Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: Mad Mouse by Chris Grabenstein (John Ceepak #2)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong plot and characters
Cons: Ceepak's code repeated too often
The Bottom Line:
Page turning thriller
Danny and friends are target
Catch killer in time?

The Mad Mouse Guns for Danny

Mad Mouse is the second mystery in a wonderful series, starring John Ceepak, former military police currently working for the police department of Sea Haven, New Jersey, a resort town on the Jersey shore. His partner, and our narrator, is Danny Boyle, a local hired to be a summer cop but hoping to turn this into a permanent job.

Danny Boyle and his friends have made a tradition of celebrating National Toasted Marshmallow Day. For the last ten years, they have gotten together every August 30th on a beach in their town to toast marshmallows, drink beer, and hang out.

This year, things turn serious when someone tags them with paintballs. One of the paintballs hits Becca's eye, turning a yearly tradition into a serious night.

Sea Haven is planning a huge bash for Labor Day. Naturally, this incident doesn't sit well with everyone in the business community whose survival during the next nine months rests on the huge business they expect to do this one weekend of the summer. Danny and Ceepak, are assigned the case; with the implication that Danny's application to be a full time cop is riding on a quick solution.

They think they are on the right track when another attack happens. Again, Danny and a friend are the target. Only this time, the paintballs are followed by a bullet.

I'm not normally a thriller fan, but I just couldn't pass up the setting of a resort town. I loved the first one, and enjoyed this one even more. The plot starts quickly. It seems to be moving along fine, but when the second attack comes, things pick up into high gear and the pace never slows down. Since Danny is our narrator, this gives us more of a stake in the outcome, and I must admit to cheating ahead to see who lived until the end.

Of course, the suspense is helped by sympathetic, well rounded characters. Danny is immediately likable, and most of his friends are, too. There is one who is extremely annoying, but even he has some redeeming qualities. The villain, while pretty crazy, is still sympathetic as well. Only the characters who don't spend that long on the page come across as two dimensional.

When it comes to the mystery, Danny plays Watson to Ceepak's Sherlock. Ceepak is a strong character in his own right, and watching him through Danny's eyes gives us a different picture of our hero. Even though Ceepak is the detective and does most of the work, Danny does provide a few important clues along the way, making their relationship a bit of a team

The only real drawback to the story involves Ceepak, however. Ceepak lives by a code. He will not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do. Actually, I like his code and respect the character because of it. However, it is mentioned so often I got tired of hearing about it. A few mentions to establish the character were fine, but it should have been dropped by the second half of the story.

Like the first book in the series, this story is told in the present tense. I was expecting it this time, so it was easier to switch my brain into that mode. Sub-consciously, I think this writing style enhanced the suspense for me.

Overall, Mad Mouse is a strong second entry. Give yourself plenty of time to read it because you will be hooked.

And to fully enjoy the character growth, it's best to read the John Ceepak Mysteries in order.

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