BY OLINE H. COGDILL

Sun Sentinel

FUN HOUSE

By Chris Grabenstein

Pegasus Crime ($25)

The Jersey Shore — not the TV show — often becomes a mecca for summer tourists. But for Iraqi War veteran John Ceepak, the resort town of Sea Haven, N.J., is where he lives and what he protects as one of the town’s top police detectives. And he doesn’t like to see Sea Haven’s tranquility sullied by criminals or by the invasion of a reality TV show staffers, which, as far as Ceepak is concerned, are akin to crooks.

But Ceepak, making his most welcomed return in the amusing “Fun House” after a two-year absence, has sworn to protect everyone, even the party-hearty, rude bunch who’ve descended on Sea Haven to star in a reality TV show.

And no, this reality show is not the one you are thinking of. The fourth-rate “Fun House” reality show has the same premise as the mega-popular “Jersey Shore,” but this new knock-off version makes the MTV series look like Chekhov, and Snooky like a classically trained actress. “Fun House” is described as “think ‘Jersey Shore’ meets ‘Big Brother’ meets ‘Survivor,'” And these copy cats are much more crass and rowdy and just plain drunk than the real “Jersey Shore” folks.

Needless to say, this doesn’t set well with straight-as-an-arrow Ceepak, who finds himself as the show’s breakout star when he arrests the very publicly intoxicated Paulie “The Thing” Braciole. Coerced by the mayor and the police chief, Ceepak and his young, wise-cracking partner, Danny Boyle, agree to help supply security for the “Fun House” set. The ratings soar even more when one cast member is murdered and then double when the main suspect turns up dead.

Chris Grabenstein’s seventh Ceepak novel excels at weaving a serious plot with well-placed humor and a breezy Jersey attitude. This is the approach Grabenstein has taken in each novel in this series and “Fun House” well illustrates how adept the author is delivering a multi-layered plot that is equally action-packed, poignant and funny — sometimes all in the same paragraph.

“Fun House” gives the Anthony Award-winning Grabenstein a chance to explore the absurdity of celebrity making that often glorifies bad behavior.

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