QUICK REVIEW – Mr Kiss and Tell – Veronica Mars – Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

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 Veronica Mars Fandom

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman’s story.

The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying – but who? And why.

The second of the canon Veronica Mars continuation novels, sadly not narrated (yet) by lead actress Kristen Bell, returns us to the delightfully horrendous town of Neptune some six months after the events of ‘The Thousand Dollar Tan Line‘.

Once again, Mars Investigation is invited by the ’09-er’s’ – in this case the owners of the Neptune Grand – to uncover the truth behind the violent attacks that have taken place there. Which means that once again, Veronica is working on behalf of the upper echelons of society – never her forte. And demonstrating that the Have’s are officially running out of patience with Dan Lamb.

The victim is Grace Manning – the youngest sister of Meg – a common presence in the first two seasons of the series. More than anything else in the book, this grated. I felt that the previous novel had been strong enough to allow this one to forge its own territory. Using a character that’s seen maybe twice some 15 years ago seemed a bit lazy to me. As well as being quite unrealistic, given that Meg had been an 09-er and therefore from a wealthy background.

However, aside from the name, I became quite taken with the deceptive and mysterious Grace. Veronica felt an obligation to her deceased friends sister, though she was supposed to be working for the hotel where Grace had been attacked and left for dead.  Not least because the last time Veronica had seen Grace, it was to rescue her from her abusive parents. Grace is unreliable, angry and has no faith in Veronica – which she makes clear. This clearly flusters the usually less-flappable Veronica, who ends up more reliant on Mac’s tech support and her growing investigative skills than we’ve seen in a long while.

This is a nice twisty mystery, one that would have worked very well as a mini-series long arc. Veronica is genuinely stupid at least twice and puts herself in dangerous situations, but it feels like a logical progression from what we’ve seen, rather than a reckless foolhardiness. And I particularly enjoyed watching her squirm, as her principles and morality are tested more than she is used to. Also, Veronica seems a little more tired in this – like she is beginning to be ground down a little by her father’s disapproval – of her returning to the (now) family business- as well as the racist, violent,  sexist, corrupt, petty nonsense that is daily life in Neptune.

Keith and fan-favourite Cliff are working together to try and expose the corruption inherent within the Sheriff’s department, to help Weevil. His life has taken a decidedly undesirable and criminal turn since the 2014 film when he was

  1.  shot by Celeste Kane and
  2.  framed by Lamb  to cover it up.

After all, Celeste is Neptune royalty…and Weevil is not. His wife has taken his daughter away, his job prospects are non-existent and a court case may be the only way to get recourse.

Keith and Cliff are equally determined to gather enough evidence against the inept, corrupt and sleazy Dan Lamb, that he might finally lose the support of the town council in the upcoming elections. I really enjoyed spending more time with Keith – he’s an awesome character and a great dad. While his medical woes are horrid, it’s been very interesting getting more from his point of view.

Other familiar ‘faces’ who turn up on the page include the irrepressible Dick, the lovely Leon and Wallace – who is sadly not featured anywhere near enough.

And of course, there was Logan. Back from [redacted] and a much more solid and grounding influence than we have seen before. Like Veronica, Grown Up Logan took me a little by surprise – he has developed and matured far more than Veronica in the span of nearly two decades – not bad for a pretty boy foil 🙂 Course, he did have further to travel.
I personally think that this was a better crafted and more confident novel than its predecessors and certainly – again – a must read for any fan of the series.

I would score this 8/10*

*4 for the writing style and structure, 4 for the crime, plot, characters etc
SIDE NOTE – as one of those ‘this trivial thing brought me way more joy that it should have’
One of the gems of the original series was Veronica and Keith’s dog Backup. Sadly, the doggy actor passed before the 2014 film. I ABSOLUTELY loved that it was Logan that brought Veronica a new doggy pal. And that he was the one to finally get her a Pony (they called the puppy Pony) – a dream long held 😀

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