Review: Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein

Sometimes in life you have to do unpleasant things but I have found that when accompanied by Jeff Woodman reading me a Chris Grabenstein story all but the direst of circumstances are mitigated entirely. 

The fourth outing for John Ceepak and Danny Boyle, policemen in the fictional summer resort town of Sea Haven on the New Jersey shore, sees them inveigle their way into an investigation of the apparent suicide of an American soldier who is home on leave from Iraq. Things are not, of course, what they seem to be and Ceepak and Danny battle orchestrated misdirection on a grand scale and, for good measure, a couple of attempts on their lives.

As always the story is narrated by relatively inexperienced Danny Boyle who jumps to the conclusions that readers might jump to, asks the questions that readers might ponder and generally forms a link between the brilliant but reserved John Ceepak and the reader. He does this in a funny, self deprecating way that manages to make him appear less foolish than the offsiders of other famous detectives. Danny has matured a lot since the first book in the series which is evidenced when his partner’s drunkard father starts causing problems and Danny, realising Ceepak is not able control himself as he normally would, steps in to diffuse the situation.

I did find it a bit easier to spot the culprit in this book than I have done in the past although I hadn’t fathomed most of the details provided in the classic dénouement and the plot, as always, threw up a thought-provoking thread or two. Reading between the lines I’d guess that Grabenstein has an opinion about America’s war in Iraq but, unlike the couple of vitriolic reviews I found at Amazon, I didn’t think the book was trying to portray a particularly anti-war or anti-army stance. Heck Ceepak is a war hero as well as being the best detective in Sea Haven.

I love the way Grabenstein creates pictures of the people and places he writes about. He manages to use just the right amount of detail to enable me to create terrific mental pictures. Reading Hell Hole had me creating a vivid mental image of a public toilet with a gruesomely dead body in it but I guess you can’t always have sunlit beaches as a backdrop.

I am a confirmed fan of these books so perhaps not their most objective reviewer. On the other hand I have given up on many series that stopped meeting my expectations and I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same again should the situation arise. Happily there’s no need to here because Hell Hole as told by Jeff Woodman provides a thoroughly entertaining tale in which, after doing the hard yards, the good guys triumph. I read (and enjoy) plenty of books where that doesn’t happen but it is occasionally nice to have things work out the way you wish they would always do in the real world.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 3.5/5

Narrator: Jeff Woodman; Publisher Audible Inc [2008]; Length 8hrs 16mins

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I’ve reviewed the first three books in this series too (all in audio format):
Tilt A Wirl
Mad Mouse
Whack A Mole

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4 Responses to Review: Hell Hole by Chris Grabenstein

  1. Bernadette – Thanks so much for this review; biased or not, it’s terrific. With all of the positive reviews you’ve given this series, I’ve got to give it more attention! This one seems quite a good addition to it.


  2. Thanks for such a thoughtful and, yes, insightful review!




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