A long time ago….we used to be friends…
Veronica Mars ran for three (EPIC first season, solid second season, slightly less impactful third season…but still waaaaay better than the rest of the YA shows from that time) seasons, from 2004 until 2007. It was hyped as a Nancy Drew for the 21st century, but Veronica was no clean cut teen investigator – the world she lives in has teeth.
There had been a suggested season 4 way back in the day, where Veronica was to have joined the FBI. Sadly, not to be…
In 2014, a feature film was released, after a kickstarter crowd funding campaign achieved WAY more than expected (the $2 million goal was achieved in 11 hours, eventually reaching over $5 by the end of the campaign).
That new lease of life has resulted in a 4th season, released this year, continuing the adventure of Veronica and her posse, some 15 years on.
And between the film and season 4, were two novels.
Blurb (from Amazon
Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.
Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.
In Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas has created a groundbreaking female detective who’s part Phillip Marlowe, part Nancy Drew, and all snark. With its sharp plot and clever twists, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Given that Rob Thomas has said that the two novels are ‘canon’ and will influence any future VM adventures – this book is a must read for any fan of the series. (I believe that the audio book is narrated by Kristen Bell, so perhaps keep an ear out for that!)
I have to admit, I tend to be a bit snobbish about tie in books – I did read the end of the 4400 story in book form…but mostly because the bloomin’ series was cancelled before resolution. And while I have collected the Buffy and Angel comics, this is more because of my strange completest obsession when it comes to the slayer, than anything else (and no, I’m not reading the reboot – any re-boot where Willow is all confident and awesome from the outset, is not a reboot for me. I loved dorky Willow too much).
In general I avoid the tie in’s because I usually presume that they will suck. THIS DIDN’T SUCK YOU GUYS!
Rob Thomas has such a clear vision of Neptune in his mind, that within a few pages, I felt on familiar ground. Neptune is a terrible, terrible, AWFUL place – with all the excesses of modern american tropes and none of the warm and fuzzies. Tonally, the book manages to keep the feel of the series, thankfully without becoming too reliant on visual descriptions – it’s a relief that the author trusts the audience to populate the background from the series and doesn’t over egg it (though Clint received a surprisingly detailed breakdown). I’m additionally grateful given that the mystery element revolves around bodies in bikini’s :).
The mystery is not quite as strong as in the series – particularly the near-perfect first season long arc – though it does provide a solid introduction for the 4 people who may have read this book, without any context from the TV series.
The crime is adult – the murder of spring breakers – but the victims and suspects are teens – allowing for a bridge between the two worlds of VM – the TV series to the film. Veronica has returned home, to take care of her injured father and co-run Mars Investigations. Her father is…not so pleased. There’s a fair few of the ‘good old days’ gang still in town – Mac and Dick I guess are the big surprises here – they could and should be anywhere else in the world – but when I went home not so long ago, the vast majority of my graduating class were still about too, so I’m hardly going to quibble about that.
Veronica remains snarky, devoted to her dad and a dedicated and smart investigator. I loved her conversations with Mac, because they felt like an organic grown up version of the chats that we had seen some 15 years before (groan…feeling old every time I type that). I liked that Logan was off page to be honest, it allowed for the reader to assess whether the story stands alone from the romance. LoVe has also been hot and steamy in the series, but the crimes, they’re the point. It was also interesting for the perennial outsider Veronica to be hired by the town – as well as a clear sign that Don Lamb’s brother Dan is no longer seen with as much favour by the wealthy 09er’s. Neptune doesn’t forgive and Neptune doesn’t forget…but when the bottom line is being impacted, practicalities will take precedence.
Keith and Wallace are still there for Veronica, but it’s quite nice to see that they have more of a bond with each other now. Weevil has – somewhat inexplicably – returned to a life of crime, but that’s not this tale. Which, again, I appreciated – as once again, it forced me to focus on the crime at hand, rather than a straight sequel to the film.
If you’re a fan of the series, then please do read this book. Snappy dialogue, a decent mystery and it really does capture that noir feel of the show.
I would score it…probably 7/10*
3 for the writing style and structure and 4 for the plot, characters and dialogue.
*This is a little more generous than I usually am with thrillers/crime stories – what can I say – it’s so worth it.