Part-time summer cop, Danny Boyle, and his mentor, Iraqi veteran, John Ceepak are having breakfast in Sea Haven, New Jersey, when a blood soaked girl stumbles up to the Pancake Palace. The girl and her father had sneaked into Sunnyside Playland at dawn to sit on the tilt-a-whirl before the amusement park opened for business. There a crazed gunman has shot her father dead. It turns out that he’s Reginald Hart, a billionaire developer with his fingers in many pies and a list of enemies a mile long. Ceepak vows to the girl that he’ll protect her and capture the man that killed her father, and he’s a man of his word, living by what he calls his ‘code’. With the town in a panic, a small police force stretched to the limit, and various vested interests circling the case, it’s a vow that he’s going to find difficult to fulfil.
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, but felt a little let down in that this had the potential to be my first five star review of the year. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other books in the series.