The seaside resort of Sea Haven, NJ has seen more than its fair share of murder and mayhem over the course of author Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak mystery series, but nothing officer John Ceepak and his partner Danny Boyle have experienced in their careers could have prepared them for the horror they must confront in Fun House… babysitting the contestants of a Jersey Shore style reality show.
Indeed, when “Fun House” (“Think Jersey Shore meets Big Brother meets Survivor.”) sets up shop in sunny Sea Haven things get quite stormy for Ceepak and Danny, as the buff, bronzed, and boozed up cast proceeds to wreck havoc – loudly and usually with much profanity – on everything and everyone they come into contact with.
When footage of Ceepak arresting one of the contestants run amok in a drunken skee ball rampage hits YouTube and goes viral, the show’s producers smell ratings gold and convince Sea Haven’s Mayor to assign Ceepak and Danny to the Fun House cast full time.
Things go from obnoxious and annoying to deadly and serious, however, when one of the cast members is brutally murdered. Add in a drug dealer called Skeletor, a motorcycle gang, the Jersey mob, and an anonymous death threat promising to kill one of the remaining cast members live on air and you get two things: through the roof ratings and a lot of overtime for Ceepak and Danny.
Fun House marks the return of Ceepak and Danny after a two year hiatus, following 2010’s Rolling Thunder, and a welcome return it is. As someone who loves the Ceepak series and loathes reality TV, I couldn’t wait to see Grabenstein turn his sly sense of humor loose on the “Fun House” cast and crew, and he did not disappoint. The books in the Ceepak series are always packed with a wonderful mix of mystery and mirth, but the one-liners and wry observations really fly in Fun House. Including the aforementioned skee ball incident, there are numerous literally laugh out loud scenes in the book (read in public at your own risk), as well as some good-natured skewering of small town politicians as the Mayor of Sea Haven blindly hitches his wagon to the “Fun House” cash cow, death be damned!
As always, however, what continues to set the Ceepak series apart from run-of-the-mill crime fiction is the relationship between the two main characters. Over the years we’ve watched Danny go from a wet behind the ears part-timer to a seasoned law enforcement officer, and have also gotten to see far enough behind Ceepak’s public persona to know there is some real darkness – born of both family issues and combat experiences – that lurks beneath his calm exterior. And we’ve watched what began as a seeming teaming of oil and water blossom into a genuine friendship/mentor relationship between the two men. Which is makes it all the more alarming for both Danny and the reader when we learn that Ceepak has a job offer to become the head of detectives for a town back in his home state of Ohio, a move that would bring him more prestige, more money, and get him closer to his aging mother. And much to Danny’s dismay, it’s an offer Ceepak is finding hard to refuse.
I won’t tell you how things turn out, for the “Fun House” gang or with that job offer, but I can tell you that both longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike should be heading ‘down the shore’ and queuing up for a chance to experience the marvelous adventure that awaits them in Chris Grabenstein’s Fun House.
Fun House is available from Pegasus (ISBN: 978-1605983363).