Summer's half over in Sea Haven, New Jersey. It's been quiet, but the sand sculpture contest on the beach is scheduled to begin soon, and things should start picking up. John Ceepak spends part of his days walking the beach with his metal detector and finds a high school class ring. It's possible that the owner can be found, so Ceepak decides to give it a try.
While he's playing boy scout, Danny Boyle picks up a young curvaceous hitchhiker and gives her a lift to town. Almost as if the girl is some sort of catalyst, weird things start going off like firecrackers. Items are stolen, money goes missing... and jars of body parts start showing up in places like a museum and a tourist shop. What Ceepak and Boyle begin to piece together can make a person's blood run cold: there's been a serial killer in Sea Haven's midst-- a serial killer who went dormant for a long time and now is showing signs of wanting to begin another killing spree. These two have their work cut out for them.
I fell in love with this series from the very first book, Tilt-a-Whirl, because of the relationship between the two main characters (which I likened to a partnership between the Lone Ranger and Beaver Cleaver). Ceepak has done too much and seen too much in his thirty-six years, and he's turned himself into the Great Stone Face with a set of rules that he insists on living by. I sometimes think that those rules are to keep himself from shattering into a million pieces. Danny Boyle is a fresh-faced, smart-mouthed kid who desperately needs a strong male presence in his life to keep him from running off the rails. When Boyle meets Ceepak, it's like watching a flower tracking the sun across the sky. Ceepak steadies Boyle and-- just by his quiet strength and his daily example as a police officer and a friend-- gives the young man a reason to look at the possibilities his future could easily hold.
Once again as in the previous two books, the plot really isn't the strong point of this book. There's a serial killer playing games with our two heroes, and it didn't take much deduction for me to realize the person's identity. No, the strengths in this book-- and in the series-- are the relationship between Ceepak and Boyle, an excellent sense of pace that can grab you by the throat and not let go, and Grabenstein's wacky sense of humor. Those three strengths are marvelous, and they'll keep me reading each and every book in this series.
Whack-a-Mole by Chris Grabenstein
Carroll and Graf © 2007
Hardcover, 320 pages
Police Procedural, #3 Ceepak and Boyle mystery
Source: Purchased from Alibris.