about chris mysteries thrillers stories events photos media contact
chris grabenstein

Reading Group Discussion Questions
by Charlene Floyd, PhD

1. Danny says his only code is his zip code. Do you agree? [p. 1]

2. Early on in the investigation, Ceepak says, "I harbor no resentments. We all make mistakes. That's why my pencil has an eraser. I make mistakes, too." [p. 73]

Do you really think that Ceepak 'harbors no resentments'? What mistakes has he made?

Sure, pencils have erasers, but can Ceepak, or anyone, erase the kind of mistakes that matter?

3. How important is one's personal history in explaining, shaping and even excusing his /her current actions?

4. Which character would you like to take out to dinner and why? (If you chose Danny Boyle in the first round, do a second round.)

5. "But when I was a kid, I loved how the Tilt-A-Whirl could surprise you. How it spun you around one way and the next time you hit the exact same spot, it spun you around some way completely different . . . . You never knew what to expect next. . . . [My math] teacher called it 'mind-jangling unpredictability'." [p. 25]

Does Danny's description of this amusement park ride fit as a metaphor for his life, Ashley's life, Ceepak's life and/or for the situation in which they find themselves?

Does it work for your life? Why or why not?

6. Ceepak is fond of saying, "It's all good" even when it isn't. What do you think he means?

7. Would you like to spend a week (or more) in 'sunderful, funderful' Sea Haven?

Which places would you visit (Ship John Lighthouse, Sunnyside Playland, Cap'n Scrubby's, Boardwalk Books. . .)? Where would you eat/drink (Pancake Palace, The Sand Bar, Chesterfields, The Frosty Mug. . . )? Would you stay in The Mussel Beach Motel, The Smuggler's Cove or perhaps rent a house along Maple Avenue?

How would you describe relations between the locals and the tourists?

8. What are the key elements of Ceepak's Code? What other "Codes" are at work in the book?

9. Ceepak is clearly a mentor figure for Danny, similarly Dr. Sandy McDaniels 'wrote the book' that Ceepak uses. Who has helped guide your life?

How do these relationships compare to Ceepak's relationship to Chief Cosgrove?

10. Bruce Springsteen's music creates the soundtrack of this novel. Is Ceepak a likely Springsteen fan? Do you think that the use of this music enhances the plot and its characters? Why or why not?

11. How is the situation faced by Ceepak in Sea Haven similar to that faced by the soldiers still stationed in Iraq?

12. Throughout the book women are depicted in a variety of roles—including waitress, lawyer, lover, mother, daughter, police officer, forensics expert, friend. Do you feel the author's treatment of women is fair and/or accurate? What message will the female reader glean from this book regarding the role of women in contemporary society? The male reader?

13. In many respects Tilt A Whirl is a coming of age story, a recognition that childhood, and in some sense summer, must always come to an end. With this in mind, compare and contrast the lives of Danny and Ashley.