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by Chris Grabenstein
Carroll & Graf, May 2007
280 pages
ISBN: 0786718188

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ex-marine John Ceepak is 36 years old and now a police officer for Sea Haven, New Jersey. He and his young partner, 20-something Danny Boyle, have been assigned to keep order on the beach during the first annual sand sculpture contest. They think it might be an easy assignment but that's not to be because some strange things have been found buried in the sand.

As he is using his metal detector one afternoon, Ceepak discovers an old high school ring dating back to the 1980s. There are initials on the ring and Ceepak's determined to find out who lost it. He and Danny find the man who owned the ring but he says that he gave it to his girlfriend during high school. On further investigation the police officers find out that the girl's mother kicked her out of the house some 20 years earlier and has not heard from her since.

Soon more jewelry is dug up on the beach belonging to teenage girls from the 1980s. But that is nothing compared to when a resident of Sea Haven finds an old Tupperware box buried in the sand. The box contains a skull, a name, and a picture of the girl who was decapitated. Furthermore, ears and noses have been put in Sea Haven's museum and souvenir store. They are in jars filled with formaldehyde.

Now, as the Sand Building contest is in full swing, more boxes with skulls, pictures and the name of the victims are being dug up. Ceepak and Boyle are assigned to find out who these teens are and who killed them. The only clue the policemen have is that each name has a biblical reference, like Ruth and Miriam.

WHACK-A-MOLE is the third in the John Ceepak series and it is just as good as the previous books. Chris Grabenstein has created two fine characters in John Ceepak and Danny Boyle. Ceepak never lies and doesn't tolerate it in others and Danny tries to follow suit. Though the two seem to have nothing in common and though Ceepek is the superior officer, both men have a lot of respect for each other. The way Grabenstein shows how much Ceepek enjoys being with his young partner adds a lot to this book

Since the location is New Jersey, it's not too much of surprise that the two cops are huge fans of Bruce Springsteen. There are quotes from his songs scattered all though the book.

WHACK-A-MOLE is filled with wonderful characters, is set in a great location, and has a first-rate murder mystery that grabs you, keeps you thinking and hits you with a surprise ending that will tear your heart out. It is a good standalone book, and fans of the series will not be disappointed. WHACK-A-MOLE is a fine read for any season.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, April 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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