Seven years without 'Veronica Mars' and now there's a movie and novel within the last two weeks. While the film caught us up on all things Veronica and company, sometimes to its detriment, the novel doesn't deal with such constraints. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is the direct sequel to the feature film, so watching it before reading this book is nearly a necessity. The characters get a bit of background but not enough to slow the momentum of the story.
Veronica is hired by the local Chamber of Commerce to find a college student gone missing amidst spring breaking in the California town of Neptune, our heroine's home. Much to the chagrin of the corrupt local sheriff, and her own father, Ms. Mars is in charge of the investigation. Trying to re-trace the steps of the girl's last known whereabouts, Veronica comes upon a house where the girl was last seen partying. The house is owned by two young men with drug cartel bloodlines. Hours after Veronica is spooked from the party, word of a second girl missing rocks the news. She was also last seen at that house. Veronica had even seen her in the proverbial clutches of one of the owners. Her investigation gets quite a bit more complicated when Veronica learns that she has a history with a member of the family of the second girl, the girl's stepmother, Lianne Scott, formerly Lianne Mars, Veronica's long-deserted mother.
Veronica has to maintain objectivity and radiate professionalism but it isn't easy when she has to help a woman who seems to be trying harder to be a good mother for other children after Lianne chose the bottle over her and her father, who somehow manages to not meddle in this case. Veronica has to balance the sheriff, the Chamber of Commerce, two grief-stricken families, and her own complicated feelings. This is the character's coming-of age.
The first in the proposed series of 'Veronica Mars' books is gripping, daring the reader to not look ahead a few lines for the next big reveal. Co-authored by series creator Rob Thomas, the novel feels like the original show even more than the film. Thomas and Jennifer Graham keep you guessing and off-balance. The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is everything a 'VM' fan, as well as a mystery fan, could want. It's the perfect print translation of what 'Veronica Mars' is at its core: charm, intelligence, wit, humor, heart, and who-dun-it. If there was any lingering doubt, rest assured, marshmallows. V. Mars is truly back.
Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line reaches bookstores on Mar 25 from Vintage/Random House.