Walter Forestier, the hero here, is a fiction writer of aristocratic German/English extraction, who's been raised in France and Spain and who lives now, at the age of 50 or so, with his wife, Sylvie, in the Gascon region of France. Walter leads a moderate life: he putters in his garden; he scribbles in his notebook. Then, one night when his gadabout wife is out, Walter is tied up by some young marauders, who steal a few of his personal treasures, kill his dog, and vandalize his home. Walter prefers to let things be, but Sylvie spills all to the local gendarmes--and from there Waiter's problems begin. Rather than testifying against Femand, the young thug gang leader, Walter becomes party to his escape from the law, involving in the adventures not only himself but Sylvie, the thug's lawyer (an attractive female advocate), and, eventually, his son Manuel. As they crisscross France in an effort to get to Belgium (sanctuary), the party becomes passive, unable to break from Femand. Opportunities to turn Femand in are plentiful, but none is taken. Finally, the gendarmes catch up with the group and, in panicked confusion, shoot everyone. In this latest novel, Freeling is more interested in ruminating than in the niceties of the mystery genre. So instead of his usual (detective Van der Valk, Inspector Castang), Freeling opts to mix Camus (The Fall) with Kafka (The Trial). Mostly, then, A City Solitary is a lot of too-familiar talk--about class, trust, justice, and man's relationship to society.