A Veronica Mars Mystery Novel Review

Mild, vague spoilers.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Veronica Mars series creator and movie writer/director Rob Thomas, and a person I have never heard of, Jennifer Graham, is a stand-alone Veronica Mars mystery novel that is also a direct sequel to the recent Veronica Mars film.

[one_third][/one_third]Tie-in novels are not usually the most sophisticated of fare. But I’ve read some–the odd Star Trek novel over the years, a few non-Ian-Fleming Bond books, and, for some reason, the novelization of Halloween II, which was one of the first novels I ever bought, when I was in fifth grade. Usually, I read this kind of thing when I’m looking for something feather light. So philosophically, I had to first ask myself, is this a tie-in novel or a continuation of the series? I think that the difference would be that a tie-in novel is never going to change the status quo. In other words, if you’re reading an NCIS novel, Mark Harmon’s character isn’t going to defect to Russia. What I’m getting at is that The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is, on some very basic level, a tie-in book. But on another level, it’s more than that because this book progresses the overall Veronica Mars story and changes to the world are made. It’s got a little heft to it, in other words.

If you read my adoring review of the movie, you’ll know that one of my criticisms of the movie was that there might have been a little too much world building in the movie, like it was a pilot for a new series. For instance, one of the characters gets injured in the movie. This novel details their recovery from the injury and some of the psychological effects of a catastrophic injury. That adds to my enjoyment of the movie because I see that the creators of the show realized that the injury was an issue with which they would have to deal. So again, that makes it feel more legitimate, a part of the Veronica Mars canon, which I think was the biggest hurdle this book had to get over for me.

How’s the writing? Weird. It starts off labored, with awkward diction, a little heavy on the thesaurus, and glossing over some important descriptions. But as the book goes on, the writing gets more comfortable with itself. And before I knew it, I was flying right along in my reading. There are different kinds of good reads. This is a fast, fun read. Did I find myself being challenged by it? Not really. But it was relaxing! I guess I feel like the first fifty pages would have benefited from a quick re-write. This feels like a first-draft by a very good writer.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line bills itself as a collaboration. Some people write together and some people don’t. Stephen King and Peter Straub–I think–traded off chapters to write The Talisman. (Editor’s Note: I love that book.) I have a feeling that series creator Rob Thomas might have come up with some of the plot points for this book, but that Jennifer Graham actually wrote it. Obviously, I have no idea for sure. But this book is so light that it doesn’t feel like a collaboration in the writing. Perhaps Thomas wrote some of the jokes? Again, I’m just spitballing here.

The mystery is all over the place in that manner of private eye books. We meander from place to place, person to person, waiting to find out the solution to the puzzle. Along the way, story lines are dropped and it can get a little annoying. For instance, one character cuts Veronica with a knife, but never really gets their comeuppance. I realize that not everyone is going to get just desserts, but I don’t think Sam Spade, Kinsey Millhone, Spenser, or especially Veronica Mars, would have let anyone get away with that. But overall, it’s a solid enough mystery with some fun twists and turns.

I’m familiar with the world of Veronica Mars. It was very difficult to gauge if someone who didn’t already know the world would get much out of it. For instance, I think if you don’t know Veronica, she comes across as someone who uses people as she is constantly using people in the book. For instance, her buddy, Mac, does a lot of work for her and they are constantly talking about how she isn’t getting paid. But I’ve read a lot worse mysteries. If you like mysteries, but don’t know Veronica, give this a shot and let us know what you think.

And for you fans who go to the world of Veronica Mars for her love life, there isn’t anything here for you. Logan has a few moments with Veronica in the story, but other than that there isn’t really any of the heat that the world has a tendency to create. I don’t think anyone new is dating by the end of the story.

But the question comes down to the same question that we ask with Halloween, Star Trek, or NCIS, does this book scratch the Veronica Mars itch? I’m going to say, yep. I enjoyed it. It’s kind of a stupid book, but no stupider than Gone Girl, which is a fun book. (Another Editor’s Note: Mike has to be the only person on the planet to describe Gone Girl as a “fun” book.) The Thousand Dollar Tan Line“\ feels like Veronica Mars’s world, furthers the story in an interesting way. If you like Veronica and find yourself wanting more of her world get yourself a copy of this book.

And I didn’t know it, but Kristen Bell reads the damn audio book! Maybe that would be even better!