Today I have a review of an adult mystery for you (though it does feature a child as a semi-major character). Chris Grabenstein's Tilt-a-Whirl is a non-stop adventure that repeatedly confounds expectations. Grabenstein uses realistic details to paint the portrait of a small New Jersey beach town in Technicolor. Tilt A Whirl's narrator has a self-deprecatory, wise-cracking sort of voice that I enjoyed, and occasionally found laugh-out-loud funny. Here are two examples:
"It's 8:30 P.M. and I'm out on the deck with a few of my buds (most of whom are drinking Buds) watching the sun slip down behind the docks and sailboats on the bay side of the island." (page 80)
"I always wonder about these unarmed, white-shirt security guards. If they look at your driver's license and decide you're a bad guy, what can they do? Whack you in the head with their clipboard?" (page 179)
Grabenstein's plotting is also masterful. I didn't anticipate the ending at all. However, when I looked back, I could see that the author absolutely played fair in planting clues and keeping characters consistent.
Tilt A Whirl is told from the perspective of Danny Boyle, a 24-year-old part-time cop assigned to partner and chauffeur the much more experienced John Ceepak. Ceepak is a former MP, recently back from Iraq. He has a strong moral code, and more than a few traces of shell-shock. When a billionaire is murdered on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the local playland, Ceepak is on the trail. Danny, who grew up in the town, has many local insights to offer, but Ceepak is the star of the show. In fact, Ceepak and Danny fall in line with a long tradition of quirky but competent primary detective and likable but relatively clueless sidekick.
Overall, I found Tilt A Whirl to be a highly entertaining and occasionally thought-provoking ride. I read it in 2 days, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series (Mad Mouse).
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.