Real World Crime Fiction: Review of David Levien’s Frank Behr novels


David Levien writes brutal, not gritty, crime fiction novels. The subject matter, unknown to the average Joe (or in my daytime world, the average juror), is not for the faint of heart. He writes of a criminal underworld each time, and he pulls no punches as to class, ethnic or racial divisions, or social niceties. Levien cannot, not if his novels are to be authentic. Pedophiles and child traffickers in City of  the Sun, levien 1 gangs–street and organized crime, and shake houses in Where the Dead Lay, levien 2contract killers, high stakes gambling ventures with knife-edge machinations comparable in mafia fiction, in Thirteen Million Dollar Pop levien 3 compete for attention alongside dirty private investigators, troubled ineffectual bureaucracy-ridden police. Frank Behr, an ex-cop turned private investigator is Levien’s protagonist. He too is damaged goods and in some sense, never seems to grow as a character in the three books , A more generous assessment is a down-and-out ex-cop who finds love and a second chance at having a family only to throw away it away every time. Then, at the end, when all seems lost, he is given yet another chance. Despite his age and all that he has seen and experienced, Behr retains a boxer’s grip on remaining the indefatigable idealistic. It is this idealism combined with Behr’s OCD-like inability to leave questions unanswered, criminals uncaught that puts Behr into the heart of darkness. Each time he risks his life, as well as his future family, to do justice. I can’t wait to read Levien”s latest, Signature Kill, published recently.