A John Ceepak Mystery

By Chris Grabenstein

Pegasus, May 2013 ($25.00)

ISBN-13: 978-1-60598-475-9

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

It's June, 2013, and police officer Danny Boyle is not having a "funderful" day in Sea Haven, New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving a wide swath of destruction in her wake. While rebuilding has begun, Danny knows things will never be the same on the Jersey shore. The Mad Mouse roller coaster still sits in open water, an image seen in newspapers all over the world, a testament to the ferocious storm that changed so many lives.

Another bummer is that he and John Ceepak are no longer partners. The big man who has been Danny's mentor and role model since he came on the force has been promoted to Chief of Detectives, and Danny misses working with him big time. He also misses Katie, his girlfriend, who was murdered the previous summer.

He's dismayed to find that an old friend that he's helped out of a bad situation is being accused of criminal assault of her employer. Christine Lemonopolous, Katie's closest friend, is a nurse who left her job as an emergency room nurse, suffering from PTSD. She now works as a private nurse for wealthy families. Shona Oppenheimer, a widow with anger management issues, claims Katie attacked her in an insane rage, but Christine tells a much different story. She claims Shona and her sister, the daughter-in-law of Christine's other employer, a wealthy ninety-four year old retired dentist, was putting pressure on her to spy on the old man and give them details about his health. Christine refused. Like Ceepak, she lives by a code. Hers is informally known as the Florence Nightingale Pledge, and she will not spill the beans on her patient. Her loyalty is repaid by Shona in the form of a lawsuit, and her ability to fight back is limited by her empty bank account.

Christine finds a guardian angel from an unexpected source. Ceepak's mother, who has moved to Sea Haven to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law, just happens to have recently inherited a couple of million dollars. Her code is to help when and where she can, and she comes through big time for the young nurse. Things go from bad to okay to horrible when Christine is accused of murder, and, well, thank goodness Mrs. Ceepak is there to pay for a hot shot lawyer. Danny is in an uncomfortable situation, wanting to believe his friend is innocent even when evidence piles up against her, and trying to be professional when he has a secret yen for the lovely lady.

Ceepak's code: don't lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do, comes back to bite him on the butt when he confronts the owner of the Free Fall ride, telling him the ride will be closed down if he doesn't find a certified operator. That operator is none other than his drunken bully of a father, who claims to be a changed man, quoting the Bible and saying he wants to reconcile with Mrs. Ceepak. His son knows very well dear old dad has his eye on Mama's millions, and that he will do anything to get his paws on it.

This is the eighth in the award-winning John Ceepak mystery series. Each one is excellent, full of New Jersey color: Bruce Springsteen lyrics, Taylor pork rolls, sausage and pepper slices, beer, pretty girls, more beer, sand and surf, great characters, humorous dialogue and funny situations. When Danny goes on a low-speed chase after a purse snatcher, wading through the tunnel of love, encountering several friends from high school along the way, chatting with book store employee Kevin Tipple, it's an LOL moment. It's not all fun and games and boardwalk rides, though. The crimes are serious, and in the end Danny has to make a decision that will impact him and his friends for life.

Chris Grabenstein is a talented writer whose books never fail to please. He also write a series for young adults, and is branching out into children's books.

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