Falling in love with a work of fiction or a fictional character can be a tricky business, and in many ways it resembles and reflects the experience of falling in love with a so called real person. Which is why Dustin Rowles comparing the Veronica Mars movie experience to briefly reuniting with an old lover was so apt, and also why I’m going to shamelessly steal that analogue for the purposes of writing a review for The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, the first in the series of Veronica Mars mysteries by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham.
When you fall in love, you go trough certain stages, and this is true whether the object of your adoration is flesh and blood or not. There’s the first, heady period where everything they do seems beyond wonderful to you. You’re obsessed, you want to mention their name in every conversation you have, and it’s difficult to think of anything else. Veronica and I went trough that period late last summer. I saw her get the better of a motorcycle gang, the sheriff’s department and a shell necklace wearing bully without breaking a sweat, and I knew it was love.
Of course, the first stage never lasts. You might start noticing some less than perfect qualities in your adored one, or maybe you just grow apart. I will admit that the third season of Veronica Mars has its fair share of blemishes. But I will never not love the character of Veronica herself. In my opinion, she’s one of the most fascinating creations of all time, her smarts, her flaws, her combination of toughness and vulnerability being endlessly endearing to me. And the thing is, for me this is still new love. I’m not yet at the point where I can encounter her, but not crave for more.
Which is all a very long-winded way to say a simple thing: I don’t know if I like the Veronica Mars movie and now this book because they’re good works of fiction, or simply because they give me more Veronica. I suspect it’s a little bit of both. But trying to look at them as objectively as possible, the book is better.
For one thing, it’s not as rushed. At just over 300 pages, it’s not leisurely, but the pacing works. There’s more time for character development, and for secondary characters. Wallace and Mac especially shine. There’s a scene which explores the friendship between V and Wallace in a way that brought tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, the complaint often heard against the last season and now the movie still applies: not nearly enough Weevil. Let’s hope this is rectified in the second novel in the series.
This is very much a book about Veronica. About her coming to terms about who she is, and what she wants to do with her life. This leads to some conflict with her father, which is beautifully realized, as per usual. A character from Veronica’s past also makes an appearance, leading to more self-reflection on her part.
The mystery concerns two young girls who have gone missing from Neptune’s spring break festivities. It’s compelling and competently written enough, but doesn’t come close to the high stakes, the intricacies and the impact of the Lilly Kane murder investigation. Then again, not much does.
From the cover art to the title, it’s obvious that Thomas and Graham are paying attention the series’ noir and pulp fiction roots. The writing also reflects that. I do think they could have gotten away with a little less description though. Veronica does not walk into many rooms without the narrator noting the color of the walls, for example. But it does work, for the most part. The descriptions create a contrast between the bright California sun, the glittering sea, and the ugly, dirty seediness of Neptune.
On that note, I was hoping and even expecting the book to be narrated by Veronica herself in first person. It would have made sense, her being the granddaughter of Philip Marlowe via V.I. Warshawski, after all. But there’s enough of her inner monologue to almost satisfy the need.
Team Not-Logan should probably like this book well-enough, seeing as he’s hardly in it. Team Logan Always, All Day Every Day will complain about the same. For me, it struck a pretty good balance between being first and foremost about Veronica, and still acknowledging the new old relationship. Okay fine, I’ll admit it. A little bit of more Logan wouldn’t have hurt. But I’m happy with what we got.
All in all, a very satisfying reading experience. Even though I don’t reread books much anymore (the time’s winged chariot always telling me that every minute I have less and less time to read new books), I anticipate getting back to this one from time to time. Because I still love Veronica, and want to spend more time with her. Bring on the next book, movie, anything. I’ll eat it up.
PS. Those who enjoy audio-books get to hear this one narrated by Kristen Bell herself.
PPS. There was a pony joke! A pony joke! My life is now complete.
PPPS. My apologies for originally titling this review after a terrible song. It’s now a Mark Darcy quote. Much better, methinks.