Sunday, October 09, 2005

Tilt A Whirl

In Tilt A Whirl, Chris Grabenstein introduces one of the best sidekick/narrators since Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin. Danny Boyle grew up in Sea Haven, New Jersey, a touristy resort town. Now, at 24, he's a part time summer cop, who helps the police during tourist season. This summer, he's assigned as driver and assistant to John Ceepak.

Ceepak, who took the job working for an old army buddy who is the police chief, is a former MP who spent thirteen years in the Army, including time served in Iraq. The other cops are amused by his interest in forensic and educational cop shows and his "Code." Ceepak "will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate those who do."

Sunnyside Playland, a small amusement park, is the scene of a brutal slaying when local billionaire Reginald Hart is shot to death after sneaking onto the Tilt-A-Whirl ride with his daughter, Ashley. When Ashley runs screaming down the street, it's Ceepak and Boyle who respond to her appearance in the street in her bloodstained dress. Everything seems to unfold logically for the two men as their witness leads them to a homeless man who resents Hart as a slumlord. However, an ex-wife, a lawyer, the Dominican Mafia and a kidnapping seem to point to more than a simple shooting.

As Danny observes his partner's investigation of the crimes, he begins to admire and trust him. That makes it all the more disturbing when Ceepak appears to violate his code. Danny's relationship with his partner has changed, and his mentor seems to have deceived him.

Danny Boyle's story of the Tilt-A-Whirl crime comes alive through his unique voice. He grows as a narrator as he relates a story of murder and deception. Grabenstein has written one of the best first mysteries of the year.

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