cover image Whack a Mole

Whack a Mole

Chris Grabenstein, . . Carroll & Graf, $24.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-78671-818-4

A recovered school ring leads mismatched policemen John Ceepak, a 36-year-old veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and his rookie partner, Danny Boyle, on a search for a serial killer in Grabenstein's flaccid third mystery set in a New Jersey beach resort called Sea Haven. The previous two books in the series, Tilt-a-Whirl and Mad Mouse , did a good job developing the relationship between the highly trained, honorable ex-marine and his young partner, who joined the cops mostly to impress girls. About all the two had in a common was a love for Bruce Springsteen, but Boyle was a quick study under Ceepak's tutelage. Now, Ceepak literally digs up a cold case on the beach with his metal detector, which finds a ring and then a charm bracelet, trinkets that belonged to women who were beheaded by a preachy killer Ceepak nicknames Ezekiel. Signs indicate the killer may strike again soon, but the limp dialogue dilutes the suspense. Fans of the first two books will likely be disappointed. (June)