their missing son hangs between them like a burning cross. Most couples who lose a child end up divorcing. They're on track.

Enter Frank Behr. Former police officer now private investigator. At 14 months, Frank knows how hopeless this case is, but he's carrying his own luggage and it too involves a lost son. Despite his better judgement, he knows he wants the case, and it will not only be that, it will be a rescue of another sort too - a marriage.

City of the Sun's redemption plot takes on one of the oldest and most taboo perversions, sex with children, in this case, boys. There are men who will do anything for it, and City of the Sun is filled with the people who help them succeed. This novel is gritty, harsh, every adjective you've ever heard applied to the genre, but there's heart as well. Heart in the struggles of Paul and Carol to hold on, and in Behr's reflections on his past failures. The boy's fate? Hey, download your own copy.

Art Tirrell is the author of the 2007 adventure novel The Secret Ever Keeps set on and under the waters of Lake Ontario.

"simply put...the best underwater scenes I've ever read." M. Westley
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