Sunday, December 13, 2009

Book Review: "Where the Dead Lay" by David Levien

I mostly read two types of books: general fiction and mysteries/thrillers, with a little bit of nonfiction thrown in for good measure. When reading mysteries or thrillers, I tend to gravitate toward books anchored by a central character—a private detective, cop or other individual thrown into the investigative world.

David Levien's Where the Dead Lay fits that category well. It's the second book featuring former Indianapolis cop (and private investigator) Frank Behr, who has a great investigative sense and a whole lot of emotional baggage. (The first book in this series City of the Sun, is terrific as well.)

When Behr's Brazilian martial arts instructor is brutally murdered just before his scheduled training session, he takes it quite hard and is more than determined to find the murderer. At the same time, he is approached by a private investigation company to find two investigators who have gone missing, although the company is keeping much of their information a secret from Behr. As Behr takes on the job, he uncovers a family of thugs who have started a turf war to secure a monopoly on neighborhood crime. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

This book has some fantastic action and some great twists, which isn't surprising, given that David Levien is a screenwriter responsible for films such as Rounders and Ocean's 13. But what makes this book (and his first one) so great is the complexity of Frank Behr. He's so much more than a taciturn former cop determined to find his place in the world again—he has more than enough of his own demons to fight while trying to fight those around him at the same time. Great book.

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