We’re playing a bit of catch-up today and transferring some older posts from the Blogger account. So here’s the latest book review:
It’s been a while since I’d had anything to review, mostly because I spent a lot of the Christmas period in bed with the flu and was too ill to read. Boo to that! So to start things off again, let’s go with something fun and light.
Title: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line
Author: Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books (25 March 2014)
A little bit of information:
I borrowed the first Veronica Mars book in the series off a friend on my Crime Novels MA. We’re both fans of the television series, which starred the petite (and adorable) Kristin Bell as teenage investigator Veronica Mars, and Enrico Colantoni as her father, the former-Sheriff-turned-Private-Eye Keith Mars. Veronica’s dad is a formidable guy, great at his job, and whatever jobs he can’t manage Veronica takes for extra money – all while dating, and solving the problems of the kids at her school. Veronica Mars jumped back into the public eye in the last couple of years when a Kickstarter to raise money for a movie (ten years after the end of the TV show) did phenomenally well, leaving fans with a film that ticked most (if not all) of their boxes.
Now, a review on the movie would be another story altogether, but let’s just say that I enjoyed it a lot. It was pure fan service, appealing to my need for a good story with cameos from about half of the TV series cast I knew and loved. But then I’d probably love anything that kept Veronica’s sassy one-liners and awesome crime-solving skills alive. And this brings us to the novel.
This new book series, starting with The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, is the latest addition to the evolution of Veronica Mars. Like the movie, it is set ten years after the end of the TV series, and picks up where the film left off. The movie ended with Veronica’s return to Neptune, California – the seedy, corrupt town with no middle class where she grew up. Veronica has realised that a life as a hot-shot city lawyer in New York is not for her, and heads back to Neptune to join her father in the family P.I. business – much to her father’s dismay.
While Keith is recovering from the events of the movie (which left him with a lot of damaged organs!), Veronica takes over as the lead investigator at Mars Investigations. She is soon approached by a woman with a case that Veronica cannot pass up, not least because of the reward money offered. And then, of course, things get personal (as all good detective stories should do) when a figure from Veronica’s past is found to be involved with the disappearance of a young girl on Spring Break in Neptune…
How comfortable! That’s what I was thinking most of the way through this novel. For somebody who is fairly knowledgeable about the world of Veronica Mars, this novel was like slipping back into a familiar routine; it was instantly recognisable as VeronicaMarsTM and I was swept back into the seedy underbelly of Neptune very fast – and without any effort on my part
The opening of the novel did what every good novel opening should do: it got me interested. Missing girl, you say? How fun! And this intrigue was quickly followed with many different twists and turns. You are introduced to a whole range of suspects, and in good detective-story style, Veronica doggedly pursues each of them, very much without the help from the local law enforcement.
The novel is told in third person POV, which was a little disconcerting at first given the chatty voice-over nature of the television show, but the style was fairly consistent and didn’t bother me after my initial concern.
The characters are fun and sassy – just as I’d hoped – and, building on their development throughout the TV show, they are fairly well fleshed out. Veronica made a series of decisions which I felt were believable given her background, and after some concern over her personal safety she was joined by Keith Mars (who may or may not be my favourite character). So, big plus there.
What I liked:
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this novel, and here are just a few of them.
- The Keith – Veronica dynamic: Keith is the father I wished was my own. He is proud, good at his job, and dotes on his daughter. But he’s also a BAMF who knows how to get stuff done. After his initial displeasure at Veronica’s decision to leave behind a promising law career to track down adulterers and lost pets, Keith stands by his daughter, and predictably comes to her aid when the going gets tough. Basically, this relationship provides the novel with the comfort and warmth that I associate with the TV show – and still provides character conflict for plot progression to boot.
- The plot: Yes, this is a biggie. I know some people weren’t over-fussed with the plotting of this novel, and one Amazon reviewer mentioned that it felt like a 40 minute TV episode ‘stretched’ over 300+ pages. Although I think there is some truth to this – for instance, the plot does feel very much like all of those episode plots – I’d have to respectfully disagree. At no points did I feel bored, or like a drop in tension was unwarranted. I found myself still guessing by the end, although admittedly I wasn’t trying too hard to figure out whodunit. 🙂
- The Sass: Yes, the sass! This is a huge factor in how much I liked this book. The TV show, for me, was all about the sass. Sure, I liked the stories. Sure, I liked the characters. But the SASS. That was what did it for me. And going into this novel I was concerned that there would be no sass, especially with the book having dual authorship (well, not really, but anyway), but I was not disappointed. Although the jokes and bitchy comments did not come as thick and fast as in the TV show, they were well-timed and injected a lot of fun into what could easily have been an over-dramatised plotline.
What I didn’t like:
Okay, onto the bad stuff. Nothing was bad enough to hinder my “easy-read” enjoyment, but there were a few things that bothered me.
- No Logan: Yes, it’s that simple. Veronica’s on-again-off-again life-long-love, Logan, was always a favourite of mine, and although this novel was NOT called Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, I was still disappointed to see so little of him in the novel. This may have been an authorial tactic to get me reading the next book (where hopefully he will make an appearance), but still it rankled a little. If the story is good, why should I need such transparent motivation to read the next one? Probably a lot of people didn’t mind Logan’s absence, but I’m willing to bet there are a lot more people like me – it’d be nice if Veronica wasn’t so needy, and one way to achieve this is to have Logan on board from the start.
- Speaking of transparency…This is something I talked about with the person who let me borrow the book. Although I enjoyed the story and the characters, the writing was just that little bit transparent. By this I mean that a plot twist was obviously a plot twist. Bad guys were signposted as bad guys. Veronica’s hunches were just that little bit too reliable. You see? And while not necessarily all bad (as a writer it gave me great opportunity to pick apart the nuts and bolts), usually I don’t like to read books where the writing is too obvious. While entirely competent, the narration could use a little obscuring.
So, I may have rambled on a little bit too long about this one, but hopefully there’s at least one person out there who’s interested in this. To sum up:
- A “fun” novel which is great for fans of the TV show – but perhaps might not be so great for new fans or people who never watched it. It’s fan service, with a nice mystery thrown in, too.
- Super speedy read (I read it over a couple of afternoons)
- Not highly predictable but a little bit ‘transparent’
- In keeping with the TV characters with a healthy dose of sass
I’ll certainly be looking out for the next in the series, which was released last month, and I hope other people will be too so I have somebody to talk about it with!
P.S. I promise my next review won’t be nearly so long. Promise.
And, as always, let me know what you think: of the book, of my review, of anything, really! Just comment below. ^^