Thursday, May 24, 2007


Danny Boyle, the narrator of Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak mysteries, has a powerful opening line in the latest book, Whack-A-Mole. You have to read the book after reading, "I've never been what you might call an "over-achiever" but at age twenty-five I've already done the worst thing any human being can possibly do." But Danny lets the reader hang out there, waiting to find out what he did.

The John Ceepak mysteries should really be called the John Ceepak/Danny Boyle mysteries because it's been fun to watch Danny grow up from a summer cop to a full-time cop in the Sea Haven, New Jersey, Police Department. Sea Haven - a tourist's paradise during the summer - beaches, amusement parks, tourist traps, bars, bikini-clad girls, even a Sand Castle Competition. Only the body parts showing up in jars in local businesses spoil the effect.

It all started with a high school ring found by a treasure hunter on the beach. It sent Ceepak and Boyle on a search for a missing girl, only to discover a number of teen runaways who had ended up at The Sonny Days Inn, the headquarters for Reverend Billy Trumble's ministry and outreach program. However, when body parts start to pop up all over the island, it brings to mind the arcade game of Whack-A-Mole. Each time they locate one, another one pops up.

Whack-A-Mole is a study in contrasts. The summer atmosphere of a beach resort with all the trappings, and a police chief who will do anything to maintain the charming atmosphere, is a stark contrast to the hunt for a serial killer who takes trophies, and John Ceepak, a police officer who won't even lie to a killer.

As always in the Ceepak mysteries, Grabenstein is able to provide humor and light touches in the midst of a dark, creepy story. He has provided the perfect voice in Danny Boyle, a young cop, trying to follow his mentor's ideals, but falling short. Boyle still sees the humor in situations, and is always surprised when Ceepak shows a trace of humor because Ceepak knows the dark side of life. Very few authors do creepy and funny in mysteries as well as Grabenstein.

Chris Grabenstein's website is

Whack-A-Mole by Chris Grabenstein. Carrol & Graf, ©2007. ISBN 978-0786718184 (hardcover), 280p.

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