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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Grabenstein's Debut Upbeat and Funny

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

It's all fun and games at the Jersey shore until someone gets hurt—the kind of hurt that lands them in the morgue.  

Reginald Hart, a business tycoon who's "kind of like Donald Trump, only richer and without the gravity-defying comb-over," is found shot to death on the tilt-a-whirl at a sleazy amusement park in Sea Haven, New Jersey.  The man known as "Hartless" had no shortage of enemies, so suspects in his murder are plentiful.  It's just a matter of narrowing down the possibilities to find the person who hated Reginald enough to kill him.

After a 13-year stint in the military, John Ceepak has come to Sea Haven to work on the police force run by an old Army buddy.  The seasoned MP is paired with Danny Boyle, a 24-year-old greenie who's more of a gopher/chauffeur than a partner.  Danny's a "cop with a beachy kind of 'tude"—he doesn't carry a gun and he has more opportunities to flirt with bikini-clad tourists than solve crime.  Tagging along after Ceepak means policing on a whole new level.  

As Danny marvels at his mentor's work ethic, he learns a great deal about detective work as well as the enigmatic John Ceepak.  Together, the two men are determined to find Reginald's killer.  The closer they get, however, the more dangerous their job becomes.  Can they get to the bottom of a violent murder without running afoul of a vicious killer?  Or will theirs be the next corpses to turn up at Sunnyside Playland?

I knew Chris Grabenstein wrote zany middle grade adventures like Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library, but I had no idea that his earliest published books were actually police procedurals aimed at adults.  Tilt-a-Whirl is the first installment in his series starring John Ceepak (but narrated by Danny Boyle).  It's a clever, funny novel that remains upbeat despite dealing with disturbing subject matter.  Ceepak's a fascinating character and seeing him through Danny's eyes makes our hero even more mysterious and compelling.  I enjoyed both of the story's leading men as well as its atmospheric seaside setting.  The mystery doesn't get too many points for originality, but it is fast-paced, twisty, and entertaining.  Tilt-a-Whirl kept me turning pages and yearning for more from Ceepak and Boyle.  I've already purchased the next two books in the series.  I can't wait to see what this dynamic duo does next!

(Readalikes:  Other books in the John Ceepak series, including Mad House; Whack-a-Mole; Hell Hole; Mind Scrambler; Rolling Thunder; Fun House; and Free Fall)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for strong language, violence, blood/gore, sexual innuendo, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought an e-copy of Tilt-a-Whirl from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. I love authors who are able to write about dark content and still keep humor. This sounds fabulous, great review!

    1. It's not exactly a light read, but it is funny in spite of some dark subject matter.

  2. I could do with something uplifting (even if it's about murder).

    1. "Uplifting" isn't quite the right adjective for this one. It's upbeat and funny, but there's still some dark content.

  3. Fun! I've only read Grabenstein's kid books.

    1. Grabenstein's got a zany sense of humor. I heard him speak at the National Book Festival and he was very funny and energetic. His personality definitely comes through in his books!

  4. That description of his character being like Trump had me cracking up. I like humor in a mystery book, especially one that is darker. It balances things out.

    1. There are some great lines in this book!


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