Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Fun House by Chris Grabenstein (John Ceepak #7)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Ceepak and Danny, as always.
Cons: A few predictable twists, overabundance of foul language
The Bottom Line:
Reality show
Makes a mess of Sea Haven
Gives us a fun ride

Put Down the Corn Cob and Pick Up Fun House

While the cozy sub-genre is my preferred type of mystery, I do occasionally venture outside those boundaries.  One of those series is the John Ceepak mysteries.  Fun House is the seventh in the series, and it was another good read.

The series stars John Ceepak, former military police who has settled into the resort town of Sea Haven, New Jersey.  He’s a very rigid, by the book cop.  Our narrator is Danny Boyle, a twenty-something cop who is Ceepak’s partner on the force.  While Ceepak moved to Sea Haven for the job, Danny grew up there.  While Ceepak is the star who does most of the detective work, Danny usually figures out a piece or two himself that really helps pull everything together.

Sea Haven has become the site for Fun House, the hot new reality show.  Think of it as Jersey Shore meets Big Brother.  The twenty something contestants live in one house and vote each other off between drinking and bed hopping.

Danny and Ceepak have earned an unintentional supporting role.  One of the contestants has been caught with steroids, and his dealer has ties to someone they’ve faced in the past.  A sting operations is set up, but then someone dies.

Meanwhile, Ceepak is thinking of taking a job closer to his home town.  Will he take it or will he stay in Sea Haven?

The book takes a huge swipe at the reality TV genre.  I watched a very few shows, but I still knew enough to get some laughs out of it.  And it reminded me why I don’t watch more of the trashier ones.  Plus I love how the instant celebrity rubs off on Ceepak and Danny, including some catch phrases they get thrown at them for the rest of the book.

The plot itself is still very serious.  The book is mostly a police procedural with a little bit of thriller thrown in for good measure.  As a result, I often figured out a plot point 20 or so pages before our heroes did, but I was still turning pages as fast as possible because that just meant more danger for the characters.

I absolutely love Ceepak and Danny.  They are so different, yet they mesh so well together.  Over the course of the series, we’ve seen them rub off on each other, usually for the better.  There is a supporting cast, but we don’t usually see enough of them to really develop.  As a fun note, an FBI agent who starred in two other books by this author also appears here.

There were quite a few characters thrown at us for the TV show, and at first I got them a little confused.  But it wasn’t too long before the important ones stood out from one another.  They developed personalities of their own.

My big complaint with the book is the foul language.  That’s an on again off again problem with this series for me, but here it seemed especially bad.  If this were a real show that were really on the air, I’m not sure you could follow it with the amount of beeping they’d have to do.  Fortunately, this is where area where Ceepak has rubbed off on Danny, and our heroes keep the swearing to a minimum.

Despite the murder, I always view this series as a seaside resort vacation at a much cheaper price.  Fun House was another getaway I enjoyed, and I think fans of the series will feel the same way.

You'll want to read the John Ceepak Mysteries in order so you can watch the characters grow.

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