Where the Dead Lay (Frank Behr Series #2)

( 11 )

Overview

When Frank Behr’s friend and mentor is murdered without any apparent motive, he thirsts for answers and retaliation. But before he can make headway in the dead-end investigation, a private firm approaches him with a delicate proposition: two of its detectives have gone missing, and the firm wants Behr to find out what happened to them. The search for the missing detectives takes Behr into the recesses of Indianapolis’s underworld, a place rife with brutality and vice where Behr uncovers a shocking thread ...
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Overview

When Frank Behr’s friend and mentor is murdered without any apparent motive, he thirsts for answers and retaliation. But before he can make headway in the dead-end investigation, a private firm approaches him with a delicate proposition: two of its detectives have gone missing, and the firm wants Behr to find out what happened to them. The search for the missing detectives takes Behr into the recesses of Indianapolis’s underworld, a place rife with brutality and vice where Behr uncovers a shocking thread connecting the missing detectives to his friend’s brutal murder, and, in the process, an ominous, deadly new breed of crime family.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Levien is the new must-read thriller writer.” —Lee Child

“A punishing piece of fiction, overflowing with intrigue. . . . [With] enough cutthroat action to keep your eyebrows in upright position for days.” —The Free-Lance Star

Where the Dead Lay delivers on all counts. It is crime fiction at its finest.” —Christopher Reich
 
“Violent and compelling. . . . This is American thriller writing at its rocket-fuelled, roller-coaster best.” —Daily Mail

“Fast-paced, well-plotted and moving. . . . Levien has an ear for dialogue that many of us don’t often hear. . . . Gripping.” Indianopolis Star
 
“David Levien is a marvel. His dialogue is straight-up, so street that it’s a wonder the pages aren’t coated with grit. His descriptions are true to life, real and unflinching, a combination of Mickey Spillane, Wallace Stroby and Richard Stark, but nonetheless all Levien.” —Bookreporter.com
 
Where the Dead Lay is written with such natural power, is so attuned to the story and the reader, that you might wish you could unread it, just to experience it a second time.” —Bookotron.com
 

Publishers Weekly

Indianapolis PI Frank Behr juggles two cases in Levien's disjointed follow-up to City of the Sun. When Behr's Brazilian jujitsu instructor is shot to death execution-style at the Brazilian's martial arts studio, he decides to investigate unofficially. A real job soon comes Behr's way when a high-powered PI firm asks him to track down two of their missing investigators, who disappeared in the middle of a case involving derelict properties being used for illegal gambling dens. In taking a close look at the gaming dens, Behr comes face to face with a family of thugs who have launched a turf war to secure a monopoly on neighborhood crime. Despite the book's hefty body count, Levien is more interested in exploring the nature of violence, contrasting the controlled beauty of jujitsu with the unpredictable dangers of gunfights. While readers will admire Behr's determination to solve his friend's murder, some may feel that case distracts too much from his formal assignment. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Indianapolis private eye Frank Behr, who debuted so memorably in City of the Sun (2008), juggles a caseload of felonies that all lead to the same perps. Martial-arts instructor Aurelio Santos knew how to take care of himself, but he was no match for the man who executed him with a shot through the chin while someone-at least two someones, probably-held him down. The local cops are as confident as Aurelio once was, but Frank, walking in on the crime scene when he arrives early one morning for his private jiu-jitsu lesson, feels responsible for avenging his friend. His sense of mission isn't diminished by his pregnant girlfriend Susan Durrant's pleas to play it safe, or the constant reminders that he's persona non grata in the police department he once called home, or his acceptance of another, paying case searching for two missing operatives for Caro Investigations, a firm too pricey to waste billable hours tracking down its own. Frank's investigation provides several moody, tense scenes with a woman who insists she wasn't Aurelio's girlfriend and some well-muscled fighters who probably didn't love him either. But it doesn't have anything like the intensity of his scorching first case, and the crime family behind the family of crimes-Terry Schlegel and his three boys, determined to put local penny-ante gamblers out of business and replace them with something more centralized and lucrative-is neither as fearsome nor as distinctive as it's meant to be. A gifted writer's sophomore slump. Wait till next year.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307387219
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Series: Frank Behr Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 949,377
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Levien is the author of City of the Sun.  He also cowrote the screenplays for Ocean’s Thirteen, Runaway Jury, Rounders, and several other films.  He lives in Connecticut.
 
www.davidlevien.com
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Read an Excerpt

1

The morning was gray, and a cool that wouldn't last. Frank Behr steered his Toronado across East Prospect, and appreciated the empty streets at 5:45 a.m. His neck still throbbed from a guillotine choke he had barely escaped a day ago, and he was having trouble turning his head to the left, but at this hour the city was his. He had a jump on the world, and that felt good. As he drove, he tried to leave his mind distant and unfocused. Better not to dwell on the soft bed he'd just left, or on the physical challenge that loomed ahead of him. In twenty minutes time he'd be soaked in sweat, his heart hammering, arms and legs turned to molten lead, as he attempted to gain limb breaking position against a virtually impossible opponent.

Pummeling, clinches, fire feet and sprawl drills, takedowns, guard escapes and technique work. Topped off by lunge walks with a 100lb. ground and pound bag on his shoulder. It was enough to cause a replay of last night's dinner, and that was just for openers, before they began to 'roll,' which was what they called sparring at Aurelio Santos' Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Academy.

Behr cut right on Sherman. There wasn't much traffic, but whatever cars were out at this hour would be along 74, so he avoided it. Behr trained alone with Aurelio himself, and because of that made damn sure he was on time for their six a.m. starts. It was a matter of respect. Behr had tried the normal group classes in the evenings at the Academy, but leaving the hardest thing of the day until the end was exactly the opposite of how it worked for him now. The specter of it tended to hang over his day. It was a concession to his age, he figured, which was a little chunk on the wrong side of forty, but nowadays he needed to clear the physical effort first.

Aurelio charged him the regular fee of a hundred-fifty bucks a month despite the private lessons that should have cost that much per hour. For that, Behr figured, he owed Aurelio plenty. He had to consider, though, that it might not be a straight up favor. Behr had a habit of accidentally breaking people. Six-foot plenty and two-fortyish was a handful for the recreational martial arts practitioner and Behr had caused some unintentional injuries to various training partners during the decade and a half he'd studied karate, boxing, and kickboxing before taking up jiu-jitsu. Regular-sized, civilized, often white-collar folk, plying techniques on someone of his mass and dimension, tended to lose faith in a system when the moves suddenly didn't work. Even those of a much higher belt rank weren't immune. It wasn't unheard of for someone to quit outright and not come back after practicing with him. Plain and simple, Frank Behr could be bad for business. Maybe Aurelio had gamed that out.

*
• *

Behr hit a string of green lights along Campbell, letting the big car drift around some potholes, and then steered toward the Academy on Cumberland. He felt it before he saw it, as he rounded the corner and clicked his right turn blinker: there was too much activity in the parking lot, which should've been quiet. His eyes zeroed on a pair of patrol cars, done up in graphite and black, the color scheme for Indianapolis Metro P.D. since the consolidation with the Sheriff's Department, that still wasn't the norm in his mind after all those years of taupe and brown. There was also an ambulance in the lot. The ambulance had its flashers on, no siren. The patrol cars were split, and parked in a wedge, one directly in front of the Academy, the other at the door of the neighboring check cashing establishment.

That doesn't make much sense, Behr thought, as he pulled in and parked and saw that the metal grate over the door to the check-cash place was securely closed and the lights turned off. Then his eyes found the door to the studio, which was swung wide open.

Who the hell robs a martial arts school? he wondered. That is no kind of score. Anyone who's ever been inside one could guess the office would contain only disorganized paperwork, out of date liability waivers, moldy addresses, and instead of a safe to break there'd be a petty cash envelope holding fifty dollars maximum. Not even worth the trouble.

Maybe somebody hit the studio hoping to go through the wall into the check-cashing place, Behr considered, shutting off his car.

If that was the case, and Aurelio had arrived to discover a thief with the bad fortune to not be finished... Well, Behr supposed, that would explain the ambulance. He opened the car door. He wore sweats over shorts and a rash guard top, and automatically grabbed for his gear bag, which contained mouthpiece, towel, and dry clothes for after, and walked toward the studio. No workout today, it occurred to him, knowing too well how long the bullshit paperwork with the cops would drag on, until the morning class started to arrive. Then his experience reminded him that robberies didn't happen at 6:00 a.m. very often. He quickened his pace.

*
• *

The air inside the Academy was thick with it. It was unmistakable. Behr stepped through the door and saw it in tableau. Two EMTs sat back on their haunches, idle and staring at the walls. A pair of cops stood, arms crossed, heads down. Silence. Between them, on the ground, was Aurelio, his face and skull blown away from his neck like a snapped off match head. Dark blood spattered the blue mat.

The once supremely powerful and intelligent body lay there, simply turned off, just a pile of bone, sinew, and other dumb tissue now.

Behr edged closer. What stared up at him from the ground made him go cold: death, still and final. He felt his stomach knot and threaten to turn over. He bit back on it hard and held his mud. It was the least he, the living, could do.

Then, even as he stood there, stunned, not saying a word, his eyes began to work, undirected. Aurelio's fists were clenched, the knuckles raised and purpled, as to be expected after his fourteen year Mixed Martial Arts career. There were damp patches on the mat. Water or sweat? The few pieces of furniture in the studio--chairs and a table--were upturned. A chunk of drywall was caved in. On another wall were a few small, round holes, buckshot pellets lodged in them. The blood streak on the mat grew chunky with solid matter as it neared and stopped at the body.

It came together in an instinctive rush in his mind: Aurelio had been shotgunned under the palate. It had been an interrogation finished by an execution, but not before a struggle. No two men he'd ever met could've held Aurelio down. A gun changed any equation, to be sure, but Behr's gut reaction was that there had to have been three, at least. The body had been dragged a distance, but then abandoned.

"Ah, goddamnit," he breathed. It just slipped out. Behr cursed himself for the words. He could have used an extra few seconds to take in the details.

But now one of the cops turned to him, 'Regan' printed on his nameplate. "This is a crime scene. You can't be here. Who are you?" The kid in uniform was blonde, maybe twenty-five, but his blue eyes were already going flat and probably only lit when his son or daughter was around. It was what happened.

"Frank Behr. I train here."

"Behr. You used to be over on the Near Northside?" the other cop, a dark haired, dark eyed thirty year-old said. His tag read 'Dominic.' "My uncle Mike's said your name."

"That's right. A while back," Behr said, and tried to think. "How'd the call come in?" They gave him the courtesy.

"Bread truck delivery driver went by on Cumberland. He saw a flash in the window. Didn't think much of it at first, but it stayed with him enough to call 911 further on along his route," Regan said.

"Don't suppose he saw anybody or any cars in front?" Behr wondered.

"Nah. Course not. Detectives are on the way to question him anyway."

"You know this?" the second cop asked, gesturing to the body.

Behr bristled, but nodded. "Aurelio Santos."

"Like the name on the sign."

"Yeah. It's his place." Behr heard the defeat in his own voice. He'd seen enough of them to know that this was one cold crime scene. It looked icy. How many dozens of prints and partials would be all over the place thanks to the student traffic? And no witnesses either. A grim, hopeless feeling looked for a place to grab hold in his belly at the waste of it, at the empty hull that was now all that remained of a man.

Then anger settled on Behr, hot and familiar. His jaw set and he knew in that instant that whatever the police did or did not do, no matter how much or how little they threw at the case, no matter how quickly they might try to clear it, that he would invest the minutes, the hours, the days, the months it would take to hunt down the scum, the animals, the maggot-motherfuckers who had done this. He felt his breath come in short stabs, a bellows of fury working deep within him. He tried to control it, to not be a "belly breather," the way Aurelio had taught him when an opponent had knee-on-chest and was going for full mount and every cubic centimeter of oxygen left in the lungs meant the difference between light and blackness.

A random killing? Behr tried it out in his head. Not the norm for Indianapolis. There'd been too many murders in the city lately, but they all had a crime-on-crime connection and Aurelio was the furthest thing from a criminal. It wasn't right. He felt it again: someone had wanted something.

Behr's eye fell on the office in the far corner of the main room. Information. It wasn't a mere idea but an imperative that pulsed deep in his cortex, like a reptile's desire for food. He figured Aurelio's Rolodex would be on the desk, and his best hope of a lead would be found inside. But it would be only a matter of moments before the officers threw him out, regardless of whether he'd once been on the job, and went ahead and locked down the crime scene. Like the cop saying went: when you're in you're a guest, when you're out you're a pest.

Taking a chance, Behr started for the office, going wide around the body and blood trail, staying on the edge of the mat. His movement seemed to stir the others into action. As he passed the high shelves holding tall, elaborate trophies from Aurelio's wins in the Mundial and Abu Dhabi and Tokyo, the EMTs started closing their unused medical kits, and the cops looked to one another.

"Ho, buddy. Where you headed?" asked the dark-haired officer, Dominic. Behr felt them starting after him.

"You guys are gonna need to notify next of kin, I'm gonna get the number," Behr tossed back over his shoulder.

He reached the office, nudged the door open with a toe, and in the half-light saw an address book with a worn cloth cover on the corner of the desk. Leaving the lights off, Behr dropped his gym bag on top of the book, covering it. Then he took a paperclip off of a file cabinet and used it to gently click on the light switch without disturbing any possible prints.

"He's from Brazil. Unmarried. No family in state. Are Homicide Branch and Crime Scene on the way? No one's touched anything, right? You guys seem like you know the dance steps. Goddamn, he was a great guy... " Behr used the patter to distract while his eyes darted around the office looking for something he could use before they clocked his bag on the desk. The cops filled the doorway.

"Look at that, huh?" Behr said of a calendar sponsored by a Brazilian beer called Brahma featuring beautiful copper-skinned girls in dental floss bikinis playing volleyball on Ipanema Beach. The young cops glanced at it for a long moment and then Behr saw a sheet of notepaper tacked to the wall over the phone. It was covered with scrawled Portuguese first names, and digits with the +55 prefix needed to call Brazil. Aurelio was from a large, close-knit family, and the list was his frequently dialed numbers back home.

"There you go," Behr said, stepping back, letting the officers move in. "If there isn't a family member on that list I'd be real surprised, and there'll at least be a close friend."

"Thanks," Regan said. Dominic just grunted. Then the pair raised their notebooks and started copying down the names and numbers. Their backs to him, Behr took the opportunity to pick up his bag, and the address book under it, which he made disappear into the waistband of his sweatpants, pulling his shirt down over it. It didn't appear that the office had been disturbed by whoever had killed Aurelio, and the worn fabric of the book cover wouldn't hold a print very well. The risk had already been taken anyway. There was no going back now.

*
• *

Behr stepped into the main room again. The blonde cop, Regan, followed him out, on point now.

"Okay, Behr, Frank," he said, writing.

"B-e-h-r," Behr spelled it for him.

"Phone numbers, home, office, cell."

Behr supplied them, and his address.

"We train four days a week here, for an hour, hour and a half. Then the other instructors, some private students, start to arrive. There's a morning blue belt class at eight most weekdays," Behr went on. He began to feel his emotions beating at the door of the cold methodology. He didn't know how long the barrier would hold.

"Blue belt, what level's that?"

"Fairly beginner, but guys who know their way around."

"What belt are you?"

"We weren't doing it that way."

"So, no wife," Regan shrugged. "He got an ex-wife?"

"No. Had a girlfriend but they broke up maybe ten months ago. No one steady since then."

"Uh huh. I'll need that name."

"If I can think of it. Maria something."

"This guy have any beefs?"

"None that I know of. Everybody loved him."

"Teachers he'd fired? Pissed off student? Creditor?"

"I'm telling you, everybody loved the guy."

"Someone didn't fucking love him. Or had a strange way of showing it," the dark haired cop, Dominic, said as he re-joined them.

"Why don't you shut your mouth?" Behr bored holes in him with his eyes. The one EMT who remained, writing notes on a clipboard, froze.

"Oh," Dominic turned. "What're you, gonna cry now?"

"Be a professional, asshole," Behr said.

"You be one." They stood nose to nose, or thereabouts, since Behr had a good couple of inches on him. The truth was: the guy didn't mean anything by it and Behr knew it. It was just the way cops talked to one another to get through their shift. That didn't make Behr let off any though.

"Look, you've been helpful, but you're gonna need to fall back for us," Regan said. "Watch commander's coming to set."

Behr broke off with Dominic, nodded, and took one last look at the scene, drinking it in with his eyes. Aurelio wore a green satiny warm-up suit that could've just as easily been his dress from the night before as it was for that morning. He was wearing Puma track shoes, which he wouldn't have stepped onto the mat with ordinarily, but under the circumstances that didn't seem to mean much. The body still appeared supple. Rigidity hadn't yet set in. The blood was wet. He couldn't have been dead for very long. Behr was turning away when something struck him as wrong. He turned back and tried not to be blinded by the obvious, and then he saw just below where the wound started, Aurelio's neck.

"You didn't remove anything from him, did you?" Behr wondered. The EMT looked up at him.

"Yeah, a mole from his left butt cheek--" Dominic started in.

"Like what?" Regan said, his voice sounding tired.

"You gonna give us a lesson--" Dominic tried again.

"Jewelry," Behr said. The EMT shook his head.

"Nah. There was none," Regan said. "Why, you thinking robbery?"

Behr shrugged, he wasn't in the mood to volunteer it but Aurelio wore a thick gold rope chain around his neck that held a figurine of Christ the Redeemer, like the one up on the Corcovado in Rio. He only took it off when he went out on the mat, but like the cop said, it wasn't there. The EMT finished and exited. The detectives would be showing up within minutes and it would be better if he wasn't around when they did, especially with a piece of evidence tucked into his waist.

Behr kneeled, almost in communion, near Aurelio's feet, and the room got quiet. Even Dominic gave him the respect. Behr made a final, silent promise, then stood and headed for the door.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Interviews & Essays

"Some Things You Need To Know"
By
David Levien

Many people ask me for advice on writing a crime novel, how to go about it and what they need to know. The question provokes in me the immediate desire that they had asked someone else--say a Hammett, or a Chandler, or an Ellroy, a Leonard or a Child--someone with a pile of books to his name and a patina of mastery, and not me with my two crime titles (City of the Sun and Where the Dead Lay) so far. Though the responsibility and length of a proper answer is daunting, here is a short one: you need to know at least a little bit about a lot.

You need to know a little bit about guns, a touch about surveillance, at least something about police procedure. Some knowledge of the law can be useful, perhaps a basic understanding of fighting and physical violence. You need grounding in the facts or history of crime--the way organized crime works, about various frauds, how a gambling ring takes its profit, the elements of extortion, the layers of a drug operation. This stuff and more is the stock in trade for my character Frank Behr--it's what keeps him alive--so I've had to learn it.

You may not have an ex-police officer, Secret Service Agent, and private investigator for a stepfather (who also happens to be a great guy) as I am fortunate to, or count amongst your friends ex-cops and various experts in the field. But if you can get a ride-along or develop some relationships with law enforcement, it will surely help.

More than all that though, you need a sense, or at least a theory or idea, as to why these people do what they do. This goes for the bad guys as well as the good guys, your heroes and your villains alike. Whether you are dealing with dissociative personalities, sociopaths, or full-blown psychopaths, or drawing the obsessive types who pursue them. What makes them get started crossing that line, or trying to hold it, and what makes them keep going when the odds are against them? It's not easy supporting oneself by scamming or dealing or boosting, and it's no easier trying to stop it.

Oh yeah, then you've got to write it all down. Now that's the part where real advice is called for, and again, please ask someone better qualified than me to give it. But if you do set out, and you happen to find yourself frozen by the specter of the thousands upon thousands of crime books, many of them true works of literature, that have come before yours, you could always resort to what so many of the greats have from time to time--steal a little.

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Customer Reviews

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( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Macho Men

    This is a high testosterone novel featuring bodybuilding thugs, jujitsu specialists, and lots of violence. Given that the main character is armed as well as proficient in jujitsu, it is inevitable that battles will happen with those similarly skilled.
    I liked the book and read it through in two days. Having mixed feelings about Levien's previous novel, City of the Sun, I was glad to see that this one appealed to me more. I leave it short one star since much of the scenario is improbable, something more experienced writers avoid.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved It! Read Where The Dead Lay!

    Lee Child named David Levien as the new must-read thriller writer...I totally support that assessment! After reading Levien's latest book, Where the Dead Lay: How Far Will One Man Go To Avenge A Friend's Murder? due out on July 2nd (UK), I promptly ordered his first book!

    Frank Behr is a fantastic character! A former cop who, as oftentimes happens, lost his job because his boss didn't like him. Now that boss has come to him seeking his help! Frank had been offered a job with a large corporation to find two of their staff who had disappeared. But Frank wasn't interested, a good friend of his, Aurelio Santos, had just been murdered. Aurelio had been Frank's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu trainer and though not many words had passed between the two, still a friendship had developed between them that had been very important to Frank-and he intended revenge. His former boss wanted him to work undercover for the corporation to find the missing men, hinting that, if he was able to help, he might be able to get him back on the force. Frank knew that if he ever wanted to reclaim his life, getting his old job back would be a big step in that direction. So he decided he could work both investigations, but his priority was Aurelio's murder.

    First of all, Frank knew that it would have taken more than one man to kill Aurelio, given his size and expertise. As he became involved and studied the scene, he knew it had to be at least three men who had taken him down. He started the routine of talking with all of the students who had trained at Santos's Academy. Little by little names were thrown out and, in turn, it became known that Frank was "looking" to take down those that had killed Aurelio.

    The murder of Aurelio Santos had not been a pretty one-and it was not the only one! There were others across town that were similar and it turned out that they were all related to private gambling houses that were being "closed" through the death of those who hosted the houses. Soon Frank realized that he didn't have two separate cases!

    Most of the action in Where the Dead Lay is physical-using the moves that were being taught in Jiu-Jitsu. Frank, however, had merged those skills with street smarts that made him an opponent able to take on anybody. A good thing, because the ones who were behind the trouble used ball bats, heavy flashlights, guns, knives and anything else that could be used to hurt or kill.

    In the midst of Frank's turmoil and concentration on his cases, his lover, Susan, confirms that she is pregnant and does not plan to take care of their child alone! This only increases Frank's frustration because he had already lost his son and his former wife had divorced him after their child died. Could he handle going into another family situation?

    After all of the dangerous close encounters among the good and bad guys, you would think some explosive, thrilling final fight would have Frank standing alone over the bodies! Not so! The closing is an ironic tribute to "live by the sword, die by the sword" that creates a surprising, final impact that is much more memorable!

    David Levien is one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood, and co-writer for Ocean's Thirteen and Runaway Jury; his writing is superb! Where the Dead Lay is his second novel featuring Frank Behr. May Frank live well and continue long as one of the most formidable characters you will find in a long time! Yep! I loved it...and can't wait to read his first book, City of the Sun!

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  • Posted April 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    LEVIEN DOES IT AGAIN!

    I read a lot of first-time writers and I frequently get excited about a new author's potential only to be disappointed by a 'one-hit-wonder'. Well, not this time! David Levien succeeds in delivering the goods in his sophomore entry into the world of Crime Fiction. Levien's characters are crafted in such a masterful way that the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred. You could be walking past these characters on the street every day.

    "Where the Dead Lay" sees the return of private investigator and ex-cop Frank Behr. Life has been hard for Frank Behr and only gets harder when he finds a friend and mentor murdered. Behr's search for answers leads the reader through a steep spiral down into a brutal world of organized, and not-so-organized, crime. Behr struggles to find justice for his friend and maintain a tenuous hold on what is left of his life, all the while quietly becoming the greatest crime-fiction character of the decade.

    Do NOT miss this book!

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    Posted April 3, 2011

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