Sunday, December 28, 2008

MIND SCRAMBLER - Chris Grabenstein

Mind Scrambler is book number five in the John Ceepak mystery series. In this caper, Danny (the book's voice) and Ceepak are in Atlantic City deposing a witness set to testify against Ceepak's father. They are doing this deposition purely as a favor to the prosecutor over in Cuyahoga County, Ohio (hah! How about that?). While they are there, an old friend of Danny's shows up. She's working for Atlantic City's famous Richard Rock, an illusionist, and his wife, Jessica Rock, as their nanny.

Danny's friend calls him and tells him she needs to speak with him privately, but before Danny can connect with her, she's murdered. Danny and Ceepak are out-of-towners, but they aren't going to stand by and be wallflowers. They are still law enforcement agents in the state of New Jersey, so they'll pitch in and help bring the murderer to justice.

I honestly do not know how Chris Grabenstein manages to make every Ceepak book better than the one before it. I read every one thinking there is NO WAY it gets any better than THIS! And yet Grabenstein tops himself every time!

One of the many reasons I enjoy the John Ceepak mysteries so much is the connection of the title to the book. Part of the whole puzzle is making the connection with the plot. And the significance of Mind Scrambler is probably the greatest of them all. It ties directly into the illusions Richard Rock is performing on his show as well as the reality that is being manipulated in the murder investigation. And for Danny, he has a personal connection to Mind Scrambler as his personal reality is called into question when he finds his friend dead in a compromising position. As he explains:

I'm sitting on the cold floor in the cinder block hallway backstage, trying to make sense out of all that has happened today, thinking about this ride back home in Sea Haven called the mind scrambler...When the ride comes to a stop, you raise the safety bar and wobble out of your seat but the world keeps spinning round and round.

And as the reader, your head will be spinning round and round, much like Danny's does. You know when you watch an illusionist that there's a logical explanation for how the "magic tricks" work, but the dizziness comes from taxing your brain to try to figure out HOW they work. And of course, those who don't want to figure out how they work simply see what they want to see:

Misperception meets reality. More mirrors, only this time, they're angled upstairs in my brain, reflecting back what I wanted to see.

I was dizzy from all the spinning and smoke and mirrors and illusions Grabenstein created that challenged my brain in this plot. This is my kind of thrill ride!

Of course, Atlantic City is a new setting for the Ceepak/Boyle duo. But Grabenstein makes use of this new setting working in a number of pop culture references to Monopoly. Combine the references with Danny's sarcasm in the narration, and you have the recipe for Grabenstein's signature humor!

The Super 8 Motel is, of course, located back near the boardwalk, on Tennessee Avenue.

We need to move from the yellow properties all the way to the oranges...'Head up Atlantic,' says Sergeant Knauf. 'Take the right on Tennessee.' She doesn't add, 'Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars.' Before we leave town, I want to check out the Mediterranean and Baltic. See if the rents really are that cheap.

The humor that Grabenstein employs in the Ceepak mysteries is yet another of the endearing qualities about these books for me. Novels can have a strong plot and good characters and still read very flat. But the humor in this series contributes to the inertia that drives these books up and down and around on the fun rides. It is the kind of humor that really catches you off guard and adds an extra thrill to the experience.

But of course, the ultimate reason I adore this series as much as I do is the dynamic duo. John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are among my absolute favorite characters in crime fiction. The symbiotic relationship between these two is what makes the series work so well. In every book they have progressively learned from each other, but in none as blatantly and strongly as in Mind Scrambler. It is a very effective use of characterization to view Ceepak through the eyes of Danny; Ceepak is, after all, his hero. So when Ceepak stumbles, the effect of seeing that mis-step through the eyes of Danny makes it all the more powerful.

When a crime fiction novel makes me laugh, tugs at my heart strings, moves me to cheer for the hero(s) and challenges me to THINK, I know I've found a top-notch work of art! Mind Scrambler is all those things and so much more.

Mind Scrambler will be released in June by St. Martin's Minotaur, but is available now to pre-order.


Kay January 3, 2009 at 9:55 AM  

Hi Jen. Haven't been around in a bit, but I am so glad to catch up with your blog and see your review of the new Chris Grabenstein book. I am SO, SO looking forward to a new Ceepak/Boyle book. Chris Grabenstein was my big find of 2008 and all 4 of his Ceepak/Boyle series made my top 10.

Thanks for the review and I look forward to being around more often!

Jen January 3, 2009 at 9:47 PM  

Hi Kay! So glad to hear from you. Hope you've been well. I know you'll love MIND SCRAMBLER as much as I did if Chris's other four books made your top 10. As I'm sure you saw, they made mine, too! Such a treasure to discover his work! One of the highlights of 2008 for me!


2011 2012 2013 Ace Atkins Adrian McKinty Agnete Friis Alafair Burke Alan Bradley Alan Glynn Alan Orloff Alex Berenson Alex Dryden Alexandra Sokoloff Andrew Grant Andrew Gross Anne Zouroudi Annie Barrows Ariana Franklin Arne Dahl Attica Locke audiobook jukebox Audiobooks author events Author Q/A Barry Eisler Bernard Cornwell Beth Ann Fennelly Bill Cameron Bill Crider Bill Loehfelm Bill Pronzini blog tour Book Events Book News Brad Meltzer Brad Parks Brent Ghelfi Brett Battles Brian Azzarello Brian Freeman Brian McGilloway Bryan Gruley C. J. Box C.J. West Camilla Läckberg Cara Black Carl Hiaasen Carla Buckley Carlos Ruiz Zafon Carter Wilson Catriona McPherson Charles Cumming Charlie Huston Charlie Newton Chevy Stevens Chris Grabenstein Chris Holm Chris Kluwe Christa Faust Christopher Reich Christopher Rice Chuck Greaves CJ Lyons Claude Berube Colin Cotterill Cozy Mystery Craig Johnson Craig McDonald CRCRC crime caper Crime Fiction Crime Writers Caught Recommending Crime CWCRC D.A. Mishani Dana Cameron Daniel Palmer Daniel Silva DATW Dave Barry David Baldacci David Corbett David Ellis David Handler David Hayward David Morrell David Rosenfelt Deborah Coonts Deborah Crombie Declan Burke Denise Hamilton Denise Mina Dennis Lehane Detective Fiction Diane Stuckart Don Bruns Don Winslow Donald E Westlake Donato Carrisi Douglas Corleone Duane Swierczynski dystopian Earl Emerson ebook Ed Lynskey Edoardo Ballerini Elizabeth Hand Elizabeth Haynes Emma Donoghue Eric Beetner F. Paul Wilson FFB Five on Friday Focus Features Forensic Science Foul Play Books Francine Mathews Gabriella Herkert Gar Anthony Haywood Gayle Lynds General Fiction George Guidall George Pelecanos Gillian Flynn Graham Brown Gregg Hurwitz Hallie Ephron Hank Phillippi Ryan Harlan Coben Harley Jane Kozak Harper Lee Herman Koch Heroes and Villains Hilary Davidson Historical Fiction Hugh Laurie Ian Rankin Inger Frimansson Ingrid Thoft international thriller J.J. Myers J.T. Ellison James Barney James Conway James Crumley James DuPont James Fredericks James Grippando James Lee Burke James LePore James O. Born Jamie Freveletti Jan Burke Jane Cleland Janet Evanovich January LaVoy Jassy Mackenzie Jed Rubenfeld Jeff Abbott Jeff Woodman Jeffery Deaver Jeffrey Cohen Jeffrey Siger Jennifer McMahon JIAB2011 JIAM2013 Jill Thompson Jo Nesbø Joelle Charbonneau John Connolly John Grisham John Hart John Lescroart John Sandford John Shannon John Verdon Johnny Shaw Jon Land Jonathan Hayes Jonathan Kellerman Jonathan Schuppe Joseph Finder Joseph Wallace Joseph Wambaugh Josh Bazell Josh Corin Joy Castro Julia Heaberlin Julia Pomeroy Julia Spencer-Fleming Julie Hyzy Juliet Blackwell Karen Fossum Karen Olson Karin Slaughter Katherine Kellgren Keith Thomson Kelli Stanley Kelly Braffet Ken Bruen Ken Isaacson Kevin Guilfoile Kimberly McCreight Lachlan Smith Laura Lippman Laurie R King Lawrence Block Lee Child Left Coast Crime Legal Thriller Lene Kaaberbøl Lenny Kleinfeld Les Roberts Liad Shoham Libby Hellmann Linda Castillo Linda Fairstein Linwood Barclay Lisa Ballantyne Lisa Black Lisa Brackmann Lisa Gardner Lisa Lutz Lisa Unger Literary Mystery Lori Roy Lou Berney Louis Bayard Louise Erdrich Louise Penny Louise Ure MacLeod Andrews Marcia Clark Marcus Sakey Mark Billingham Mark Gimenez Mark Hammer Mark Pryor Mark Sullivan Markus Zusak Martin Limon Martyn Waites Mary Higgins Clark Matt Coyle Matthew Dicks Matthew Pearl Matthew Quirk Medical Thriller Meg Gardiner Megan Abbott Memoirs Meredith Cole MfM 2011 Michael Chabon Michael Connelly Michael Harvey Michael Koryta Michael Lister Michael Stanley Michael Van Rooy Michael Wiley Michelle Gagnon Middle Grade Mike Lawson military thriller Murder and Mayhem in Muskego Narrator Interviews Nevada Barr Nonfiction novella NPM Oliver Harris Owen Laukkanen p.i. fiction paranormal Paranormal Thriller Pat Conroy Paul Levine Pete Larkin Peter Berkrot Peter Robinson PI Fiction poetry Police Procedural political thriller Psychological Thriller R.J. Ellory Ralph Cosham Raymond Chandler Rebecca Cantrell Reed Farrel Coleman Reg E. Cathey Review review copy Richard Lange Ridley Pearson Robert B. Parker Robert Crais Robert Dugoni Robert Fate Robert Greer Robert Gregory Browne Robert Pobi Robin Burcell Rochelle Staab romantic suspense Rosemary Harris Ross Macdonald Rupinder Gill Ruth Rendell Ryan David Jahn S. J. Watson S.J. Rozan Sandra Ruttan Sara Gruen Sara Henry Sara Paretsky Sarah Weinman Sasha Abramsky Sci-Fi scientific thriller Scott Turow Sean Black Sean Chercover Sean Doolittle Shane Gericke Shelf Awareness review Short Stories Simon Lewis Simon Prebble Simon Vance Simon Wood Six-word Memoirs Sophie Hannah Sophie Littlefield Spencer Quinn spy thriller Stefanie Pintoff Stephen Cannell Stephen Coonts Stephen Jay Schwartz Stephen King Stephen White Steve Forman Steve Hamilton Steve Hockensmith Steve Mosby Steve Ulfelder Steven Forman Stieg Larsson Stuart Macbride Sue Ann Jaffarian Sue Grafton Susan Arnout Smith Suspense/Mystery T. Jefferson Parker Tania Carver Tasha Alexander Tess Gerritsen theme week Theresa Schwegel Thomas Holland Thomas Kaufman Thomas Young Thriller Tim Dorsey Tim Maleeny Timothy Hallinan tlc book tours Todd Ritter Tom Franklin Tom Piccirilli Tom Schreck Toni McGee Causey Tony Hays Tony Hillerman Trevanian Truman Capote Val McDermid Victor Gischler Walter Mosley Warren Ellis Wayne Arthurson Will Lavender William Kent Krueger Xe Sands xuni author Yasmina Khadra Young Adult Young Readers Yrsa Sigurdardóttir Zoë Sharp

Great Indie Bookstores


An amazing collection of authors!

TLC Book Tours

Traffic Map

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed

Google+ Followers

Our Blogger Templates Web Design

  © Blogger templates 'Neuronic' by 2008

Back to TOP