If you've read my blog for any length of time, then you know that way back in 2005 (pre-blogging days) I fell in love with a pair of Jersey Shore cops called John Ceepak and Danny Boyle. I wrote a summary post about the first four books of Chris Grabenstein's fun-in-the-sun mystery series in June 2009. A few months later I reviewed the fifth Ceepak book, Mind Scrambler.
Let me tell you this: What started out as little ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl has ended up being a long-term relationship with Sea Haven's best. The sixth book, Rolling Thunder, was everything I expect from a Ceepak adventure: fun and humor mixed with a brutal murder, a deeper theme, the growth of the main characters, and a vivid setting.
In this outing Ceepak and Danny are on boardwalk patrol for the preseason opening of the brand-new mega-roller coaster called Rolling Thunder. The crowds are restless, the press is on hand, and many of Sea Haven's bigwigs are getting ready for the maiden ride. Everything is set for a day of fun until the screams of excitement turn into screams of horror. One of the locals has died of an apparent heart attack, and the ride is stopped mid-track.
Danny and Ceepak are first on the scene, so it's up to them to calm the crowd, call 911, and gather evidence--just in case the death isn't from natural causes. While waiting for the lab and autopsy results, the partners are assigned to a gruesome murder and a parking-lot hit-and-run.
As always in the Ceepak mysteries, the red herrings are nicely placed to trip you up, and what seems simple on the surface is a complex tangled web down deep. I rarely guess the complete solution, but that's probably because I'm dividing my attention between the clues and Danny and Ceepak's personal lives.
The unlikely pairing of the thirty-something Iraq War veteran and twenty-something ex-partyer was sheer brilliance on Grabenstein's part. Watching the men learn from each other and grow into their positions both on and off the Sea Haven police force is a treat all by itself.
As always, I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Audible, Inc.; 8 hr, 11 min) read by Jeff Woodman. I've said it before and will repeat for every Ceepak mystery: There couldn't have been a better reader for this series. Woodman shines in these books, and I wouldn't dream of visiting Sea Haven without him.
Need another reason to read Rolling Thunder? I won't spoil the surprise, but many of you will recognize the name of one of the characters. The only hint I'll give you is that after getting to know this individual online, we finally met in person in May at BEA. Very mysterious of me, eh?
Rolling Thunder was nominated for the Watson Award for Best Sidekick. To learn more about Chris Grabenstein, visit his website or his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter.
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