The fifth installment of the series finds Sea Haven, New Jersey police officers John Ceepak and Danny Boyle in Atlantic City. They are there to depose a con artist named Gary Burdick in connection with an Ohio homicide case involving John’s father, Joseph Ceepak. Burdick and Joseph Ceepak shared a drunk tank one night years ago and supposedly Joseph Ceepak detailed how he had gotten away with murder. The trip to Atlantic City allows Danny to bump into his old flame, Katie Landy, who is working as a nanny for a couple of magicians.


It also means Boyle and Ceepak are around when Katie is found dead hours later in a room at the Xandau Hotel and Casino. Quickly cleared as a suspect, Boyle is soon forced to confront the twin ideas that Katie might not have been as innocent as she seemed and their relationship might have not been what he thought it was. Allowed to assist in the murder investigation, nothing is as it appears with magicians, and this case won’t be easy to solve.


What started as a series that featured plenty of humor has evolved into a grim fictional reality. What humor is here is the grim bitter kind of humor that before the last two books was pretty much nonexistent. This shift in the series clearly could be due to the subject matter as Iraq and the murder of Katie aren’t laughing matters. It could also be due to the that Danny Boyle is steadily maturing and seeing more and more of  what folks will do to each other. The sprit of melancholy that appeared in the previous book blooms into a full flower here and creates a backdrop of Boyle questioning the past while trying to cope in the present.


“Mind Scrambler: A John Ceepak Mystery” is a good read that tells another strong Ceepak tale featuring plenty of action, interesting characters, and misdirection. But, it sadly lacks funny humor and what little humor present is a bitter sweet laughing with tears variety. The result is a good book that misses a vital element critical to the series.


Mind Scrambler: A John Ceepak Mystery

Chris Grabenstein

Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Publishing Group)

June 2009

ISBN# 0-312-38231-6


342 Pages



Review copy provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2009

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