Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The City of the Sun, by David Levien ($7.99)

This critically praised and award-nominated book is a page turner, but it is immeasurably sad. There have been more books written lately with the subject of missing or murdered children. Some are fantastical like The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Some are dark and psychologically disturbing like a couple of Val McDermid's books, including Place of Execution. Levien's book is also about a missing child, and it is more realistic than a reader might want.

Frank Behr is the private investigator (and former cop) whom distraught parents hire to locate their 12-year-old son. It's been over a year since their son went out to deliver papers and never returned. The trail is cold but the parents' grief is fresh. Against all odds and his better judgment, Behr decides to take the case. It doesn't come out until much later that one of the reasons is because his own young son died, and he knows the heartache firsthand.

Clue by clue Frank uncovers a trail of bad people. He is eventually aided by Paul, the missing boy's father. This is contrary, again, to his better judgment, but Behr understands Paul's frustration and need to do something. The tension heightens with each unraveled clue. (It also should be noted that Behr is incredibly lucky with some of these breaks, but then it wouldn't be much of story without them.)

If you have difficulty reading books about children in jeopardy, pass this one by. If you read it, you will be rewarded by a compelling and intense work. You will meet characters who could be your very unlucky next-door neighbors. And Frank is the investigator you would hire if you had a problem, because he would take it to the ends of the earth, even if that proved to be the City of the Sun.

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