November 12, 2011 · 2:03 pm
13 Million Dollar Pop: A Frank Behr Novel by David Levien (Doubleday; $24.95; 304 pages)
“I know these streets/ I’ve been here before/ I nearly got killed here…/ Something always/ Keeps me coming back for more.” Bob Dylan (If You Go to Houston)
David Levien’s 13 Million Dollar Pop is, in many ways, a typical crime/mystery/thiller-type tale. Short chapters move the reader along at a brisk pace, action scenes are piled upon action scenes, and a number of engaging plot twists and turns make for intrigue along the way. However, what separates this book from others of its kind is that it is more than an action tale. The main characters are developed at a deeper level than most books of this genre, and the reader actually gets close to and begins to care about what happens to them.
Ex-Marine Frank Behr works for a security guard agency in Indianapolis, and when he’s asked by a co-worker to switch detail, he nearly takes a bullet. Behr is unable to let the wheels of justice turn on their own terms and takes matters into his own hands. While in pursuit of the facts behind the attempted hit, Behr encounters a multitude of shady characters, including politicians, assassins, real estate agents, lobbyists, hookers, and porn pushers.
Throughout his quest for the truth, and the killer (who turns his attention to Behr in an attempt to clean up a job gone wrong) Behr must balance a delicate personal life that includes a pregnant girlfriend. Few are left standing when the dust settles.
To author Levien – “Job well done.”
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Levien is the new must-read thriller writer.” Lee Child, author of The Affair: A Reacher Novel.
Dave Moyer is the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.
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October 28, 2010 · 7:13 pm
The Chaos of Order
Toby Ball’s debut novel,The Vaults (St. Martin’s Press) is a fine first work. Fans of crime novels and/or the suspense/thriller genre will find this an enjoyable read. Ball is true to the convention of short chapters and brief vignettes and anecdotes that keep the reader turning to the next page.
The Vaults are essentially a record (literally a criminal record) of one city’s depravity, and when the sole archivist, Arthur Puskis, notices that something is amiss with his detailed system of categorizing the files, the reader is led along a trail of corruption that reaches to the highest level, mayor Red Henry’s office. Set in the 1930’s, the story involves tales of big labor, organized crime, political corruption, and journalistic heroes, somewhat reminiscent of a Doctorow novel.
The story is best when it does what it purports to do: tell an action tale. The plot is carefully constructed, and the pace is fast. This reviewer’s primary criticism is that it became difficult to truly care about where the story was headed because it was difficult to actually care about the characters themselves.
In the first half of the book, character after character is introduced with little development and few clues as to what makes them tick or motivates their behavior. The character one is inclined to be most attracted to at the outset, Puskis, essentially disappears for a good portion of the first half of the book, only to reappear more prominently toward the end to help tie the story together. Frings, the reporter, who is the closest thing to a hero this book offers, is a rather shallow fellow and not overly likeable. In the end, Poole, the Private Investigator whose travails run parallel to Frings’ throughout the book, probably comes across as the person with the most conviction and integrity in the story.
There are a few moments where there’s an attempt at social commentary, such as when Puskis contemplates whether the improved technology introduced to the Vaults will take away a layer of humanity from the information people receive or when Puskis and Van Vossen, who has set out to write a book about the tales hidden away, contemplate the significance of the collective humanity contained in the Vaults and come to the realization that order cannot be imposed on the natural universe by man. Generally speaking, though, there is little of this. That type of thought and discourse is not really the point of this novel.
Overall, the writing is strong and unforced. The reader has to occasionally suspend belief to allow for some of the events to connect, but that is why they call it fiction. This book is recommended.
This review was written by Dave Moyer, author of the novel Life and Life Only. A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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Tagged as 1930s, A Town Without Pity, action tale, archivists, Arthur Puskis, book review, books, brief vignettes, corruption, crime novel, criminal files, criminal records, Dave Moyer, debut novel, depravity, E. L. Doctorow, enjoyable reading, fast-paced, fiction, Gene Pitney, humanity, integrity, investigative reporter, Joseph's Reviews, journalistic heroics, labor unions, Life and Life Only, Mayor Red Henry, minimal character development, new authors, organized crime, P. I., politics, Private Investigator, recommended books, short chapters, St. Martin's Press, strong writing, suspense thriller, suspension of belief, The Chaos of Order, The Vaults, third look review, Toby Ball, violence