Tag Archives: Jeff Woodman

Review: Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein


Danny Boyle is a 24-year-old part-time cop in the summer resort town of Sea Haven. His partner is John Ceepak, a former military police officer just back from Iraq who is also new to the Sea Haven police department. This summer, though, things are heating up in the usually quiet tourist town: Reggie Hart, a multi-millionaire real estate developer, has been shot to death in front of his teenage daughter Ashley at the base of the tilt-a-whirl in Sea Haven’s run-down old amusement park.

Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein, is the first in a series of mysteries set in Sea Haven and featuring Danny Boyle and John Ceepak. I first heard of the series at Beth Fish Reads back in June, and since then have gone on to read (or rather, listen to, in audio) all five books in the series, including the latest one, Mind Scrambler.

There were many reasons why I enjoyed Tilt-a-Whirl so much that I embarked on a reading blitz and polished off all the books in a two-month period. First, the town of Sea Haven is wonderfully depicted; it’s the summer resort town many of us have visited some time in our lives, so busy in the summer but as a tourist, you have your suspicions that it’s a relaxing place to be once all the vacationers are gone.

The story is narrated by Danny Boyle, and it’s lighthearted in nature; Boyle is a beach kid becoming an adult, and his narrative has a fresh, fun feel to it, along with a sincerity and honesty that’s very appealing.

And then there’s the mystery. Despite Boyle’s lighthearted narrative style, there’s far more to the mystery than meets the eye; ultimately, it’s a story that involves the dark side of human nature. It’s a combination that’s both unusual and very engrossing.

But most of all, I enjoyed Tilt-a-Whirl so much because I fell in love with the characters. Danny Boyle is just such a kid – he’s doing the part-time cop thing because he wants to earn extra money to have fun with his beach buddies. There’s something extremely endearing about his innocence; he’s like the kid brother I never had, and it was very enjoyable watching him grow into his position as a Sea Haven police officer, part-time or not.

And then there’s John Ceepak, fresh out of the military, with his stern code of honor – “I will not cheat, lie or steal, nor tolerate those who do”. When Boyle first introduced me to Ceepak, I wasn’t sure I’d like the guy. He seemed inflexible and rather humorless. But as the story developed, Boyle began to learn more about his new partner, and so did I – and I liked what I saw. John Ceepak is a Hero, with a capital “H” – in this day and age, he’s like a modern version of a knight of Camelot, living his life according to a code of chivalry.

In Tilt-a-Whirl, we come to learn there’s a lot more to John Ceepak than meets the eye. And we admire him because, despite all that he’s been through (and, as we discover, he’s been through a lot), he’s managed to still be who he is, someone honorable, likeable and, well, pure at heart.

Here’s a glimpse of how Danny Boyle feels about Ceepak at the beginning of the book:

Before the Army, Ceepak told me he studied criminology. Before that, he was an Eagle Scout. Before that? I’m not sure, but I’ll bet he was one helluva hall monitor in kindergarten. This is his first civilian cop job. He told the local newspaper, “he loves being on the job in Sea Haven” because he can “help visiting children safely enjoy wholesome family fun”.

Okay.  Fine.

Despite all of this, Boyle, and the reader, through Boyle’s eyes, gradually learns to really like and admire John Ceepak.

I listened to Tilt-a-Whirl in audio, and Jeff Woodman’s narration is excellent. He captures Danny Boyle’s youthful perspective perfectly, and his Ceepak never leaves you in doubt that it’s Ceepak talking. In his hands, the secondary characters also come to life; he does women’s voices so well you’re never thinking in the back of your mind, oh yes, that’s a man doing a woman’s voice.

If you’re interested in reading the John Ceepak mysteries, I highly recommend you start with Tilt-a-Whirl, and then read the books in sequence. It’s not that each book doesn’t work on its own, but earlier characters do show up in later books in a way that could ruin a bit of the mystery of the earlier books if you haven’t read them yet.

Where to buy Tilt-a-Whirl:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Audible Inc., 2007, audiobook, 8 hours and 18 minutes in length

[TSS] More Beach Reads, Movies and Writing (Not Really)

CIMG2225Not very original, I know, but I can’t believe how this week has just flown by. I seem to be caught up in a routine of eating, drinking, reading and relaxing, not necessarily in that order.

My husband is on his way back from the fish market right now, with fresh lobster and deep fried clams, and I finally managed to snatch my netbook out of the hands of my daughter, so the time feels perfect for blogging.

This Week’s Reads

The Blue CastleAfter finishing The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, on my first full day here in Nova Scotia, I decided the atmosphere was perfect for some L.M. Montgomery – we aren’t that far away from P.E,I., and the sand beach near us has red sand in it, which reminded me of the Island. I have almost all of Montgomery’s works on my netbook in ebook format, so I decided to re-read The Blue Castle, one of my favorite Montgomery works. Unlike Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, The Blue Castle is the story of an adult heroine, Valancy Stirling. It’s a wonderful Cinderella tale, and I’ve read and re-read it many times. I’d forgotten that it’s set in the Muskokas in Ontario, rather than P.E.I., so I will probably read Emily of New Moon sometime this week just to get my Island fix.

Hell HoleAfter The Blue Castle, I started Jim Butcher’s Storm Front, Book 1 of the Dresden Files series. I’m about halfway through – I love the concept of a wizard detective in current-day Boston, and it’s a fun book, but it wasn’t quite fitting my mood, so I also started listening to Hell Hole, by Chris Grabenstein, the fourth book in the John Ceepak and Danny Boyle series. I am quite addicted to this series now, and finished Hell Hole yesterday while we were at Crescent Beach in Lockeport, N.S.. Jeff Woodman, who narrates the series, is a superb narrator, and if you’re wanting to get started with audiobooks and like mysteries, I’d definitely recommend the audio version of this series. Just make sure you start with the first book in the series, Tilt-a-Whirl, not because each book doesn’t stand on its own, but mainly because characters from previous books do show up again (or not, as the case may be), which can give clues to the mysteries in the previous books.

Rounding up my reading for the week, I also started Wayne Dyer’s Excuses Begone!. It’s a great read so far; I like in particular its emphasis not on our feelings or desires, but on our identity.

Movies, Movies, Movies

It’s turning out to be movie night for the family every night here at the beach cottage – there’s just something really nice about gathering together after a great seafood dinner to watch movies (especially since it’s pretty bug-heavy outside at night).

So far, we’ve watched Music & Lyrics, The Dark Knight, Dirty Dancing, Miss Congeniality, Disturbia, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Gone in 60 Seconds. My older son did excuse himself to play the Sims 3 on the nights we watched Dirty Dancing and He’s Just Not That Into You, but otherwise our movie nights have been perfect family time (the little one was in bed, of course).

Writing (Or Not)

I think I must have been dreaming when I last blogged that I was thinking about writing 6,000 words a day! The only writing I’ve done so far has been in my journal; not only has it been tough to lay my hands on my netbook, but the ergonometric keyboard I brought along in order to, well, write, isn’t working very well – the “o” and the “b” keys don’t work at all.

And really, the days have been so lazy and idyllic, I just haven’t felt like doing much except (have I mentioned?) eating, drinking and reading.


I finally started remembering to bring my camera with me when we went on our our outings, which have been mainly to beaches so far, although next week we plan on heading out for day trips to Yarmouth and Mahone Bay. A visit to Peggy’s Cove is also planned, although the days are slipping by so fast, I’m not sure we’ll have time to do everything on our list.

The beaches here in Nova Scotia are just gorgeous – many of them are white sand beaches, and if it weren’t for the weather, you’d think you were in the Caribbean. I don’t actually like to swim, and I love cool, windy weather, so it’s been perfect for me. While they’ve been calling for clouds and rain every day we’ve been here, the weather has been beautiful and sunny  so far (just not particularly hot).

CIMG2165 Sandy Point Lighthouse Beach

CIMG2160 Red Sands at Sandy Point

CIMG2204 Dylan & Daddy at Crescent Beach, Lockeport

CIMG2206 Oops! Forgot My Sand Bucket!

CIMG2234 Beautiful White Sands

CIMG2302 Bit of Sand Beach at Our Beach Cottage

CIMG2322 View from the Side of the House