Mad Mouse is the second John Ceepak mystery. John and Danny Boyle are back and it's the end of the summer, so their Tilt-A-Whirl escapades are only a couple months behind them at this point. The Sea Haven Police Department is going to hire one summer cop for a full-time position, and Danny has submitted his application for the position.
A big end-of-summer, Labor Day celebration is being planned on the beach to try to renew everyone's faith in the Sea Haven vacation spot.
Danny and his circle of friends head out to the beach one night before Labor Day to celebrate National Toasted Marshmallow Day. Their celebration is cut short when they are all assaulted by an unknown shooter with a paintball gun. No one is seriously injured, but the shooter is in the wind and has left a calling card, a Phantom trading card.
The chief instructs Ceepak and Danny to investigate this incident very quietly. They don't want anyone riling folks up and scaring them away from the big Labor Day party. But the investigation doesn't remain quiet for long.
Chris Grabenstein has created a couple of absolutely wonderful characters. And while I rated Tilt-A-Whirl a five-star book, and still stick to that rating, I think Mad Mouse topped it, but I have no where to go from five-stars. This is a five-star PLUS book.
Danny begins to take on more dimension in this book. He experienced quite an ordeal in Tilt-A-Whirl, and the results are apparent in Mad Mouse. He's determined to become a full-time police officer and strive to be the kind of officer that Ceepak is. Grabenstein also shows Danny morphing through the use of Danny's relationships with his friends.
Ceepak has been an extremely rich character from the get-go. In Mad Mouse we see more of who this man is. And I love him even more than I did in Tilt-A-Whirl. Grabenstein sneaks in a little environmental message with Ceepak in this novel when he and Danny are checking out a garbage can on the beach for clues. Danny tells Ceepak that he thinks the maintenance people empty the cans every day, and Ceepak's response is, "They should. They should also recycle these plastic bottles." Then a little later, when Danny and Ceepak are investigating a hotel room, Ceepak carefully turns off an air conditioner left running:
"'You should always set the thermostat to seventy-five or higher when out of your residence for an extended period of time. Especially during peak hours of consumption.'"
A man after my own heart! Looking out for the environment. We also see an attraction between Ceepak and a woman in this novel, so we're permitted a little more of a view into the person, not just the cop. AND, we even see a possible slip in The Code during this novel. I'll not spill it here, but I'd love to hear if you think it's a slip the way I did! Regardless of that slip, Danny is spot on when he says,
...John Ceepak has a code he tries to live by. He will not lie, cheat, or steal. He will, however, leave some damn decent footprints for you to try and trace in the sand.
As in Tilt-A-Whirl, Grabenstein has chosen a plot with a very serious tone. His humor helps to lighten the tone but not demean it at all. He walks a thin line and manages to maintain the seriousness of the plot with humor to make it fun. I admire that ability. So often these days humor takes the form of an insult to the reader or viewers intelligence. But this is not the case with Grabenstein. After both books I found myself saying, "Wow! That was a heavy theme. But it sure was a lot of fun to read."
The action is wonderful, too. I had to note in my book during a car chase because I felt my heart rate increase as I was reading about them zooming around. I could envision it as a movie director's dream. And then there was a sudden halt to the chase. You feel all that momentum as you're reading through the scene. It's wonderful.
Mad Mouse is written so that you don't need to read Tilt-A-Whirl first, but I would recommend reading it first if you're able to. I think that Mad Mouse will mean more if you've already read Tilt-A-Whirl. It did for me anyway. Again, I can't recommend this book highly enough. I've already ordered Whack-A-Mole and I won a copy of Hell Hole. When I get through them all, Grabenstein will join the ranks of Crais, Burke, Koryta, and Holland for me. I wait patiently, but on pins and needles, for their next releases.