Friday, August 8, 2008

"Hell Hole"

Chris Grabenstein won the Anthony Award for "Best First Mystery" (given at Bouchercon 2006) for his debut novel Tilt A Whirl—the first in a series of John Ceepak stories to be set "Down The Shore" in a New Jersey tourist town called Sea Haven. The second book, Mad Mouse, arrived in June 2006 and the third, Whack A Mole, in June 2007.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest John Ceepak novel, Hell Hole, and reported the following:
My newest John Ceepak mystery Hell Hole passes the Page 69 Test in a raging blaze of glory!

Once you read that page, I think you will want to read on.

Here’s how page 69 begins:

Long live the code.

Ceepak has just found our angle. Possession of stolen property here in Feenyville is definitely within our jurisdiction, so Saul Slominsky may be forced to share his forensic evidence with us. Who knows? Maybe these two knuckleheads are the ones who did it. Maybe they killed Smith and staged it to look like a suicide. Motive? I don’t know. Heavy metal envy.

Okay. It’s a flimsy case. But, we officially have out foot in the door, or, more correctly, the toilet stall.

Hell Hole, the fourth book in my Jersey shore series, is my “locked-toilet-stall-door” mystery. A soldier just home from Iraq named Shareef Smith is found sitting atop a commode in a locked toilet stall in the Men’s Room of a Garden State Parkway rest stop with a pistol in his lap and the lid of his skull blown off by a single shot to the roof of his mouth.

The county CSI guys say it’s an open and shut case: suicide.

Our narrator Danny Boyle, the 26-year-old rookie cop, and his partner John Ceepak, the by-the-book ex-MP (who also served in Iraq) don’t buy it. They think Smith may have been the victim of foul play. However, since the rest stop is about fifteen miles down the Parkway from Sea Haven, the crime took place outside their jurisdiction and they have no official standing in the investigation, which everybody else seems eager to shut down fast.

The dead man’s car, however, was vandalized in the parking lot of the rest stop and, right there on page 69, Ceepak and Boyle make a link between that crime and some low level chop shop hoods who operate out of a trailer park called Feenyville in their home town.

They now have at least some official standing in the investigation of what happened to Shareef Smith and his vehicle when the young soldier pulled off the Garden State Parkway and into the rest area.

It is an investigation that will take Ceepak and Boyle on their darkest journey to date.

As Lesa Holstine put it in her review: "This is the darkest of the Ceepak mysteries, the most complicated, and the best. Hell Hole is a complex story, revealing not only how much Danny has changed, but how much it takes for Ceepak to be the man he has become. Grabenstein continues to develop, writing darker, more ambitious stories. He hits his stride with Hell Hole, a dark crime story of politics, drugs, and family."
Watch the Hell Hole trailer and read the first chapter.

Learn more about the author and his work at Chris Grabenstein's website.

--Marshal Zeringue