Riveting suspense in the tradition of Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly, City of the Sun introduces retired detective Frank Behr—an imposing, charismatic former cop who agrees to take the case of a boy who’s been missing for over a year.
Jamie Gabriel gets on his bike before dawn to deliver newspapers in his suburban Indianapolis neighborhood. He is twelve years old. Somewhere en route, as the October sky lightens, he vanishes without a trace.
Fourteen months later, Paul and Carol Gabriel are on the verge of abandoning all hope. Crushed by frustrating dead ends and exhausted by a police force that cannot (or will not) find their son, the Gabriels finally find a ray of hope: the name of an elusive private investigator who may represent their last chance.
Frank Behr is an enigmatic mountain of a man, a former cop who wants to help—but knows better than to give the Gabriels any hope of a happy ending. He has worked this kind of case too often. But Paul’s plea stirs up old personal demons that Behr can no longer ignore. Going against everything he fears, Behr enters into an uneasy partnership with Paul on a quest for the truth that is, in turn, dangerous ... and haunting.
Richly textured and crackling with suspense on every page, City of the Sun weaves a moody narrative that hinges on the bond between a damaged detective and a lost father. From the antiseptic comforts of suburban Indianapolis to the city’s seamy underworld, David Levien introduces a private investigator as complex, idiosyncratic, and sympathetic as any in modern crime fiction. Levien is a gifted storyteller who will keep readers guessing right up until the final, explosive scene.
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DAVID LEVIEN cowrote the screenplays for Ocean’s 13, Runaway Jury, Rounders, and several other major films. He lives in Connecticut.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Jamie Gabriel wakes at 5:44, as the clock radio's volume bursts from the silence. He rolls and hits the sleep bar, clipping off the words to an annoying pop song by some boy-band graduate who wears the same clothes and does the same moves as his backup dancers. The worst. Kids at school say they like him. Some do; the rest are just following along. Jamie listens to Green Day and Linkin Park. It's three-quarters dark outside. He clicks off the alarm and puts his feet on the floor. Waking up is easy.
In the master bedroom sleep Mom and Dad. Carol and Paul. The carpet is wall-to-wall, light blue. New. The liver-colored stuff that came with the house when they bought it is gone. The blue goes better with the oak bedroom set, Mom says.
It was a good move for the Gabriels, to the split ranch-style on Richards Avenue, Wayne Township. Trees line most all of the blocks here. The houses have yards.
Jamie walks past his school photo, which hangs in the hall on the way to the bathroom. He hates the picture. His wheat-colored hair lay wrong that day. He takes a pee. That's it. He'll brush his teeth when he gets back, after breakfast, before school.
He moves through the kitchen—Pop-Tart? Nah—and goes out the utility door into the connected garage. Mom and Dad love it, the garage on the house, the workbench, and space for the white minivan and the blue Buick.
He hoists the garage door halfway up; it sticks on its track. A streak of black fur darts in and hits him low in the legs.
"Where you been, Tater?"
The gray-whiskered Lab's tail thumps against the boy's leg for a moment. After a night of prowling, Tater likes the way the boy ruffles his fur. The boy pushes him aside and crawl-walks under the garage door.
A stack of the morning Star waits there, acrid ink smell, still warm from the press. Jamie drags the papers inside and sets to work, folding them into thirds, throwing style.
He loads white canvas sacks and crosses them, one over each shoulder, then straddles his bike. The Mongoose is his. Paid for with six months' delivery money after the move to Richards Avenue. Jamie ducks low and pushes the bike out underneath the garage door, when Tater rubs up against his leg again. The old dog begins to whine. He shimmies and bawls in a way that he never does.
Jamie puts his feet on the pedals and cranks off on his route. Tater groans and mewls. Dogs know.
"Should've gone to McDonald's, you fat fuck," Garth "Rooster" Mintz said to Tad Ford as he reached across him for a French Toast dipper. Tad's face squeezed in hurt, then relaxed. The smell of gasoline, the fast-food breakfast, and Tad's Old Spice filled the battleship-gray '81 Lincoln.
"You're eating same as me," Tad said back. "You're just lucky it doesn't stick to you."
Rooster said nothing, just started chewing a dipper.
Tad was unsatisfied with the lack of reaction, but that was all he was going to say. Rooster was seventy-five pounds smaller than him, but he was hard. The guy was wiry. Tad could see his sinew. He'd once watched Rooster, piss drunk, tear a guy's nostril open in a bar scrap. The whole left side of the dude's nose was blown out, and just flapped around on his face with each breath after the fight was broken up and Rooster was pulled off.
Tad had plenty of targets of opportunity with Rooster--the small man stank much of the time. He didn't shower most days. He left his chin-up, push-up, and sit-up sweat in place, only bothering to wipe down his tattoos. His red-blond hair hung limp and greasy as well. Then there were the scars. Nasty raised red ones that ran up and down his forearms like someone had gone at him with a boning knife. When Tad finally screwed up the nerve to ask where he'd gotten them, Rooster merely replied, "Around." Tad left it there.
"You're just lucky it doesn't stick to you," Tad repeated, chewing on his own French toast.
"Yeah, I'm lucky," Rooster said, turned, and looked down the street, still dark beneath all the goddamn trees. "Should've gone to McDonald's."
Jamie Gabriel, rider, pedals. He flows by silent houses, houses dark on the inside. He tosses papers into yards and onto porches. He works on his arc and velocity with each throw. An automatic sprinkler quietly sweeps one lawn, still blue in the bruised morning light. Jamie slings for the front door of that house so the paper stays dry. He works his pedals. A line of streetlight goes dark with a hiss as morning comes. Dad thinks it's great that they moved to a neighborhood that supports tradition: newspaper routes. Mom's not so sure--her boy needs his rest. Few people know the streets like Jamie does. Dark and empty, they're his streets. Jamie wasn't so sure either, at first, when he was still getting used to the work and slogging through the route on his old Huffy. But then he earned the new bike. He read an old story of a mailman who became an Olympic biker. Why not him, too? He has a picture. The black man's thighs bulge and ripple. He looks like he's set to tear his bike apart more than ride it. Jamie checks his watch. His time is looking good.
Rooster glanced at the clock inside the Lincoln. Goddamn Lincoln now smelled of an old fuel leak and Tad's farts over the sickly sweet of the aftershave. But the car was clean. Riggi bought it in a cash deal and dropped it off with fixed-up tags. Rooster hated these goddamned pickups. He flexed his forearm, felt the corded muscle move underneath his wounded and roughly healed skin and light red arm hair. His forearm was thick for his stature. He was ripped. He was disciplined with working out, but he was a lazy bastard, he suspected, when it came to certain parts of the job. Yeah, he hated the fucking snatches. Anybody could do 'em. It wasn't like the house work. That was rarefied air, sir.
"Start the car," Rooster said low, glancing sideways at the clock again. He scanned out the windshield of the Lincoln. The goddamn thing was like the bridge of the starship Enterprise.
"Oh, shit," Tad said, his last bite of hash-brown cake sticking in his gullet. The car turned over, coarse and throaty.
They saw movement at the corner.
Jamie puts his head down and digs his pedals. He's got a shot at his record. He's got a shot at the world record. He throws and then dips his right shoulder as he makes the corner of Tibbs. The canvas sack on his left has begun to lighten and unbalance him. He straightens the Mongoose and glances up. Car. Dang. Jamie wheels around the corner right into the rusty grill and locks them up.
Tires bite asphalt and squeal. Smoke and rubber-stink roil. Brakes strain hard and hold. The vehicles come to a stop. Inches separate them.
With a blown-out breath of relief, Jamie shakes his head and starts pushing toward the curb, bending down to pick up a few papers that have lurched free.
Car doors open. Feet hit the pavement. Jamie looks up at the sound. Two men rise out of the car. They move toward him. He squeezes the hand brake hard as they approach.
Carol Gabriel pushes a strand of dirty blond hair back behind her ear and sips her coffee, Folgers beans, freshly ground, a mellow roast. Her friends like Starbucks, but she finds it bitter and knows they drink it for the name.
She stands in the kitchen and looks out over the sink through the small square window. She's found herself smiling here most days since the move. Especially since fall hit three weeks back with a burst of color on the trees. There's no smile today, even though the day's a bright, shiny thing. Her second cup of coffee has begun to curdle in her belly, as Jamie usually wheels into the driveway before she's done with her first.
Paul walks into the kitchen, a blue rep tie hanging unknotted around his neck. Because he's got his nose in a pamphlet, he bumps into a kitchen chair. The chair groans across the terra-cotta tile floor and sends a painful report through his knee and up his thigh. Carol looks over at the noise.
Split annuities. Tax-advantaged cash flow and principal protection. How to sell the concept hasn't really stuck yet for Paul, but he's got to get into new products now. He sits, reaches for toast that's gone cold. Variable whole life; yearly contributions to a policy that pays a death benefit but turns into an IRA-type retirement instrument at age sixty-five, is what got him into this neighborhood. He broadened his base, reached a new level of clientele. He made a solid conservative play and bought a house that he could carry the monthly nut on during his worst month, by virtue of his commissions on those policies alone. Now the plan was to have no worst months.
Paul chews toast. Feeding himself right-handed, he presses his gut with his left. It yields. Thirty-five years' worth. It was a cut slab through age thirty-one, but for the last four years he's let it slide. At six-one, he'd been lean, a runner, for most of his life. Then he got a bone spur on his heel. Doctors recommended he get it cut out, but the surgery meant a long recovery, so he decided to run through it. They said it wouldn't work, that the thorny spur would continue to aggravate the plantar fascia, that it couldn't be done, but he'd gotten the idea it could. Mile after grueling mile he kept on, until something changed and yielded, and the thing wore away to nothing. Then his job did what pain could not and stopped him in his tracks. He started coming home tired in a different way from any manual labor he'd done in his youth. A few scotches a week became a few per night, so he could sleep. That, he suspected, added the first girth layer. He switched to vodka, which helped, but he was out of shape and he knew it.
"Paul, I'm worried." Carol stands over him. He looks up. A shadow lies across her face. "Did you see Jamie outside?"
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