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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2010
"I used to round up shopping carts in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. Then I met Ceepak and life's been one big roller coaster ride ever since." - Danny Boyle

Officer Danny Boyle isn't the only one going for a roller coaster ride in Rolling Thunder, the sixth entry in author Chris Grabenstein's John Ceepak/Jersey Shore mystery series. Memorial Day weekend in Sea Haven, New Jersey finds Danny and his partner, John Ceepak, working crowd control at the grand opening of the Rolling Thunder roller coaster. "Big Paddy" O'Malley, owner of the Rolling Thunder, his family, and assorted town dignitaries are also on hand to be the first to experience the seaside town's newest attraction.

They get more than they bargained for when Mrs. O'Malley has a heart attack and dies during the coaster's initial run. Though the death appears on the surface to be nothing more than an unfortunate tragedy, Ceepak and Boyle are bothered by the lack of distress exhibited by several members of the family and begin looking into the workings of the O'Malley clan. As they are doing so another death, this one unquestionably a murder, confirms their suspicion that something is fishy in Sea Haven.

As with all previous entries in this outstanding series, Grabenstein serves up a wonderfully complex mystery for Ceepak and Danny to tackle. Along the way they must deal with a jealous, potentially criminally complicit colleague, prominent members of the community engaging in organized activities of questionable legality, a mayor who wants nothing more than to not upset the tourists, and a family with Shakespearean levels of dysfunction.

Engaging mysteries notwithstanding, it has always been the characters of Ceepak and Danny themselves that truly set the Jersey Shore series apart from run of the mill crime fiction. Though they're easy to describe in broad brush terms for a book jacket - Ceepak the straight-laced, by the book former Military Police Officer, Danny the young, wisecracking local who got into part-time law enforcement on a whim - there is so much more going on.

Over the course of the series we've learned about the chaos in Ceepak's early life that drove him into the military and shaped him into a man who craves extreme order as a means to feel in control of his life. We've also seen glimpses into the darkness that lurks beneath Ceepak's ordered surface, reminding readers that he's much more than the "Dudley Do-Right" his foes often describe him as.

Likewise, Danny has shown himself to be more than a wisecracking side-kick. Initially only caring about his part-time job with the Sea Haven PD because "chicks dig the cop cap," Danny has grown to appreciate and take pride in his individual role as a police officer, as well as his status as Ceepak's partner. He's also grown into a formidable investigator in his own right, and the events that unfold in Rolling Thunder set the stage for Danny to take a tremendous step forward in his maturation as both a police officer and a man.

Yes, in Ceepak and Danny Grabenstein has, with a sure hand, brought to life over the course of the series two of the most interesting, multi-faceted protagonists in modern crime fiction. Those who've been reading the series since its Tilt-A-Whirl debut will love the continuing evolution of Ceepak and Danny, while those new to Sea Haven will find ready-made friends they'll feel as though they've known forever. No doubt about it, everyone should be in line for a ride on Rolling Thunder.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2010
From start to finish, this book is as exciting and entertaining as the ride for which it is titled! From "clanking up the hill" (by having Ceepak and Danny check kids in line for height requirements) to reaching that first peak (when a woman has a heart attack on the roller coaster) and then dashing down the hill into the rest of the ride, this book has as many twists and turns, ups and downs as the real thing. I found it well paced - just like a roller coaster - because sometimes you have to have little "rests" in there or it just all gets too exciting. (Love Ceepaks facts about heart attacks and stress and roller coasters!). Roller coasters are fun for me because there's definitely a scare factor involved but I feel enough confidence in the basic safety of a fixed attraction to enjoy the ride. Chris does the same thing in his books. There's always an excitement about what will happen next but I can safely rely on Ceepak's code of honor to keep things on track. I love watching Danny grow and become, as he puts it "Ceepak Jr." The Sea Haven mysteries are filled with humor, wisdom, quiet strength, and nail-biting tension and I knew before I read it that I would love this book because of the author and the series subject matter/characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 11, 2010
First, I have to confess that this was my first John Ceepak mystery. I usually start at the beginning of a series and work my way through, but in this case I went to see the author read and was completely intrigued. ROLLING THUNDER is well-written and well-plotted, and a perfect summer read. I can't comment on character development, the way that many of the other reviewers have, but I can tell you that the book is a great thrill ride even if this is your first taste of the series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2010
It is so much fun to fall back into the world of Ceepak and Boyle. The Jersey Shore is so vividly drawn that I would swear I've been there, except for the fact that I've never set foot in the state!

This time round Danny and Ceepak are at the grand opening of a new ride on the boardwalk, an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster called, you guessed it, Rolling Thunder. The owner and his family are taking the first ride and have just started into the second hill when the wife suffers a heart attack. Although it appears to be natural causes, questions arise when the coaster owners "girl friend" turns up dead.

I absolutely love these characters, Ceepak has relaxed a little but not a lot from the first books but the changes in Danny Boyle have been wonderful to watch. He has basically grown from a cocky teenager (even though he is over 20 when the series starts his behavior is very immature) to a responsible police officer who is learning from his older partner. They make a fascinating contrast as well as a smooth partnership. Can't wait for the next in the series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2010
It's so nice to have John Ceepak and Danny Boyle back again. If you are unfamiliar with Chris Grabenstein's mysteries, then ROLLING THUNDER, the sixth installment in the series, is a great place to start. Ceepak and Boyle are senior/junior partners in the Sea Haven, New Jersey Police Department. Sea Haven is a semi-seedy Jersey shore resort destination with enough trouble to give them job security for years to come. Ceepak is a war veteran who is all right angles and, by reputation and in reality, never lies; Boyle is his somewhat younger understudy and the narrator of the series.

Grabenstein is a wonderful author who has quickly moved to the A-lists of the readers who have encountered this series, in part due to the endearing traits of his memorable characters. He also has that rare ability to give readers plenty of detail without bogging down the narrative in minutiae. The result is a story that flows swiftly but with heft, much like a roller coaster, which is precisely what the book happens to be.

Let us put things in context. Rolling Thunder is the name of a brand-new roller coaster that is all set to take its inaugural run in Sea Haven on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, which, as Boyle hastens to inform us in the opening paragraphs of the book, unofficially starts the resort season. But Rolling Thunder hardly gets out of the gate before claiming its first victim: Paddy O'Malley's wife, its owner. The O'Malley family is interesting, and each member is worth the price of admission to the novel all by themselves. It appears that Mrs. O'Malley's already overstrained heart succumbed to the excitement of the roller coaster ride. The reaction of her family to her demise, however, is not exactly what one might expect, and it arouses at least a tickle of suspicion with Ceepak and Boyle. They don't have much time to explore it, though, since another death --- this one certainly a grisly murder --- follows almost immediately, requiring that they devote all their energy to the investigation.

As Yogi Berra so famously noted, "(Y)ou can observe a lot just by watching," and indeed, Ceepak and Boyle utilize their powers of observation with interrogation and the good old practice of kicking over rocks in order to follow a trail that leads not only to the corridors of city and state government but also back to their own department, among other places. Grabenstein creates an interesting yet not overly complex mystery that is populated by familiar characters, both likable and otherwise, resulting in a story that is entertaining without sacrificing word craft.

One of my favorite elements of these mysteries is that each novel moves the lives of Ceepak and Boyle along, at least a bit. ROLLING THUNDER is no exception. While Ceepak's ready-made family is kept off the pages for most of the book, an element of the past comes back once again to haunt him, with an unexpected conclusion. And Boyle experiences some potential changes in his life, ones that have the power to challenge his dedication to his job --- or perhaps to make it stronger. Readers who have been around from the beginning of the series will be delighted, as always, while those for whom this is the first ride will no doubt buy return tickets for earlier volumes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 28, 2010
It's all good - Boyle and Ceepak are together again working crowd control at the new Rolling Thunder roller coaster when all heck (hey, Ceepak may be listening) breaks loose. And like a run-away roller coaster after the first hill, the story builds speed and excitement right through to the dramatic ending.

Like all previous Boyle / Ceepak novels, Officer Danny narrates the story for us, with more than a touch of humor and irony, as the sea side dynamic duo investigate a suspicious heart attack, a dismemberd beach bunny and possible mob bad guys doing bad things. There is even one additional complication in the name of Joe Ceepak - John Ceepak's wayward father - an ex-con / current drunk searching for Officer John's mother.

Grabenstein sprinkles lots of clues along the way and someone more of Sherlock than I may have been able to solve this who done it. However, I just went along for the ride and enjoyed every minute.

If you have not read the other novels in this series, you might be better served in starting with Tilt-a-Whirl and working you way up to Rolling Thunder. But This novel stands on its own and will spure you to search out the others in the series.

I am glad that Grabenstein - a talented and creative author - has found a new home at Pegasus Books. That can only mean more Boyle / Ceepak adventures on LBI - I mean Sea Haven. New Jersey's murder capital by the sea!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2010
Chris wins a cupie doll for Rolling Thunder. He ditched the serial killers, pedophiles, & terrorists, brought Ceepak & Danny back to Sea Haven, & wrote a somewhat conventional action mystery about corruption, hatred, & madness in a wealthy seaside fsmily. Ross Macdonald? There's only a few gruesome murders, & a MacGuffin.

Sea Haven is still one whack Jersey boardwalk town I'd avoid for a week's vacation. But it's fully realized, a wonderful creation/composite of several well known shore towns. There's fewer screwball side characters in Rolling Thunder, less scenery, not many fried Twinkies, almost no references to Springsteen. Ceepak is mellowing, in the sense that it's possible for him. This is transitional novel that takes Danny Boyle to another level. He's still mostly Ceepak's sidekick. but he's acting more independently as he gains experience & confidence, & Ceepak's trust. He's a crack shot on the police range, sure to win John's respect. But Danny still has an element of rascality & a sense of humor that hopefully Chris will develop. He'll never be a guy who lives completely by "The Code."

So what next? I'd like Chris to find a reason for the guys to go to Asbury Park, a small city with everything: bad government, drugs, sex, gangs, real estate shenanigans, & Springsteen, next to a quaint Victorian town, Ocean Grove, that hosts a Methodist Camp Meeting every summer. They could really stir that place up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2010
When a prominent woman dies during the ceremonial first ride on Sea Haven's new wooden roller coaster, Danny and Ceepak are on the scene. After they conduct a daring rescue, an entirely new--and seeming unrelated--crisis shocks this little resort town on the Jersey Shore. The fast-paced developments soon threaten the investigators, their friends, and the rapidly-approaching tourist season. "Rolling Thunder," the sixth John Ceepak Mystery from Anthony Award-winning Chris Grabenstein, won't disappoint loyal fans or new readers. There's plenty of mystery, suspense, and the usual humor, which fans always look forward to. But don't think this is just a light-weight summer read--ROLLING THUNDER reveals the darker side of Sea Haven and some of its most prominent citizens. The ending tests Danny and Ceepak to new limits and will keep you turning pages until the crisis is finally resolved. And...is there someone new in Danny's life? Stay tuned!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2010
Chris Grabenstein just keeps getting better and better. This series of books is wonderfully written. The characters are great and very believable. Ceepak and Danny and the other characters seem like old friends at this point.
Mr. Grabenstein is a gifted writer who manages to combine humor and suspense. He does not take the easy way out and coast on his reputation but delivers a well crafted story every time.
I highly recommend this book but suggest you start at the beginning of the series and read your way through it.
But this is surely one of the best. Lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end.
He also writes highly scary holiday thrillers. Slay Ride is one of the scariest books I've ever read. In fact it is so suspenseful that a friend of mine who lives alone couldn't finish it so I had to tell her the ending. Quite a compliment to an author and in Mr. Grabenstein's case well deserved.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2010
Faced with the evils of the world, a friend is all you have in finding justice. "Rolling Thunder" is a mystery following John Ceepak and his partner Danny Boyle as they try to find who is responsible for the mysterious deaths of a senior citizen and a young woman. Their investigative skills will be tested as Chris Grabenstein brings readers on a fun mystery ride, making "Rolling Thunder" a choice pick.
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