Daily Archives: July 30, 2009

Review: Mind Scrambler by Chris Grabenstein

Mind Scrambler: A John Ceepak MysteryThis is the 5th John Ceepak Mystery.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From Chris Grabenstein’s Web Site:

John Ceepak and Danny Boyle are making the rounds in Atlantic City when Danny runs into his former crush, Katie. She’s working as a nanny for the children of a magician named Richard Rock, the headliner at one of the big casinos. When Katie is found strangled to death backstage, it is up to Ceepak and Danny to find out who killed her. Their lives and the lives of others depend on it.

I always enjoy this series, but I’m having a hard time identifying exactly why. I never needed to before starting this blog!  I could just relax and enjoy.

First, I haven’t read anything else quite like them, even though I’ve read quite a range of mysteries.

They are more character driven and somehow softer than most procedurals, while clearly having more of an edge than cozies (not to mention featuring two police officers). This book seemed harsher than the previous books, but somehow it didn’t cross the line into icky (although truly icky things happen!). I give Grabenstein major credit for this, thinking back over the story.

The setting on the Jersey Shore is also unusual for me.   I enjoy the link to the various amusement park rides the books are named for, particularly this book’s Mind Scrambler. This time, the story wanders to Atlantic City, which is more usual mystery stomping grounds (or it felt that way, even though I can’t think of any specific examples set there).

The best things about these books are the two lead characters: John Ceepak and Danny Boyle.

John Ceepak lives his life by a strict code of honor, and expects the same from those around him. His partner (Danny Boyle) describes him as the worlds oldest Eagle Scout. He’s always perceptive and able to think his way to the right conclusion. Again, I give Grabenstein credit for making this work, because he could have been very tedious.  In Mind Scrambler, his code of honor is tested, more so than we’ve seen before. Watching him struggle through this adds further depth to his character.

Danny Boyle started the series as a somewhat shallow, carefree young man in search of an easy summer job. Ceepak has had a significant effect on him, and he is maturing very nicely. He has just the right touch of hero worship as he narrates the story, contrasting what he is able to figure out with the conclusions that Ceepak draws. This time, Danny is drawn into the mystery in a very personal way.  Watching him balance between Danny the individual and Danny the police officer made for good reading.

I also want to mention the narrator, Jeff Woodman. I’ve listened to them all (from and he does a fantastic job of bringing these books to life.

I recommend reading this series in order, since Danny’s growth is such a major part of the books for me


Posted by on July 30, 2009 in books, reviews


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