Thursday, 14 May 2015

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham is a direct sequel to the Veronica Mars movie, picking up the story about two months after the end of the movie. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've consumed something that continued the cannon in a completely different medium. (I know Whedon did that with comics after Buffy/Angel and Firefly/Serenity, but I haven't actually read those.) It was a strange experience, especially since many of the characters came with actors pre-visualised in my mind. Note that this review contains spoilers for the movie and minor spoilers for the TV show.

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She's traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it's spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person's case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica's past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

It was a strange experience switching media, but even with that the characters and dialogue (including Veronica's inner monologue, though this was less distinct than in the show/movie) were spot on. And continuity-wise, everything was perfect — and I say this as someone who has practically memorised the TV series, I've watched it so many times.

The setting of Neptune is the darker, grittier setting we encountered in the movie, rather than the slightly less depressing setting of the TV show. But this also makes sense since we're thrown into Veronica's life only two months after the end of the movie. On the other hand, I found some of the descriptive passages a bit jarring and ended up semi-involuntarily skimming over them as I got into the book. For a start, describing characters I already know the appearance of from seeing them on TV was dissonant; while not inaccurate, they were generally not how I would have described the same characters, so it was off-putting. There was approximately the same amount of description for every character we meet, which was also a bit weird. I personally don't think appearances are terribly important in books in most circumstances. I tend to forget them as soon as I read them which, admittedly isn't relevant in this case. But generally, beyond knowing who Veronica is talking about when she spies dirty blond dreadlocks amid the crowd, I just don't think it's important. The fact that it was the same amount of description each time just felt so formulaic as well.

The only time I thought the description came close to being appropriate was when places were being described. Especially when it came to the kinds of settings that Veronica had to pay close attention to, such as the hotel room she was searching for clues. That said, there were still a few times when I thought the setting description also veered into too-much territory.

If this wasn't a Veronica Mars book, I definitely wouldn't be tempted to pick up the next one. The writing just wasn't up to stylistic scratch compared with what I normally read. However, it is a Veronica Mars book, which means it comes with built-in affinity for the characters and their stories. Also the snarky dialogue we've all come to know and love. So it's from that perspective that I will be reading the next book while the characters are still fresh in my head. If I hadn't bought the next book already and was forced to either wait or decide to fork out money right now, I also might not have bothered, but here we are. I recommend The Thousand Dollar Tan Line to fans of Veronica Mars and, separately, fans of crime/thriller books who aren't familiar with the show. For fans, reading the book without having seen the movie would be a risky prospect. For non-fans, there might be a few missed references, but as far as I noticed most references to past events were explained succinctly on the page.

3.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Allen & Unwin (Australian edition, obviously)
Series: Veronica Mars, first book of two so far, sequel to the TV show (3 seasons) and movie. Sort of stands alone but definitely reads better if taken as a sequel.
Format read: Paper! *gasp*
Source: A physical bookshop

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