VERONICA MARS: THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE is the first book in a series of novels co-written by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, based on the short-lived television series ‘Veronica Mars,’ and the recent film, which was funded by fans through Kickstarter. I’ve watched the first two seasons of the television series, but haven’t seen any of the third, and have only seen the trailer for the film; but I figured it would be an interesting experiment to gauge the novel’s success from a reader not as heavily invested as the hardcore Veronica Mars fans.
And it is, truly, a fine mystery novel.
THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE – which occurs after the series and film – sees Veronica back in her hometown of Neptune, California, in time for the Spring Break peak. Her father is recovering from an almost fatal accident, and Veronica is running Mars Investigations in his absence. Money is tight, and things are looking break – I’m yet to read a PI novel featuring investigators flush with cash – until Veronica is called in to investigate the disappearance of a girl from a house party. Veronica isn’t in a position to decline a job, but she’ll soon wish she had – not only must she work with the moronic police department, the house the girl vanished from belongs to a Mexican drug cartel; the kinds of criminals you don’t want to mess with. On top of that, someone from Veronica’s past is tied to the case; a woman Veronica had no intention of ever seeing again…
Pre-existing characters populate THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE, but Thomas and Graham clarify their relationships with Veronica, and provide ample background information to placate the newbie reader. Long-time fans might enjoy greater appreciation from certain character interactions, or in-jokes, but the authors do a fine job of ensuring new readers aren’t disadvantaged. Fans of the television show might be disappointed to discover the story is told in the third person, rather than utilizing the first-person perspective one might’ve expected; after all, Veronica’s voiceover was a staple of the show. I’m not sure why the authors made this decision – besides the prologue, the novel never shifts from Veronica’s progress through the investigation; the ‘camera’ is always locked on her. And as the start of a series of novels, it would’ve been nice for the Thomas Graham to have left some dangling plot threads, or teased an overarching storyline that will connect the novels. But both these qualms took nothing away from my overall enjoyment.
There is nothing ground-breaking about THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE; it doesn’t strive to reinvent the wheel. It’s simply a solid, taut, fast mystery, starring a snarky, witty, but undeniably likable protagonist. I’ll definitely be along for the ride, and will be doing my utmost to watch the final season, and the film, before the release of the second novel.