Review: Rolling Thunder by Chris Grabenstein

At the start of summer in the fictional holiday town of Sea Haven, New Jersey a new roller coaster is opened with much fanfare. Celebrations hit a bit of a hurdle though when the owner’s wife, Jackie O’Malley, dies of a heart attack during the ride’s inaugural run, despite the heroic efforts of local policemen John Ceepak and Danny Boyle to resuscitate her. At first this event is viewed as merely a sad incident but when a local woman is found dismembered and packed into suitcases Ceepak and Boyle’s investigation leads them to uncover some dark secrets in the town in general and the O’Malley family in particular.

The characters of John Ceepak, a former military policeman in Iraq who lives by a strict moral code that doesn’t allow him to lie, cheat or steal, and Danny Boyle, a laid-back young man who fell into policing by accident and does a nice line in wisecracks, are the highlights of this enchanting series. In this outing Ceepak once again has to deal with his poisonous, mean father and even has to choose whether or not to let the man he despises die when the opportunity arises. Although he still shows his juvenile side occasionally Danny is maturing nicely and really growing into his job and his role as an investigator (and crack shot). The relationship between the two moving from one of mentorship to friendship and it’s a really engaging aspect of this novel.

Grabenstein is a master at plotting these tales, weaving the lighter elements of resort life with the darker aspects of human behaviour. In Rolling Thunder it becomes clear that some of the town’s business and political leaders are engaged in rather unsavoury activities and corruption, at a number of levels, is uncovered via the diligence of Ceepak and Boyle who refuse to allow themselves to be corrupted though temptation is readily available.

Even though I know it’s a good bet that in the wrap up of one of these novels the good guys will have triumphed over the bad ones but Grabenstein is a talented enough writer to keep me guessing about whether or not this will be the time when things don’t work out neatly. Which of course means I have to walk extra blocks to find out what happens (as walking is when I ‘read’ my audio books) and make sure my favourite characters are out of harm’s way. Frankly my only disappointment is that it’s apparently going to be 18 months until the next book in the series is published.

What about the audio book?

As this is the sixth book in this series that Jeff Woodman has read to me it feels like meeting up with an old, much-loved friend. I can’t imagine reading these books any other way and the series is one that I highly recommend as an introduction to audio books if you’re thinking of giving the format a try.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I had forgotten that Jen Forbus of the great crime fiction blog Jen’s Book Thoughts was included as a character in Grabenstein’s newest novel until I heard her name as the Sea Haven police’s newest recruit and star interviewer, it must be all that practice she has at interviewing crime writers that make her so good at getting secrets out of criminal types.

Other reviews of Rolling Thunder can be found at Lesa’s Book CritiquesJen’s Book Thoughts, Spinetingler

My reviews of the first four books in this series are Tilt-a-Whirl, Mad Mouse, Whack A Mole and Hell Hole. (Although I read the fifth book in the series, Mind Scrambler, in July this year I seem to have forgotten to review it).

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My rating 3.5/5
Narrator Jeff Woodman
Publisher Audible Inc [2010]
ISBN N/A (downloaded from
Length 8 hours 11 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Source I bought it

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7 Responses to Review: Rolling Thunder by Chris Grabenstein

  1. Bernadette – Oh, so glad you enjoyed this one. It’s so nice when a partnership like Ceepak and Boyle’s is more than just your basic stereotypical cop-partnership. And I agree with you; in the best series, the characters grow and mature.


  2. Rob says:

    I’ve tried to order this series here, and scouted round a couple of bookshops in the US for them as well, but got nowhere. I can see them on Book Depository, so will try there. Sounds like my kind of thing.


  3. Glad you enjoyed ROLLING THUNDER. And, as Jen Forbus may have reported, Jeff Woodman will also be the voice of Watson — The IBM computer that will compete against humans on Jeopardy in February!!!


  4. Dorte H says:

    How funny that Jen played a part in it. I hope she did it well 😀


  5. kathy durkin says:

    A slight diversion: Am reading “Southwesterly Wind,” and an added bonus: didn’t know there was wit! It’s good.


  6. Jen Forbus says:

    I know I’m a bit biased, but I rather liked this book! 🙂 I love this whole series. It is one of my absolute favorites and most widely recommended – even before I joined the force. And Jeff Woodman is amazing! I just love his work, especially on these books. Thanks for the lovely mention!


  7. Pingback: Review: FUN HOUSE by Chris Grabenstein | Reactions to Reading

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