06 September 2011

Review: Rolling Thunder by Chris Grabenstein

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.

Rolling Thunder at Powell's
Rolling Thunder at Book Depository
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Published by Pegasus Books (distributed by W.W. Norton), 2010
ISBN-13: 9781605980898
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sandy Nawrot 9/6/11, 7:43 AM  

Oh man! Another series that I need to read! You make this one sound so good. I know nothing about the Jersey shore, but it does have a reputation. I read Stephanie Plum after all. And I love it when you find a narrator born to make a series come to life. I might just have to stroll on over to my library website...

Zibilee 9/6/11, 8:14 AM  

This series sounds very promising! I admit to not ever being exposed to these books before, but they do sound excellent and worth investigating. I am glad that they continue to impress you thoroughly after all this time. I also like that the audio versions are so well done. Great and wonderfully enthusiastic review today!

bermudaonion 9/6/11, 9:19 AM  

I know who you're talking about and I'd like to read this book just to see her name in print!

Barbara 9/6/11, 9:38 AM  

This series sounds great. We used to live in NJ and I can just imagine the people and the sights. My poor wish list.

Julie P. 9/6/11, 10:22 AM  

I so need to get my hands on these!!!! Sound terrific and perfect for my Mystery Monday posts.

Jen Forbus 9/6/11, 10:37 AM  

I couldn't agree more! This is one of my all time favorite series on audio.

Ceepak and Danny have a sort of Holmes and Watson relationship, only I like Ceepak and Danny a lot more! :-)

I hope you all check out this series. It's pretty special in that it has managed to weather three different publishers. And I always love to hear about new readers checking it out!

Swapna 9/6/11, 10:59 AM  

Yet another series I need to start! Your enthusiasm for every aspect of this book - plot, setting, characters - really shines through. Makes me want to pick up the first one immediately.

Jenn's Bookshelves 9/6/11, 1:23 PM  

Jen has been telling me to start this series for some time. Your post has pushed me over the edge..downloading the first audio book now!

Dorte H 9/6/11, 3:34 PM  

Hm. I suspect I will have to give in to this series.

caite 9/7/11, 9:39 AM  

just what I need, another series..lol
but Jersey shore..well ya know I have to check this out!

SuziQoregon 9/7/11, 12:35 PM  

How can I resist when both you and Jen are telling me to read this series. I have officially added it to my list.

I owe you one.

Serena 9/7/11, 1:35 PM  

sounds like a fantastic series. There are so many great books out there. How will I ever keep up?!

Unknown 9/11/11, 9:08 PM  

sounds like a great mystery series that I need to put on my wish list stat!

Kailana 10/7/11, 1:12 PM  

This series is not something I would normally gravitate to, but you make it sound good!

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