The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
Series: Veronica Mars, #1
Published: 2014, Vintage Books
Genre: Adult Mystery
Source: LibraryGoodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble
I’ll admit I was a bit wary of reading this book. Any book developed from some other media - be it a tv show, a film, a video game - makes me more than a little skeptical. Can it really translate all that well to a written story? Although The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line was entertaining, I do think it faced quite a few pitfalls in the conversion from one media form to another.
The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line takes place shortly after the events of the Veronica Mars film (which I guess means there’s not much of a possibility for another film being made, sadly). Veronica is back in the seedy and corrupt town of Neptune, the one place she planned to leave forever only ten years ago. After solving a mystery surrounding one of her high school classmate’s death and realizing just how bad things are in Neptune, however, she’s decided to forgo practicing law and do what really suits her: being a private investigator.
Near the top of Neptune’s notoriety list, apparently, is spring break season, when teens and college students from all over the country stop by for some serious partying. But while spring break is a boon to local businesses, it is just as likely to become a threat, which is what happens when one college girl is pronounced as missing. While the local sheriff’s department is ostensibly on the case, it is Mars Investigations that has been hired to do the heavy-lifting.
Soon after Veronica begins her investigation, another girl is pronounced missing. And their last whereabouts place them both at parties held by the same house. A house that’s hiding some seriously shady activities.
First, the good: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line makes it so, so easy to slip back into this fictional world I love. Favorite sassy female detective? Check. A new mystery wherein said sassy female detective is the only one capable of putting together all the pieces? Check. Best father-daughter relationship in all of fiction? Check. The main thing missing in this installment is everyone’s favorite OPJ (obligatory psychotic jackass, for those of you not in the know), but I suppose his excuse of being stationed overseas is as good as any.
By not focusing on the romance really at all, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line is also more clearly able to focus on Veronica’s individual development as she permanently forgoes the promise of a successful, lucrative legal career for, well…Neptune. I won’t lie: Logan and Veronica’s relationship has always been one of my favorite aspects of the show. But having Veronica tackle her first big case since returning to Neptune worked well. There are so many reasons why Veronica chose to come back to Neptune, and Logan is only part of that.
Whether on screen or page, Veronica’s character shines through and her snark is as excellent as always. I imagine the audio really enhances Veronica’s characterization (and, as a bonus, it’s narrated by Kristen Bell), but I honestly had no difficulties visualizing anything. One of the benefits of having the book series be based on a television show, I suppose.
The mystery was on par with the cases presented in the show and film. Complex and entertaining enough. At times, however, the mystery and plot felt like they overshadowed what I really love about this series: the character development. I still enjoyed the representation of the characters, but at times I wondered how much of that had to do with my prior knowledge of them, and how much was actually due to further development within the novel.
This is an especially pertinent question to ask, given that Veronica and many of her classmates, now all in their late twenties, are still living in the town they grew up in and acting much the same as they did in high school. I’ll admit it was a tiny bit disappointing, as I would have liked at least some recognition that they’re no longer the same people they were in high school - due to the passage of ten years, if nothing else. Hopefully this issue gets addressed in future installments.
At the end of the day, though, this is still an official part of the Veronica Mars series. I’m still going to enjoy my time reading it. I just wonder how much of an effect this will have (if any) on those not as familiar with the show. Having a certain sense of familiarity and expectations was definitely an advantage for me in reading The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line.
Rating: 3 stars