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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This review refers to the Audible recording narrated by Jeff Woodman

I have to hand it to the author. Chris Grabenstein isn't afraid of the difficult issues. Just when I was thinking that this book was just another story, he brought out the real story. The private lives of sanctimonious famous people are always of interest to the general public, but as we have seen recently with our unlamented politicians, sometimes private actions can become public. AS Ambrose Bierce said, "Hypocrisy: prejudice with a halo."

I generally dislike the "holier than thou" attitude I occasionally see with acquaintances and more often see with politicians. In this book, the author takes this hypocrisy head on.

As usual, the story is told by Danny Boyle, Ceepak's young, naïve deputy. When Ceepak and Danny are in Atlantic City to take a deposition from a witness, Danny's friend Katy (from the first book) is apparently killed in especially unseemly circumstances. Ceepak and Danny are deputized to assist in solving the crime. Simple, right? Not so simple. In fact the story takes an ugly turn into areas almost more revolting than the circumstances of Katy's death.

I highly recommend this book and especially in audio format. Jeff Woodman has a great versatility (he also has narrated numerous other books including *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time* and Gabaldon's Lord John series) that is well showcased in this book. Don't give up on it - it takes nearly 2 hours of the 8 hour book to really get into the meat of the thing. I can't say more without completely spoiling the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Ceepak and Danny are in Atlantic City. It's just supposed to be an overnight trip to take a deposition. But Danny runs into former girlfriend Katie Landry. Katie is now working for magician Richard Rock, and his show is in town. Katie manages to score them some nice tickets for that evening's performance. Later, she calls Danny asking to meet him as soon as the show is over. When he goes to meet her, he finds her brutally murdered. As more and more things about her death don't add up, Danny feels more and more confused. Can Ceepak sort through the lies to find the truth?

I love Sea Haven and was a little disappointed when I discovered this book wasn't set in Ceepak and Danny's normal stomping grounds. But I quickly got over that as I was drawn into the story. I remembered Katie from her earlier appearances in the series. That made me emotionally invested in the outcome. The book took a dark turn, even for this series, that left me feeling very uncomfortable.

The main draw for me in this series is Ceepak and Danny. I absolutely love their relationship. Since this case is so intensely personal for Danny, we see Ceepak step forward a few times and act like a friend. Yet Danny is taking his responsibilities seriously as well. They truly make a great team.

The darkness of this book bothered me more than the other books in the series. It is still well worth reading. Just go into it expecting a bit more than some of the others and you'll be fine.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
#5 John Ceepak mystery set along the Jersey shore, told from the POV of Ceepak's young partner, Danny Boyle. Danny and Ceepak are off to Atlantic City to obtain the deposition of a former cellmate of Ceepak's father in hopes of obtaining testimony that will convict him. (Yes, Ceepak's father is a real scumbucket that he hopes to see locked away with the key melted down.) While there, Danny bumps into his former girlfriend Katie--a kindergarten teacher who moved to California, and who is now employed as the nanny for Richard Rock, a big-time magician and illusionist performing at a ritzy casino in AC. Katie says she wants to talk to Danny about something, but before that happens, she turns up dead--and not only dead, but dressed in a kinky S&M outfit and looking like the victim of erotic asphyxiation--of course, we all know that wasn't the case and that she was murdered. But why? And did Katie really have a secret life that is totally out of character for the sweet girl Danny dated? Danny's mind is a bit scrambled with his personal involvement in the case, but Ceepak keeps him on the straight and narrow as they are deputized by the local constabulary to help investigate, muddling through the hidden world of stage magicians.

I enjoy this series more with each book, as we get to know Ceepak and Danny better. The bad guy stuck out like a sore thumb for me right from the beginning, but I had no idea why or the how it was done details, so still made for a very interesting, enjoyable read. More, more!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2009
Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak mysteries have been popular from their inception. Set in a fictional but very realistic vacation community of Sea Haven, New Jersey, Ceepak is the mentor of series narrator Danny Boyle; the two are policemen, with the less experienced Boyle partnered up with the veteran and strongly upright Ceepak. Grabenstein manages to follow a general pattern from book to book without becoming formulaic; the characters change, seemingly in real time. Thus Ceepak, over the course of the few years since the beginning of the series, has gotten married and is raising a family, while Boyle has grown more seasoned and a bit more sure of himself.

In keeping with this practice, Grabenstein, after four excellent volumes set in Sea Haven, moves the setting of MIND SCRAMBLER, his latest Ceepak novel, to Atlantic City. This is a brilliant decision; one of the appealing aspects of New Jersey is how diverse the northern, central and southern sections of the state remain while sharing certain elements. So it is that the shift to Atlantic City makes for a challenging, but not jarring, change of scenery for the series. Atlantic City is a blend of the best and worst of New Jersey, and just similar enough to Sea Haven that Ceepak and Boyle are not fish out of water; rather, they are just swimming in somewhat unfamiliar territory.

Ceepak and Boyle are in Atlantic City on business (partially set up as the result of events occurring in HELL HOLE, the previous volume in the series). While new to the city as a team, a number of characters from previous books flit in and out of the narrative to ease the transition. There is nothing easy, though, about the presence of Katie, Boyle's former crush, who makes an all-too-brief appearance as the nanny for the children of Richard Rock, an immensely popular casino illusionist. Boyle had carried a torch for Katie, and there is still a bit of a flicker to it, as evidenced by Boyle's reaction when Katie makes arrangements to meet with him after Rock's performance one evening. But Katie never makes it to the rendezvous; she is found brutally murdered under scandalous circumstances. Grabenstein presents a neat and clever variation of a locked room mystery here, though the room isn't so much locked as under surveillance, and the only one seen entering it is Danny.

Things get sorted out in due time, but the issue of the identity of Katie's killer remains, and becomes even more important when others associated with Rock's performances turn up dead. Ceepak is his usual steady self, providing a calming presence for Boyle, who is understandably upset about Katie's demise. Ultimately, it is Boyle whose determination and developing powers of observation win the day, setting up an increasingly important role for him in future volumes.

As Grabenstein moves the series forward, Boyle can be seen maturing personally and professionally. He is coming into his own as a result, not quite losing his hero worship of Ceepak but instead focusing more on learning from him as opposed to the slack-jawed adoration of previous novels. But the most significant aspect of the book is that Grabenstein demonstrates he is not above removing sympathetic characters from the board (or the boardwalk, as the case may be), adding an extra layer of suspense not only to MIND SCRAMBLER but also to those installments of the series yet to come.

--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Although opposites in outlook, Sea Haven, New Jersey police partners John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are on leave in Atlantic City. They are not there to gamble, but instead are taking a disposition in hopes of helping Ceepak's estranged dad who has been charged with murder in Ohio.

Boyle runs into former girlfriend Katie Landry, who is the nanny of Richie and Britney, the children of Xanadu headliner magician Richard Rock and his wife. Katie is dating a Xanadu bouncer but agrees to go for drinks with Danny. Their case abruptly ends when Ceepak's dad pleads guilty. Rock's manager hires the two cops as extra security due to a rumor that the Milton Berle of magicians (due to stealing their acts) Lady Jasmine is attending. Katie and Jake vanish while Rock performs his final act geared to get people into the casino; Boyle goes backstage to find Katie murdered. The Atlantic City police deputize the two Sea Haven cops as more homicides occur.

The latest John Ceepak investigation (see HELL HOLE) is a terrific entry as the by the book cop and his breaking the rules partner may be off duty, but quickly become embroiled in a murder mystery. The story line is fast-paced from the onset, but it is the camaraderie between the two polar opposite cops that once again make for an entertaining tale.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2012
Grabenstein takes his cop duo - Ceepak and Boyle to Atlantic City. The boys are there to take a deposition, running into one of Boyle's old girlfriends when they hit town.

Danny Boyle is asked by his previous girlfriend, Katie Landry, to meet him after the show. Katie is currently a nanny to the children of a master illusionist and his wife who also joins him onstage.

Boyle and Ceepak take in the show and afterwards Boyle finds Katie murdered in her room. The scene is right out of a bad porn flick - S and M, torture and strangulation.

The book requires a suspension of belief when the Atlantic City Police Department deputize Boyle and Ceepak and ask them to help investigate the case. Ceepak is his usual high and tight self, Danny devastated by the loss of his friend and former lover.

The book gives you an inside look at magic and the people who entertain for a living, especially the seamier side.

Light reading, but fun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2009
I happened upon Mind Scrambler while looking through the library for something to read. Ceepak and Boyle are my new best friends! I plan to buy the series so I can read them all, then add them to my "lending library" at work. They are well written and funny, with fine attention to detail. I love the NJ references too!
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on May 21, 2014
Mind Scrambler (2009) is the fifth tourist mystery novel in the John Ceepak series, following Hell Hole. The initial volume in this sequence is Tilt a Whirl.

In the previous volume, Danny was the senior member of the team answering a disturbance complaint. A group of soldiers were playing hard rock music very loudly on the stereo. They ignored Danny knocking on the front door, but turned up the volume. Sam asked if she should call for backup.

After Sergeant Dixon turned his back on Danny and the neighbors problem, Danny told Sam to get her parking tickets. Then the prostitutes showed up and Danny told Sam to give them tickets for parking in the middle of the road. Dixon negotiated a cease fire.

Then the State Police called to inform them that one of the men had committed suicide. The Lieutenant passed the news on to Sergeant Dixon. He decided to drive to the scene and identify the body.

Danny said there is no way that any on them were going to drive anywhere. They were all drunk. He did offer to take Dixon to the rest area.

In this novel, Danny Boyle is a twenty-six year old fulltime cop in Sea Haven. Now he can carry a pistol. He is Ceepak's partner.

John Ceepak is a former MP whose last tour was in Iraq. He knew the former chief from a mutual tour in Germany. Ceepak is a dedicated cop, reading manuals and forensic references while Danny is having fun.

Richard Rock is a magician. He and his wife Jessica have come to the Xanadu at Atlantic City to put on a magic show. They have two children, Britney and Richie.

Jake Pratt is a dancer in the Rock magic show. He is a hot number.

Joe "Sixpack" Ceepak is John's father. Joe is hunting for his former wife with intent to kill. John is trying to get Joe incarcerated for as long as they can hold him.

Katie Landry is a former girlfriend of Danny. She moved to California to get a Masters in Education. Danny hasn't seen her since the move and never talked to her on the phone.

Cyrus Parker is head of security for Xanadu. Danny and Ceepak know him from a previous case(see Hell Hole).

Jasmine is a rival magician, who performs at the Taj Mahal. She works with her husband, Mo Mo the Midget.

Gary Burdick is a man who remembers Joe Ceepak's discussion of murder. He is meeting Ceepak and Danny in Atlantic City.

Mandini is a magician on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. He is also Burdick's sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Rodney P. Squires is Burdick's lawyer. He doesn't charge much.

In this story, Danny and Ceepak are on administrative leave while they assist in a murder case in Ohio. Ceepak's father is on trial for killing someone. They are in Atlantic City taking a deposition from a former jail acquaintance of Joe.

Ceepak is chewing out the bus driver for exceeding the speed limit by five miles per hour all the way down the Turnpike. Katie appears in the lobby of the Xanadu hotel. Danny talks with her a bit while waiting for Ceepak.

Katie says that she is a nanny and tutor for the kids of Rick Rock. Britney is spoiled, but Richie seems well behaved. She asks if they can talk later and Danny makes a breakfast date for the next day.

Danny gets to talk to Britney and Richie when they come back to Katie. Britney says that Katie has a boyfriend -- Jake -- who works in the show. She seems very bratty.

While walking through the slot machine area, Ceepak sees two men setting up for a purse snatch. They wait til the robbers make their play and then take them down. Security shows up immediately.

Cyrus has been observing the snatchers with security cameras. The casino and hotel are full of such cameras. So he had been on his way before Ceepak saw the robbers.

Cyrus asks what they are doing in Atlantic City. Ceepak tells him about the disposition. Cyrus welcomes them to the Xanadu and offers them a penthouse room. Ceepak decides not to accept, but Danny takes the offer.

Then Rock appears and Cyrus introduces Ceepak and Danny. Rock says that they will need more security for that evenings show. A fellow magician will be there to watch and video his act. She and her entourage will be is box 301.

Ceepak and Danny offer to help Security. Cyrus gets them tickets to box 302. They will be right next to Jasmine.

Jake interrupts Rock about a costume change. Danny figures out that he is Katie's boyfriend. He wishes he had muscles like Jake, but realizes that it would take too much effort.

Then Danny and Ceepak go to meet Burdick at the Starbucks. John offers to buy drinks, but Mandini nixes Burdick's request for liquor. Squires looks for his lucky pen. Then John gets a call from the Ohio prosecutor and learns that Joe has agreed to plead guilty. The deposition is no longer required, so everybody departs from Starbucks.

Danny and Ceepak attend the magic show that evening. Jake is not among the dancers. It is obvious that his absence was unexpected.

This tale takes Danny to the performer rooms to meet Katie. The door is partially open, but the lights are off. Inside he finds Katie's body.

This story confuses Danny and everybody else. He feels like someone just off the Mind Scrambler. The stories change and so do the assumed relationships between the suspects.

Danny feels like he failed to protect Katie. The next installment in this sequence is Rolling Thunder.

Highly recommended for Grabenstein fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of murder, magic shows, and personal relationships. Read and enjoy!

-Bill Jordin
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VINE VOICEon December 13, 2009
The fifth installment of the series finds Sea Haven, New Jersey police officers John Ceepak and Danny Boyle in Atlantic City. They are there to depose a con artist named Gary Burdick in connection with an Ohio homicide case involving John's father, Joseph Ceepak. Burdick and Joseph Ceepak shared a drunk tank one night years ago and supposedly Joseph Ceepak detailed how he had gotten away with murder. The trip to Atlantic City allows Danny to bump into his old flame, Katie Landy, who is working as a nanny for a couple of magicians.

It also means Boyle and Ceepak are around when Katie is found dead hours later in a room at the Xandau Hotel and Casino. Quickly cleared as a suspect, Boyle is soon forced to confront the twin ideas that Katie might not have been as innocent as she seemed and their relationship might have not been what he thought it was. Allowed to assist in the murder investigation, nothing is as it appears with magicians, and this case won't be easy to solve.

What started as a series that featured plenty of humor has evolved into a grim fictional reality. What humor is here is the grim bitter kind of humor that before the last two books was pretty much nonexistent. This shift in the series clearly could be due to the subject matter as Iraq and the murder of Katie aren't laughing matters. It could also be due to the that Danny Boyle is steadily maturing and seeing more and more of what folks will do to each other. The sprit of melancholy that appeared in the previous book blooms into a full flower here and creates a backdrop of Boyle questioning the past while trying to cope in the present.

"Mind Scrambler: A John Ceepak Mystery" is a good read that tells another strong Ceepak tale featuring plenty of action, interesting characters, and misdirection. But, it sadly lacks funny humor and what little humor present is a bitter sweet laughing with tears variety. The result is a good book that misses a vital element critical to the series. The entire series was provided to me directly by the author in exchange for my obejctive reviews. I would strongly suggest that you read the series in order to get the most out of the books.

Kevin R. Tipple (copyright) 2009
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2009
Enjoyed this thriller. The book holds your interest and you don't want to put it down. The main characters are like old friends.
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