Thursday, April 15, 2010

ROLLING THUNDER - Chris Grabenstein

FIRST LINE: "The day starts like so many others with John Ceepak: we bust an eight-year-old girl for wearing high heels."

Sea Haven has a new roller coaster on the boardwalk; John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are policing the grand opening event when Jackie O'Malley, wife of the roller coaster's owner has a heart attack and dies while taking the very first ride. Everything points to natural causes until Gail Baker, a young local, is found dismembered. Ceepak and Danny's investigation leads them into an ugly element of Sea Haven and circles back to Jackie O'Malley's death on the ROLLING THUNDER.

John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are back for their sixth outing in the seaside resort-themed series. Grabenstein is back with his signature wit, complex plots, and stellar characters. The masterful way he blends these elements makes for a captivating, entertaining reading experience. Grabenstein gives the reader everything:

Comedy -
The laughs start with the hook quoted above, and while they alternate with serious, insightful scenes, readers aren't at a loss for smiles, chuckles and all-out belly laughs.
"But Kevin probably convinced her she needed to be there for P.R. purposes, the same way political wives have to be there when their husbands call a press conference to confess that they've just had an affair with a hooker they met on the Appalachian Trail."
Drama -
"All the first responders are racing to the scene.
But it's too late.
Mrs. O'Malley's brain isn't sending signals of any kind to her heart anymore.
We ran up here as fast as we could.
But we took too long to reach her.
Ceepak stops pounding on Mrs. O'Malley's chest.
'Dammit,' he mutters.
He slowly closes up her blouse. Shakes his head.
'I'm sorry,' he says to Mr. O'Malley.
His wife is dead.
We're not winning any medals today."
No matter how much you know about John Ceepak or how many books you've read in this series. This excerpt from page 11 really grabs you because Ceepak's valiant nature is already blatantly clear. He's genuinely distraught that a life was lost.

Action -
"Now comes the clatter of the chain running down the center of the track as it grabs hold of the coaster cars and hauls them skyward. This is the part of a roller coaster ride that always scares me the most. The anticipation of what's to come when you finally reach the top. The thought that you could so easily climb out, walk back down, call it quits. And, near the top, it always sounds as if the chain is getting tired, that it's stuttering, that it may not be able to hoist the train all...the...way...up."
I know this isn't some car chase or gun shoot out. You can get those in ROLLING THUNDER too, but for me this excerpt is especially powerful because I'm terrified of most roller coasters. At Cedar Point, near me, we have a wooden roller coaster just like the one in this novel. It's the worst for me. And so this excerpt ignites all those feelings of anxiety because I know EXACTLY what that feeling is and I start to relive it while reading the book. That is action!

And every once in awhile, Grabenstein even throws in a little romance. But this wouldn't be a Ceepak novel without constantly developing relationship between Ceepak and Danny. Any novel can have action, comedy or drama, but the relationship between these two characters is what makes it unique and exceptional. Danny is Ceepak's Watson, but he's also a son-figure, and he's a teacher to Ceepak. Likewise, Ceepak is Danny's Sherlock, his father-figure, and Ceepak's a hero to Danny:

"Ceepak takes off, looking like a linebacker doing the tire drill at training camp. I hop down to the narrow walkway plank and, like always, try to do what Ceepak is doing."
In each novel, Grabenstein ratchets up the growth of these two characters, and in ROLLING THUNDER Danny experiences a bit of a growth spurt. The young officer is growing up.

The relationship between Ceepak and Danny is one element of the family theme that is common in this series. Grabenstein also looks at the theme of family through the very dysfunctional O'Malleys and the return of Ceepak's trouble-making father, Joe.

To think that this was the Ceepak that almost wasn't still makes me shudder. The series continues to be fresh and distinctive. Grabenstein continues to work magic on the page. Long live Ceepak!

Of course the sea-side resort town is vital to the Ceepak series. The amusement park rides, the proximity to the beach, the high level of tourism that the mayor is always concerned about. All of these elements play into the plots of each novel in the series. To get a better idea of Sea Haven, here is a fun map of the town with many of the landmarks identified.

ROLLING THUNDER will be available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-60598-089-8) from Pegasus Books on May 5, 2010.

**For purposes of disclosure I will note that I was an early reader on this novel and my name appears as a character in the book - so everyone read it! ;-)

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Lesa April 15, 2010 at 7:51 AM  

Well, darn, Jen. I haven't read Rolling Thunder yet, so I was hoping you'd give us the excerpt where your character is introduced. (grin)

Looking forward to this new Ceepak/Boyle book.

bermudaonion April 15, 2010 at 9:44 AM  

I really want to try this series - it sounds fantastic!

Kay April 15, 2010 at 10:02 AM  

Can I just say how very EXCITED I am about this book? Like you, I was devastated to think that there would be no more Ceepak and Danny. I'm so looking forward to this book and will be feverishly turning the pages to find Jen Forbus!!

Thanks for highlighting this one, Jen! It's possible you might be an even bigger fan than I am!! Nah! My mystery book group is salivating over this one. They can't wait!

Chris Grabenstein April 15, 2010 at 10:47 AM  

Thanks for the thoughtful review! And, might I just add, Officer Jen Forbus is a wonderful addition to the Sea Haven Police Force, no matter what that Dominic Santucci thinks!

Jen Forbus April 15, 2010 at 6:24 PM  

Raspberries to Santucci! ;-)

Thanks everyone for your comments. Kathy, I hope you do check out this series. I think you'll enjoy it. Kay and Lesa, I KNOW you'll enjoy it!

I told Chris, I need to have business cards made with "Officer Jen Forbus - Sea Haven Police Department" printed on them!

Beth F April 16, 2010 at 6:52 AM  

I know I left a thoughtful comment here yesterday. I am a HUGE fan of these books and have reviewed them on my blog. I cannot wait for this book and I'm so glad the action is returning to Sea Haven. I've been listening to the series in audio and love it.


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