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Book Review: City of the Sun by David Levien

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City of the Sun is a gritty and suspenseful private-I story filled with plenty of action and real heroism. As long as you don't mind a storyline based on the disappearance of children, there's a lot to love about this fast-paced tale.

Twelve-year-old Jamie Gabriel was out delivering newspapers on his bike in the early morning, doing so well he was about to break his own speed record. He doesn't return on time, however, and his mother Carol begins to worry. When he doesn't turn up at school either, she and her husband Paul called the police. What follows is a parent's worst nightmare, and they become sleepwalkers, as days turn into weeks and months without a sign of their son.

In desperation, they hire one last private detective, Frank Behr. Frank is a bear-sized man, an ex-cop who was once on the force in Indianapolis, where the story is set. He knows the case is cold when he takes it, but his past gives him sympathy for the Gabriels in ways he'd rather forget.

As Frank begins to unravel the mystery of Jamie's disappearance, he breaks one of his cardinal rules — don't let the client ride along — and begins to take Paul with him. Frank must use all his knowledge of the streets and information gathering to start to break the case. He and Paul discover that Jamie's disappearance was no random event but one in a series of kidnapping cases of pre-teen boys, a pattern the police failed to detect. Throwing caution to the wind, they know they must follow the trail wherever it leads, whatever the consequences.

Screenwriter David Levien's third novel, City of the Sun crackles with the energy of a good crime story. Levien does not shy away from unpleasant realities, and his plotting is fabulously suspenseful, which makes the book a highly entertaining read. Although the violence against children in the plot is more implied than described, it is an essential element. The reactions of Behr and the Gabriels are both human and heroic, however, which counterbalances the seamy elements of the story and brings the story to a satisfying, if improbable, close.

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About Nancy Fontaine

Nancy Fontaine is a librarian and freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, two cats, and every four years during presidential primary season, the national press.