Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reviews of 'Tilt-a-Whirl' [61] and 'Mad Mouse' [62]

Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein
Carroll & Graf, ISBN 978-0786715848
August 31, 2005, 304 pages

Summer will soon be over...not just in real life but in the made-up town of Sea Haven, NJ..but things are still quite hot. Not just the temperature, but the crime rate in the charming little seaside town.
24-year-old Danny Boyle, a part time summer cop (yes, a real job at the Shore) and his partner, Iraq veteran, John Ceepak are having breakfast when they see a teenage girl, covered in blood, running down the street, screaming. She says that she and her father, a Donald Trump like millionaire, were sitting in one of the giant tortoise cars of the closed Tilt-a-Whirl, having an early morning chat, when a man shuck in and shot her father to death. Which is not not a huge surprise, since you don't reach that sort of place in business and make that much money without also making a lot of enemies.

But golly, thing like this just don't happen in Sea Haven, where traffic is the usual police concern. But that is just the start of a crime wave in Sea Haven! OK, it is a small wave, but maybe enough to swamp the rest of the season as tourist flee for their lives.

Mad Mouse: A John Ceepak Mystery by Chris Grabenstein
Carroll & Graf, ISBN  978-0786717606
April 24, 2006, 320 pages

In this, the second book in the Sea Haven series, our two favorites police officers are back, the oh so handsome Iraq war veteran, a man of principle who lives by a Code, police officer John Ceepak and his partner, new full time officer, young Danny Boyle. Danny may have finally gotten a real, grown up job that he can be proud of telling his parents about, but he is still young enough that he can not think of a better way to end the season than to have a beach party one night with his group of friends. They are friends that date back to when they were just teenagers, working summers jobs in the daytime and having fun at night on the Sea Haven boardwalk.

It's like old times. That is, until someone disrupts the party, shooting the group with paintballs, injuring one woman enough to send her to the hospital with an eye injury.
Is it just kids fooling around? Well, it soon become clear that it is not, when in the next attack they find a real bullet. They have to find out who would possibly want Danny or his friends dead?
But the town fathers have a huge beach blow out planned for Labor Day...hey, MTV will be there!...and they can't have a mad gunman making then cancel it. So Officer Ceepak is on a short deadline to find the shooter...and meanwhile, keep Danny and his friends from getting killed.

First of all, let me just thanks Beth Fish Reads for alerting me to this series with her recent review of Rolling Thunder, the sixth book in the series.
I mean, a mystery series that takes place at the Jersey Shore...what more could I want?
Well, add in that they are funny, well written, with two great charcaters in the persons of Officer John Ceepak and Danny Boyle and a story line that often has a more serious, darker side...well, I can't ask for much more.
OK, a few minor distractions.
There are no private beaches in NJ, unlike what the author says in Tilt-a-Whirl.
He says Sea Haven is, I think, off exit 15 on the Garden State Parkway yet someplace else says it is 50 miles north of Atlantic City..which would make it about exit 88. A couple of other such mistakes.
Sorry, such matters get my OCD all works up.

But I will forgive him because the books are so much fun.
Ceepak is a great character. Back from Iraq, where he was a part of some very disturbing incidents, at first to some of his fellow cops he is a bit of a joke. He seems to live and breathe for his job, like a boy scout, always prepared. He lives by a Code. He will not lie or put up with those who do. But as we find out more about his background and his fellow officers see the type of results he gets and the sort of man he is, he earns our and their respect. He is not quite the stereotype we think at first..and he is one clever detective.
He certainly earns the respect of Danny, who could not have a better mentor in his new career..or a better man to watch his back.

There is a danger at some points in the books of them going a little too far over to the cute side, but I think the author is successful at keeping that from happening. Murder, even fictional murder, is a serious matter and in both books we get a glimpse of that very dark underside that makes us realize that nasty truth. Then, of course, we are soon out on the bright boardwalk, eating sausage sandwiches and trying to win a stuffed animal at a seemingly rigged game. Awww...summertime at the shore!

Good stories, a fun setting, especially for any reader who has ever spent their summer at a Jersey shore town, and some great characters that will be great fun to get to know even better as I read through this fun series.


  1. This series sounds fun! I love a good mystery series and one of the reasons is the setting. It's fun for me to "travel" by way of books. And the characters usually love their home city/state.

    don't you hate it tho, when you know a small detail that isn't right? It bugs you forever.

    Have a great day!

  2. I agree, sounds fun, especially for people familiar with the area. And thanks for giving me an excuse to avoid all future encounters with tilt-a-whirls (since the idea of impending nausea never seems to impress anyone).

  3. i suffer from motion sickness and rode the Tilt-a-Whirl once. Oh my, it was the worst. That and the Disney spinning cups...

  4. Holy Cow...I've had this 1st book on my shelf for about 4 yrs. (unread). I bought it after readiny Slay Ride by Grabenstein and loving it. Have you read that one?

  5. no, I have not! in fact, I never heard of this author before BFRs review.
    so many little time

  6. hey these sound fun. send them my way.

  7. The series that Slay Ride starts is completely different -- but still good. It's Danny and Ceepak I love! Ohhh I'm glad I didn't know about the little facts that were wrong, because that can drive me nuts too. Regardless, the books are a lot of fun and light, fast reading (well, except for a little blood).

    I'm so happy you gave these a try.

  8. HI! Thanks for the thoughtful review. I think I got my geographical facts a little tighter as the series progressed (even though I made up an exit for Sea Haven somewhere near the one for LBI, one of its inspirations). I did, however, make a huge NJ mistake in the book Hell Hole...even tho I lived in Metuchen, NJ for six years. I bet you'll spot it!!! (If you don't, drop me a line and I'll spill the beans!)

    Thanks again. I'm happy that the first three books in the series are now on Kindle and Nook since hard copies are getting harder and harder to find.


    Chris Grabenstein

  9. WOW! the author wrote you! thats very cool.


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