BookBrowse Reviews City of the Sun by David Levien

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

City of the Sun

by David Levien

City of the Sun by David Levien X
City of the Sun by David Levien
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 320 pages
    Feb 2009, 432 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Vy Armour

Buy This Book

About this Book



A riveting novel in the tradition of Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly, City of the Sun introduces private detective Frank Behr

Most writing classes say that a good story must capture the reader's interest in the first ten pages. Levien manages to do it in under five. He pulls us in quickly by creating a very likable twelve-year old, Jamie, and then immediately placing him in harm's way. The suspense builds quickly as the scenes repeatedly switch from Jamie on his morning paper route to the abductors in their car. The foreshadowing builds and our worst fears are confirmed when Jamie's bike meets the grill of the car.

Levien's technique of multiple view-points and short tense scenes, which one might attribute to his screen-writing expertise, heighten the on-going suspense and parallel the urgency of a missing child situation.

He gives us a story that offers more than a fast-moving crime plot. It is also a tale of losses - the loss of a child, the loss of innocence, the loss of the parent's relationship as they deal with their feelings of helplessness. It explores in a painful way what happens to families as they try to cope with meaningless tragedy.

In an interview shortly after publication, Levien said, "One advantage a novelist has over a screen-writer is the ability to use interior monologue and get at the characters' inner voices and states of mind." Using this technique, he shows us how quickly a routine morning can change to a parent's worst nightmare. Carol is enjoying the view from her kitchen window while sipping her coffee. (She prefers Folger's fresh-ground beans to Starbucks) and Paul is pondering how to sell more split-annuities (so they can continue to afford the lovely neighborhood they have recently moved to). But in a matter of minutes their world turns inside-out and these seemingly mundane thoughts are gone forever to be replaced by an unimaginable horror.

As we follow them to the police station, to the school, to Jamie's friends, we feel their anguish in their futile search. No clues, no answers, and not much encouragement from the authorities that missing children are ever found.

And that is the heart of the story. Jamie disappears but we don't know how, why or what has happened to him for almost three-hundred pages. The parents' search becomes the reader's search and the pages turn ever faster.

As early as chapter three, we fast-forward to fourteen-months later and Paul's refusal to accept the fact that his son cannot be found. Through various efforts to seek help, he stumbles onto a former cop and private investigator named Frank Behr, whose presence then carries the story.

Frank Behr is a sympathetic character struggling with his past demons. Once again, the multiple point of view allow us to know him intimately. The personal stakes are high should he take on this case, opening wounds he would rather leave closed. But it's these very wounds that cause him to join forces with Paul in his relentless search. A few sub-plots add some diversion, such as Frank's relationship with a new lady friend and the outcome of Paul and Carol's relationship which has become platonic and frigid since Jamie's disappearance.

Paul and Frank's search takes them far from the suburbs of Midwest America to a frightening and bizarre underground world. The reader is given no clues as to whether Jamie's abductors will be found, nor are we given any hope that Jamie has survived. Their search is an emotional journey as well as a physical one and this too gives the novel more depth. The emotional journey is perhaps what causes people to read a book of this nature - if we read to understand an experience we haven't had (and in this case hope to never have) then the author has achieved his purpose. As for characters we'd like to spend more time with, it is safe to assume that Levien plans more books with former cop Frank Behr, and I for one would welcome another journey with him.

Coming Soon: Where The Dead Lay (USA - July 2009): After the sinister disappearance of two highly-paid detectives, Frank Behr is pulled into his darkest, most relentless case.

Reviewed by Vy Armour

This review was originally published in March 2008, and has been updated for the February 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    by Walter Isaacson
    The name Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognized in all of Western history, and his ...
  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Chalk Man
    by C. J. Tudor

    Relentlessly compelling psychological suspense. The must-read thriller debut of 2018.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.


Word Play

Sorry, we do not currently have an active wordplay!

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.