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Tilt-a-Whirl (The John Ceepak Mysteries Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Chris Grabenstein
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Anthony Award winning first book in the John Ceepak/Jersey Shore mysteries.

"From page 1, this debut stands out as refreshingly different . Grabenstein brilliantly evokes the endearing seediness of a Jersey Shore town in summer but it's his development of the Ceepak-Boyle relationship that makes this an absolute triumph."
—BOOKLIST (Starred Review!)

There isn't much fun in the sun when a billionaire real estate tycoon is found murdered on the Tilt-A-Whirl at a seedy seaside amusement park in the otherwise quiet tourist town of Sea Haven, New Jersey.

John Ceepak, a former MP back from Iraq who lives his life in strict compliance with the West Point Honor Code, has just joined the Sea Haven Police Department. The job offer came from an old Army buddy who wanted to give him at least a summer's worth of R&R to escape the horrors of war.

Instead, Ceepak heads up the murder investigation. He is partnered with Danny Boyle, a 24-year-old, part-time cop who doesn't carry a gun and only works with the police by day so he has enough pocket money to play with his beach buddies by night.

The Tilt-A-Whirl murder pushes Ceepak's deep sense of honor to the limits as unexpected twists and turns keep the truth spinning wildly in every direction.

Tilt-A-Whirl made many Best Mysteries of 2005 lists: The Sun-Sentinel, Detroit Free Press, The Christian Science Monitor, and more!

PRAISE FOR TILT-A-WHIRL


"Chris Grabenstein's TILT-A-WHIRL is a fast-paced thrill ride with lots of twists and turns and good writing from start to finish!"
—JAMES PATTERSON

"There's fireworks down the Jersey shore in this first book in a promising series."
—KIRKUS REVIEWS


"Thoughtful, funny and exciting debut."
—DICK ADLER, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"Just like the amusement ride it's named after, TILT-A-WHIRL spins with brisk twists and exciting turns as it veers off into still another plot tendril. This debut from former advertising executive Chris Grabenstein hits just the right tone, melding a multilayered plot that is equally action-packed and poignant, hard-hitting and funny, sarcastic and serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph."
—OLINE COGDILL, THE SUN-SENTINEL (Voted One Of The Best Mysteries of 2005!)

"Funny, smart, and smoothly written, TILT-A-WHIRL is all kinds of twisty fun."
—THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR (Voted One Of The Best Mysteries of 2005!)

"This is a fun and fast-paced tale. The ending is as unexpected and shocking as a ride on the actual contraption, and the denouement is sure to leave readers with a glow. Two thumbs up; You go, Grabenstein!"
—WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL

"Briskly paced, well plotted, and narrated with a cynical humor that makes it a real joy to read."
—RON BERNAS, THE DETROIT FREE PRESS (Voted One Of The Best Mysteries of 2005!)

"Full of unpredictable twists and turns. There's plenty of fizz in the chemistry between the two protagonists to keep the novel and the reader spinning."
—BOSTON GLOBE

"This impressive debut by New York City advertising executive-turned-mystery writer Grabenstein is set in idyllic Sea Haven, a touristy summer town... and follows cop extraordinaire John Ceepak and his part-time junior partner, Danny Boyle.... The story is related by Boyle, whose youthful inexperience and desire to be a kid are the perfect foil for Ceepak's mature, by-the-book demeanor. Grabenstein's writing is direct and punchy, providing many laugh-out-loud moments. Though a bit surreal, the ending is unexpected and satisfying and wraps up a good pace. Highly recommended."
—LIBRARY JOURNAL (Starred Review!)

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 796 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Chris Grabenstein; 1 edition (21 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QO9YI0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #122,765 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wild and Crazy Ride 15 July 2006
By Mark Baker - Carstairs Considers TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sea Haven, New Jersey, is just as wonderful as it sounds. Located on a small island just off the coast, it is a popular vacation destination with a huge summer population of tourists. In an attempt to help with the summer crowds, the local police hire a bunch of summer cops.

This summer, one of them is Danny Boyle. 24 years old, he's still trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He's partnered with John Ceepak, a retired military policeman who has just gotten back from Iraq.

The partners are just starting their shift when a girl comes running down the street covered in blood. She says her dad was shot on the tilt-a-whirl in the local amusement park. Her father turns out to be billionaire Reginald Hart. Boyle is in over his head, but Ceepak is right in his element. With only the girl as witness, they begin to work hard to find the killer.

Things only get more complicated that night when the girl is kidnapped. The normal July crowds are dropping fast for fear of the maniac on the island. Ceepak takes the case personally and follows every lead to track down the missing girl. Will he be in time?

Every so often, I like to branch out of my cozy sub-genre and experiment with a little darker book. This was one such experimentation, and I enjoyed it. The plot in the first half is fairly straight forward, but the second half begins to take as many twists and turns as the title ride. I found myself working hard to keep up and loving every minute of it. There is one fairly major plot point that wasn't explained to my complete satisfaction, but the story still works.

Despite the fact that Doyle narrates the story, Ceepak is our main character.
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Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Hardcover
Chris Grabenstein's "Tilt-a-Whirl" is set in a south Jersey resort town gone to seed, similar to the small New Jersey town where I grew up. By the end of Chapter One billionaire entrepreneur Reginald Hart is found shot dead in the Turtle-Twirl Tilt-a-Whirl at the town amusement park, belying the advertising "Sunnyside Playland Is The Most Fun Under The Sun." His twelve-year-old daughter, was present at the scene and witnessed the crime. And that's not all...but for more you have to pick up this often funny, deadly serious mystery that will keep you smiling while anxiously turning pages on the edge of your seat.
Our narrator, twenty-four year-old Danny Boyle, is a local who works as a part-time cop for the busy summer season. Busy in Sea Haven means the winter population has quintupled and too many college kids overdo it with the brewskies. Rowdiness is the biggest crime...usually. John Ceepak, a former MP, is Danny's partner and a major hero figure. The two have Bruce Springsteen in common and constantly quote lyrics from The Boss's songs to make a point and illustrate events in their daily lives.
While the narrative occasionally skirts the borderline of being cutesy, Grabenstein does a good job of entertaining and immersing the reader in the mystery and sub plots. However, he so disappointed me with the conclusion. I don't want to write anything that would spoil the story, but the ending is not only too pat, I think it diminishes the worst crime of all by tying everything up in a too tidy bundle. I actually felt offended at times. The twist in the storyline might be believable, however ultimately two or three cardboard characters, their final dialogue and behavior spoil things. I'll let the reader make up his/her own mind. Worth reading, but watch out. The last twenty pages stretch credulity.
JANA
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4.0 out of 5 stars comic cosy meets police procedural 12 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In Tilt-a-Whirl Grabenstein creates an authentic feeling seasonal seaside town with its tourist shops, local haunts, and ragbag collection of characters ranging from homeless bums to entrepreneurial mayor. The characterization is generally good, if a little clichéd, and the writing engaging and lightly amusing, with a good pace. The telling is kind of a mix between a cosy and a police procedural, told through the first person narrative of twenty four year old, rookie part-time cop, Danny Boyle. Where I felt the story was a little stretched was in relation to the plotting. It had its twists and turns, and it tugged the reader along, but it felt a bit lightweight in places due, I think, to the levity in Grabenstein's writing. Also, for some reason I sensed very early on who the killer was, and the ending felt kind of clunky and not fully worked through. Overall, I enjoyed Boyle and Ceepak's first outing, and feel that Grabenstein is onto a good thing with these characters and the setting of Sea Haven.
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Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  156 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fast pace, whirl of a read - until the conclusion! 15 Dec. 2005
By Jana L. Perskie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Chris Grabenstein's "Tilt-a-Whirl" is set in a south Jersey resort town gone to seed, similar to the small New Jersey town where I grew up. As a kid, I loved the Tilt-a-Whirl - it was always my favorite ride. Thus I was doubly drawn to read the author's debut novel about the fictional town of Sea Haven and a crime even seedier than the surroundings. Of course, I never knew anyone who was murdered on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

However, by the end of Chapter One billionaire entrepreneur Reginald Hart is found shot dead in the Turtle-Twirl Tilt-a-Whirl at the town amusement park, belying the advertising "Sunnyside Playland Is The Most Fun Under The Sun." His twelve-year-old daughter, was present at the scene and witnessed the crime. She is subsequently kidnapped and held for ransom. And that's not all...but for more you have to pick up this often funny, deadly serious mystery that will keep you smiling while anxiously turning pages on the edge of your seat.

Our narrator, twenty-four year-old Danny Boyle, is a local who works as a part-time cop for the busy summer season. Busy in Sea Haven means the winter population has quintupled and too many college kids overdo it with the brewskies. Rowdiness is the biggest crime...usually. John Ceepak, a former MP just back from duty in Iraq, is Danny's partner and a major hero figure. John lives by a strict moral "Code" and Danny is awed by how his sidekick adheres to it. The two have Bruce Springsteen in common and constantly quote lyrics from The Boss's songs to make a point and illustrate events in their daily lives. I like Danny, but he often sounds more like a seventeen year-old adolescent than a twenty-four year-old adult. This is bothersome.

While the narrative occasionally skirts the borderline of being cutesy, Grabenstein does a good job entertaining and immersing the reader in the mystery and sub plots. However, he so disappointed me with the conclusion. I don't want to write anything that would spoil the story, but the ending is not only too pat, I think it diminishes the worst crime of all by tying everything up in a too tidy bundle. I actually felt offended at times. The twist in the storyline might possibly be believable, but ultimately two or three cardboard characters, with their final dialogue and behavior, spoil things. I'll let the reader make up his/her own mind. Worth reading, but watch out. The last twenty pages stretch credulity.
JANA
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wild and Crazy Ride 15 July 2006
By Mark Baker - Carstairs Considers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sea Haven, New Jersey, is just as wonderful as it sounds. Located on a small island just off the coast, it is a popular vacation destination with a huge summer population of tourists. In an attempt to help with the summer crowds, the local police hire a bunch of summer cops.

This summer, one of them is Danny Boyle. 24 years old, he's still trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He's partnered with John Ceepak, a retired military policeman who has just gotten back from Iraq.

The partners are just starting their shift when a girl comes running down the street covered in blood. She says her dad was shot on the tilt-a-whirl in the local amusement park. Her father turns out to be billionaire Reginald Hart. Boyle is in over his head, but Ceepak is right in his element. With only the girl as witness, they begin to work hard to find the killer.

Things only get more complicated that night when the girl is kidnapped. The normal July crowds are dropping fast for fear of the maniac on the island. Ceepak takes the case personally and follows every lead to track down the missing girl. Will he be in time?

Every so often, I like to branch out of my cozy sub-genre and experiment with a little darker book. This was one such experimentation, and I enjoyed it. The plot in the first half is fairly straight forward, but the second half begins to take as many twists and turns as the title ride. I found myself working hard to keep up and loving every minute of it. There is one fairly major plot point that wasn't explained to my complete satisfaction, but the story still works.

Despite the fact that Doyle narrates the story, Ceepak is our main character. It's a classic Holmes/Watson relationship, which works to keep the audience in the dark and confused until the final pages. Ceepak is well developed with a background to explain his serious nature. Doyle is a bit more fun loving and provides some good comic relief with his narration and occasional spoken quip. Even so, he is able to provide a few puzzle pieces that ultimate help Ceepak solve the case. Doyle also grows more as a result of the story. He's not nearly as innocent at the end, but he's definitely stronger for it.

The most unique aspect of the story is the narration. It is written is present tense. I can't remember the last novel I read that was written this way. It took me several chapters to get used to this narrative style. I'm not sure why the author chose to go this route, but by the end of the novel I was used to it.

In keeping with the darker tone, there is also significantly more foul language then I am used to reading. It did bother me in some scenes, but its something else worth noting in passing.

Ultimate, I am glad I went on this wild ride. I plan to take another vacation in Sea Haven really soon.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wild Ride 2 Oct. 2005
By Roberta M. Austin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Summer usually means lots of tourists to visit the stores, restaurants and attractions with cutesy nautical names in the resort town of Sea Haven, New Jersey. It is not a sunny "funderful" day that the Chamber of Commerce tries to promote after a billionaire real estate tycoon is found brutally murdered on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the local amusement park. John Ceepak and summer cop, Danny Boyle are first on the scene after the victim's daughter shows up in front of the diner where they are eating breakfast. Ceepak is new to the force after being hired by the chief of police who is an old army buddy. Ceepak was looking for a quiet job after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq as an MP.

At first it appears that billionaire Reginald Hart was murdered by a local old hippie and drug addict known as Squeegee, who had a grudge and called Hart a slumlord. As Danny and Ceepak dig deeper, after state officials muddle things, they realized the crime is not as simple as it first appears and there may be more than one suspect.

The story is told in a first person narrative, but with a twist, since Danny is the narrator. He gives a different perspective on the true protagonist, John Ceepak, as he gets to know him. The reader comes to view Ceepak as not just a by-the-book cop, but a man of true integrity, who must deal with a past that always haunts him and directs his daily life. There are plenty of quirky secondary characters, who offer wry humor along with poignant pearls of wisdom.

Although this is a debut novel, the author has all the polish and pizazz of a seasoned storyteller. His past experience of working in advertising for twenty years,after being hired by James Patterson, and doing comedy writing shines through in a tale full of twists and turns. Mr. Grabenstein's exceptional descriptive style brings the setting to life. This is the first novel in a series. I can hardly wait for another trip to the Jersey shore. TILT-A-WHIRL is a must read for mystery lovers, no matter what the season.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy, lovable, wicked, dangerous and sweet!!! 27 Oct. 2006
By jeanne-scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tilt-a Whirl is a rapid fire, laugh out loud, novel that will leave you wanting to read Chris Grabenstein's next book!!

At a typical sea-side New Jersey town, where the crime consists of jay-walking and kids drinking on the beach, things are about to get serious! In the middle of the summer beach season,a wealthy man is found murdered on the tilt-a-whirl ride at the local amusement park and his daughter is found running in the street covered in blood, screaming.

Two cops go to her aid. This has got to be the funniest pairing of cops since..........well, talk about the odd couple. John Ceepak is a former military man, who fought in Iraq. Danny Boyle is a happy go lucky, lookingfor a good time kind of guy. Ceepak lives by a rigid code of honor, Danny lives by the seat of his pants. As the investigation into the murder proceeds, the dialogue is fast-paced and funny,the Bruce Springsteen quotes flow, the clues are collected and examined and the level of danger rises quickly!

This is one of the funniest mystery/detective novels that I have read in a long time. Think of the New York version of Carl Hiaasen and you may be close. Chris Grabenstein is irreverently humorous, unbelievably focused and has the gift to pull it all together! Crazy, lovable, wicked, dangerous, sweet all are words that easily come to mind when reading this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Quick, Fun Read--With Small Asterisks 28 July 2009
By J. P. Richardson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tilt A Whirl. Clever writing, twists and turns, and a well-conceived plot go a long way, and I'll be ordering another book in the series before leaving the Amazon website today. The lead character is a bit over the top, but in our present day America, a too-good hero isn't so hard to take--there being so much selfishness, carelessness, and shamelessness out there as a daily counterbalance in all our lives. Neither is the idea of someone coming back from the war changed into a crusader that terribly far-fetched. Mr. Grabenstein is a craftsman--albeit perhaps honing that craft in this his first effort. There are, as others have pointed out, occasional moments of contrivance and luck that do not ring altogether true. What may perhaps seem unlikely in the resolution is, nonetheless, fascinating, well thought out, and nicely set up. The story as a whole is fast-paced, well-told, intricate, and rewarding.

As did others, I found the cover imbecilic, but that can't be laid at the feet of the author. It bespeaks a remarkable carelessness on the part of the publisher, and little more. What did strike me as beyond unfortunate oversight was finding the same roller-coaster-cover-error on the Second Edition volume I happened to read.

Write on, Mr. Grabenstein. I'm pleased to be among your appreciative, and doubtless growing, body of readers. And if you get a moment, mention the cover to your publisher. You don't need readers shaking their heads before they get to your first sentence.
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