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BOOK REVIEW: TILT A WHIRL
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. Although the main protagonist is a veteran of the Gulf wars newly assigned to the local police force, the narrator is a summer part time cop. Danny Boyle is still somewhat naive, still learning the skills to be a good policeman, yet in many ways already wise and displaying a keen common sense and an emerging ability to judge character.
Danny's partner and mentor John Ceepak still carries bitter memories of his service in the Army. His conversation is clipped and often enigmatic. He startles at loud noises, follows a rigid routine and in brief moments of relaxation shares his observations with Danny. Grabenstein's choice of the good-natured Danny to tell the story includes the reader in the painstaking process of watching Ceepak, who is a good man but feels alienated from those around him, find his way back to full participation in a productive civilian life.
The action takes place in a small community on the New Jersey shore with the requisite ice cream shops, amusement arcade, luxurious weekend getaway homes, and gentrified, modernized older structures standing beside derelict buildings awaiting renovation. One sunny weekend morning as vacationers are streaming back to the work a day world, a young woman stumbles down the street drenched in blood and stuttering in horror. Danny and Ceepak discover a body on a ride in the amusement park and begin to investigate.
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.
As an added plus, quotes from Bruce Springsteen's many lyrics appear often in the narrative. The Boss would like this book, I'm sure!
REVIEWED BY WOODSTOCK
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