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chris grabenstein

John Ceepak Mystery #1

Tilt A Whirl


There isn't much fun in the sun when a billionaire real estate tycoon is found murdered on the Tilt-A-Whirl at a seedy seaside amusement park in the otherwise quiet tourist town of Sea Haven, New Jersey.

John Ceepak, a former MP back from Iraq, has just joined the Sea Haven Police Department. The job offer came from an old Army buddy who wanted to give him at least a summer's worth of R&R to escape the horrors of war.

Instead, Ceepak heads up the murder investigation. He is partnered with Danny Boyle, a 24-year-old, part-time cop who doesn't carry a gun and only works with the police by day so he has enough pocket money to play with his beach buddies by night.

In the first novel in a new series with echoes of Carl Hiaasen and John D. MacDonald, the Tilt A Whirl murder pushes Ceepak's deep sense of honor to the limits as unexpected twists and turns keep the truth spinning wildly in every direction.

  *Tilt A Whirl made many Best Mysteries of 2005 lists: The Sun-Sentinel, Detroit Free Press, The Christian Science Monitor, Barnes&Noble.com, BookBitch.com and more!

Read the first chapter!
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Carroll & Graf Hardcover, September 2005, ISBN: 978-0786715848
Carroll & Graf Paperback, April 2006, ISBN-13: 978-0786717811

How do you say TILT A WHIRL in Japanese?

tilt a whirl in Japanese



"Entertaining debut."
   —The New York Times

"Chris Grabenstein's Tilt A Whirl is a fast-paced thrill ride with lots of twists and turns and good writing from start to finish!"
   —James Patterson

"There's fireworks down the Jersey shore in this first book in a promising series."
   —Kirkus Reviews

"This impressive debut by New York City advertising executive-turned-mystery writer Grabenstein is set in idyllic Sea Haven, a touristy summer town... and follows cop extraordinaire John Ceepak and his part-time junior partner, Danny Boyle.... The story is related by Boyle, whose youthful inexperience and desire to be a kid are the perfect foil for Ceepak's mature, by-the-book demeanor. Grabenstein's writing is direct and punchy, providing many laugh-out-loud moments. Though a bit surreal, the ending is unexpected and satisfying and wraps up a good pace. Highly recommended."
   —Library Journal (Starred Review!)

"From page 1, this debut stands out as refreshingly different. Billed as the first entry in Grabenstein's Jersey Shore series, the story is set in Sea Haven, a town that will stir memories for East Coasters who went "down the Shore" each summer. The story centers on the murder of real-estate tycoon Reggie Hart, who was shot in front of his teenage daughter, Ashley. Danny Boyle, a 24-year-old "summer cop" encounters the hysterical girl while on patrol with his partner, John Ceepak, an ex-soldier who has returned from Iraq with some demons left to exorcise. Although Grabenstein crafts a first-rate mystery, what makes this novel special is its two protagonists. With young Boyle narrating, the reader gets to know Ceepak gradually, through his partner's eyes. At first Ceepak's personal code of honor only amuses or annoys the cynical Boyle. But as he (and we) get to know the former soldier, the portrait of a true hero emerges. Grabenstein brilliantly evokes the endearing seediness of a Jersey Shore town in summer but it's his development of the Ceepak-Boyle relationship that makes this an absolute triumph."
   —Booklist (Starred Review!)

"Thoughtful, funny and exciting debut."
   —Dick Adler, The Chicago Tribune

"Just like the amusement ride it's named after, Tilt A Whirl spins with brisk twists and exciting turns as it veers off into still another plot tendril. This debut from former advertising executive Chris Grabenstein hits just the right tone, melding a multilayered plot that is equally action-packed and poignant, hard-hitting and funny, sarcastic and serious, sometimes all in the same paragraph."
   —Oline Cogdill, The Sun-Sentinel (Voted One Of The Best Mysteries of 2005!)

"Funny, smart, and smoothly written, Tilt A Whirl is all kinds of twisty fun."
   —The Christian Science Monitor (Voted One Of The Best Mysteries of 2005!)

"This is a fun and fast-paced tale. The ending is as unexpected and shocking as a ride on the actual contraption, and the denouement is sure to leave readers with a glow. Two thumbs up; You go, Grabenstein!"
   —Winston-Salem Journal

"Briskly paced, well plotted, and narrated with a cynical humor that makes it a real joy to read."
   —Ron Bernas, The Detroit Free Press (Voted One Of The Best Mysteries of 2005!)

"Full of unpredictable twists and turns. There's plenty of fizz in the chemistry between the two protagonists to keep the novel and the reader spinning."
   —Boston Globe

"Grabenstein, a former advertising executive, writes punchy prose, tells a fast-paced story and leavens an essentially horrifying plot with humor... Ceepak and Boyle are likable characters, and Grabenstein's vision of the Jersey shore is priceless."
   —Richmond Times Dispatch

"A small treasure. A wealth of characters with more depth than the genre often offers."
   —Tampa Tribune

"Chris Grabenstein's first novel, has a quirky charm, filled with sun, surf and an assortment of sinister and zany characters. The twist at the end is as chilling as any devised."
   —Orlando Sentinel

"Grabenstein has hit upon a winning combination with Ceepak and Boyle, and the Sea Haven setting. While superficially cheerful and idyllic, it has just enough hints of hidden but deep-seated corruption and vice to provide for a motivation for further crime-ridden visits. We'll most definitely look forward to them."
   —Joe Hartlaub, BookReporter.com

"Smoothly written, it reads like the work of an experienced author. Its skillful melding of stock elements provides both an entertaining and challenging mystery."
   —Lesley Dunlap, TheMysteryReader.com (read the full review)

"Chris Grabenstein has written a wild ride. It's by turns fun, funny, and scary. The man can write!"
   —Ted Bell, author of Pirate, Assassin and Hawke

"Do not be fooled by its bright pink cover or its amusement park themed title. Tilt A Whirl is far more than a funnel cake, cotton candy cozy.... True to its title, the novel leads you through a number of twists and turns, each more fun to discover than the next. Grabenstein, whose background includes improvisation comedy, infuses the book with just the needed amount of humor. Tilt A Whirl is just as exciting as and far less nauseating than a trip to Magic Mountain."
   —The Mystery Bookstore (Annie's pick!)

"A tricky plot; very amusing characters; and lots of sardonic observations about tourist traps and small town boosters make this an extremely entertaining, well-written mystery."
   —Beverly Deweese, Deadly Pleasures

"Nicely crafted, this murder mystery includes all of the sound clues and misdirection that you hope to find in a good whodunit. Chris Grabenstein shows some great skill and fills the book with fascinating secondary characters, but the main pull of this book is the ongoing relationship between light-hearted Danny as he grows to really get to know Ceepak and understand what fires have tempered his partner and how Ceepak remains true to his own list of rules. Ceepak and Danny are a great team, an intelligent turn of the overused cliche of the young man learning about the job from an older one. Tilt A Whirl is the first of a new series and I'm heartily looking forward to the next installment."
   —Sharon Katz, ReviewingTheEvidence.com (read the full review)

"This highly engaging read is sure to garner Grabenstein a host of fans for his superb storytelling abilities and character generation.... the mystery itself provides plenty of suspense and shocks, all adding up for one heck of a good read. Here's to hoping it's just the first in a series from an author who knows just how to tell a story for maximum impact."
   —Stephanie Padilla, NewMysteryReader.com

"I was hooked pretty much on the first page. Grabenstein has a very easy and relaxed style that makes the book a real joy to read. It kept me guessing right to the end. I will definitely be looking for the next in this series."
   —Jon Jordan, Crimespree Magazine

"This debut novel by Chris Grabenstein is a delightful cozy, one that is a fast read and keeps the reader guessing right up until the end."
   —Gloria Feits, DorothyL

"If you can combine a roller coaster ride with a fun house, and maybe Sherlock Holmes with Watson thrown in, you'll have a pretty good idea of Tilt A Whirl by Chris Grabenstein. Tilt A Whirl is Mr. Grabenstein's first mystery novel, and although no stranger to writing, Chris Grabenstein has given us a slant on the murder mystery scene we haven't seen since Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick.... Chris Grabenstein has proven himself an excellent new voice in the murder-mystery field, and we'll look forward to his next offering."
   —Alan Paul Curtis, Who-Dunnit.com

"In Tilt A Whirl, Chris Grabenstein introduces one of the best sidekick/narrators since Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin.... Danny Boyle's story of the Tilt A Whirl crime comes alive through his unique voice. He grows as a narrator as he relates a story of murder and deception. Grabenstein has written one of the best first mysteries of the year."
   —Lesa Holstine

"Looking for a good read? A mystery, but nothing too grim? Maybe with a little bit of fun and one-liners thrown in to heighten the pleasure? A read with a surprising ending? Believe me, you can't go wrong with Chris Grabenstein's Tilt A Whirl.... In this first of a new series, Grabenstein offers just about anything the reader might want in a mystery. And does it well."
   —Mary Ann Smyth, BookLoons.com (read the full review)

"I'm quite pleased to report that it's a very well-done mystery set amidst the seedy small town of South Haven and its decaying amusement park. A murdered tycoon, kidnapped daughter and an ending that exposes the grimy layer underneath, Tilt A Whirl just works. And it's great fun, too."
   —Sarah Weinman, Confessions of an Idiosyncractic Mind

"Using an intriguing choice of point of view for the voice of his characters, Chris Grabenstein provides a fun but thoughtful read in his debut novel.... Red herrings abound and a heartbreakingly cruel deception is at the heart of the solution. Although Grabenstein uses a light, humorous narrative to tell the story, his presentation of the truth of the events is still a sobering moment, and Grabenstein makes it work."
   —Woodstock, BooksNBytes.com

"A first rate whodunit. The action comes out of the gate like a shot, takes the curves and doesn't stop until ithits the surprising finish. Tilt A Whirl is a wonderfully written mix of mirth, murder and mendacity."
   —Grace Edwards, author of Viaduct and The Mali Anderson Mysteries

"This is a hard-boiled, noir thriller with a heavy dose of humor and hijinks and a hot pink cover.... it's a wicked good story, and I look forward to the further adventures of Danny Boyle and John Ceepak."
   —Shirley Wetzel, OverMyDeadBody.com (read the full review)

"This is a fine first novel that leaves you feeling like you have been riding on a runaway tilt-a-whirl, with more twists and turns than the most complex roller coaster. Using equal doses of humor, fear and irony, Grabenstein takes you on a wild ride that will have you hanging on until the shocking ending."
   —Kathy Thomason, DorothyL

"Tilt A Whirl is quite a ride. Just when you think you have the crime figured out, the author throws in another twist. I was quite surprised with the ending of this book. It was not at all what I expected. I certainly hope Chris Grabenstein turns the team of Boyle and Ceepak into a series, as I would certainly enjoying read more about them."
   —Gina Metz, Mysteries Galore (read the full review)

"There's funny/ha-ha and funny/witty. This book is both. Grabenstein has a sly eye for the absurdities of the human landscape....Tilt A Whirl kept me laughing....If you want to know what Tilt A Whirl is really like, see the author's photo on the back flap. His grin says it all."
   —Pat Browning, author of Full Circle