“The Thousand Dollar Tan Line – Veronica Mars #1” by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

I’ve been a Veronica Mars fan since 2006 or so. The TV channels I had access to in Switzerland didn’t air the show so I followed it through three seasons worth of DVD boxed set.

I was totally caught up the (to me) very alien but very believable world of Neptune High. I loved watching Kirsten Bell managing to combine being tough, witty and vulnerable as a teen PI haunted by the death of her best friend. The ensemble cast around Bell covered just about every ethnic group and social background available in Neptune. The plots were complicated and pulled no punches. So, of course, in 2007, at the end of the tird season, the series got cancelled.

In 2013, Thomas (the series creator) and Bell used Kickstarter to crowd fund a movie to continue the story. I wondered how they’d cover the seven-year gap between the final season and the movie and was relieved that they’d let Veronica grow up and that they hadn’t made a mess of it.

This year, Veronica Mars Season 4 was released. I haven’t been able to watch it yet, so, while I’m waiting for it to become available, I decided to give the novels a try.

I’ve never read of novel-of-the-show before. I was surprised at how well it worked. Of course, that might be because I’m filling in all the blanks in the text with memories of the show but mostly I think it’s because the writing is smooth and fast and carried me along.

The most surprising thing was the impact of Veronica being all grown up. In this story, she’s investigating the disappearance of a young girl spending Spring Break at Neptune. The start of the story is high-grade neo-noir. Then it gets personal.

Veronica goes to the party house the girl’s disappeared at and it’s very clear she’s a generation older than them and sees the party differently. I didn’t understand this kind of partying even when I was the right age for it and it’s a mystery to me now. Veronica understands it, makes no judgement on it, but stands outside of it the way she stands outside most things.

The main difference with grown-up Veronica (and perhaps with the novel format) is how clearly Veronica sees the girl who has gone missing and the effect of her disappearance on others. It snapped me out of slick, witty, neo-noir and into something much more human.

The plot was much more complicated than I’d expected and kept me guessing through most of the book. I listened to the audiobook version, which is narrated by Kirsten Bell, which reinforced the link to the show.

I had fun with this so I’ll also be reading the second book in the series, “Mr Kiss And Tell”.

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