Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book Review: Rolling Thunder by Chris Gravenstein (John Ceepak #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining thrill ride with two characters who continue to grow
Cons: One sub-plot under used
The Bottom Line:
Ceepak and Danny
A wonderfully real team
Plenty of thrills, chills

Strap in for a Roller Coaster Ride Aboard Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder is the sixth book about John Ceepak and Danny Boyle written by Chris Grabenstein.  John and Danny are police officers in Sea Haven, New Jersey.  The town is your typical tourist town on an island just off the Jersey Shore that survives based on its summer tourist season.  Unfortunately, it seems to have a propensity for rather gruesome murders.  Fortunately, Ceepak is there to solve them, with the growing assistance of Danny.

This book opens on Memorial Day Weekend as Ceepak and Danny are working security for a new wooden roller coaster.  Rolling Thunder has been built on one of the abandoned piers in Sea Haven.  The first car is filled with the owner, Paddy O'Malley, and his family.  But the car never makes it completely around the track because Mrs. O'Malley has a heart attack and dies.

Only one of the O'Malley kids seem broken up about dear mom's death, which raises Ceepak's suspicions.  They are just about to rule it a death by natural causes when a second body turns up, chopped into pieces and left in some luggage.  With a definite murder in town, Ceepak and Danny are out to find the killer.  Is there a connection between the two deaths?  Where will the trail lead?

I was only a few pages into the story before I remembered just how much I love these characters.  I was grinning like an idiot as I watched Ceepak and Danny keep people in line for a roller coaster, for pete's sake.  As other series regulars like Ceepak's wife showed up, I would find myself grinning again.  Amazingly, the characters continue to grow in this book.  While Ceepak is still the star, Danny really grows here.  He provides several vital clues and takes center stage in the gripping climax.  This character growth is most noticeable if you have read the books in order, but nothing is really spoiled if you decide to start the series here.

The plot provides some great twists and dips, living up to its name sake.  I thought I had it figured out a couple of times, only to be proven wrong.  I did catch a vital clue before Danny did, although I'm not so sure about Ceepak.  Any time I had to put the book down, it was a struggle.  I did feel a sub-plot involving Ceepak's dad wasn't really developed to its full potential, but that's my only complaint with the book.

Danny narrates the story in the present tense.  It's an unusual choice, but once you get used to it, it actually works very well, especially for the more intense scenes.

And the sense of humor is back in full force with this book.  Danny has a pretty sarcastic streak that comes out at times in the narration if not out of his mouth.  I laughed a few times and smiled at many, many more.

These books can be dark, in stark contrast to resort town setting.  They aren't my normal reading choice, but I love the characters so much, I can't even think about stopping to read them.  Heck, I'm already wishing book seven were out.

So if you are looking for a good mystery with interesting characters, look no further than Rolling Thunder.

Because of how the characters evolve, you'll want to read the John Ceepak Mysteries in order.

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