Thursday, August 14, 2014

FUN HOUSE by Chris Grabenstein

Chris Grabenstein's Fun House is more of the same.

The city fathers assign police officers John Ceepak and Danny Boyle to provide security for a reality TV show filming in the seaside tourist town of Sea Haven, New Jersey.

The show, like most of those shows (the book implies), is a cheesy operation. Someone scripts the reality. The staff selects the wildest stars possible. Every episode becomes more way out and ends in such a way as to bring people back next week.

Then apparently a drug dealer kills one of the stars. The crew films Ceepak and Boyle trying to stop the killing. The scene is chaotic and beyond belief. Ceepak and Boyle become reality TV celebrities.

Becoming a celebrity is the last thing the strait-laced John Ceepak wants. But the show's ratings go off the scale. Sea Haven's sleazy mayor insists that Sea Haven allow anything these people want.

Ceepak and Boyle pursue the killer. Someone kills their suspect, and they have to start again.

The story has three fun houses. “Fun House” is title of the TV show. It is the nickname of the rented house the reality TV show stars live in and trash. And The Fun House is the name of a Sea Haven carnival venue.

The carnival Fun House has distorting mirrors and other things we remember from our own time in fun houses. It even has a 1950's amenity, a grate which blows air to raise women's skirts.

The story ends with a chaotic showdown in the carnival Fun House.

These books are insider novels. Two other cops in Sea Haven are named Malloy and Reed. Grabernstein names another cop after a book blogger. And there are probably other “in” jokes I didn't recognize.

My favorite book in this series was Hell Hole. After that, the books seemed to become more scripted, more written around a pattern.

The Boy Scout-like Ceepak and the ordinary Boyle are still interesting. 

The books still make social points. Fun House shows how money corrupts Sea Haven and the TV business. And the books are funny.

In this book, TV ratings, promoting the town, making more money for everyone involved run everything. Cops with the values of Ceepak and Boyle bring ethical standards to an insane world.

I still enjoy reading the John Ceepak-Danny Boyle stories.


Kelly Robinson said...

Love stuff with a carnival setting! Thanks for the review.

Joe Barone said...

Kelly, You are welcome. I'm glad I've helped introduce you to books you might enjoy.