WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE VERONICA MARS MOVIE AHEAD.
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.
Tell Me More: I can hear it now: “First a Veronica Mars movie, and now a book? [insert excited noises here]” Be cool, Sodapop. It’s the year of Veronica, and while I am a fan, I will admit that I had my doubts about whether either of the new mediums would be able to capture what I loved about the series. My fears for the movie turned out to be unfounded, and The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is enjoyable, with some room to grow.
The novel starts shortly after the events of the film, so it can and does spoil a lot of the events that lead Veronica back to Neptune. Getting used to the tone of the story took a little more time, mostly because Veronica’s familiar voiceover is limited to a third-person point-of-view. For the first few chapters, it was difficult to shake the feeling that I was being told what was happening to Veronica instead of watching it play out through action and dialogue. The latter was an anchor, however, since it is just as snappy and quick as the dialogue in the series.
Mystery-wise, Thousand Dollar Tan Line is meaty enough to be half a story arc on the show. The execution isn’t as smooth, and there were moments where I could almost see the screenplay version of the scenes I was reading. The story is strongest when it’s close to Veronica, her thoughts laid out on the page, and Kristen Bell’s portrayal of her will help to cement that characterization for fans.
While I greatly enjoyed reading this novel and going back to Neptune for more Mars, I do think that it’s a book that will appeal mostly to fans of the show. As a stand-alone, it doesn’t quite hold up, as knowledge of the series’ events and their effect on Veronica is what enriches the plot and characterization. I was satisfied as a reader because this story gives me more time in Veronica’s universe to see her grow, but without that investment, it might be harder for new readers to really understand how far she has come and how much farther she has to go.
The Final Say: Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line will give fans of the series another story to mull over, new revelations in hand, and breathe new life into a series that has created a devoted fandom.
Rob Thomas is the creator of the television series Veronica Mars and the cocreator of the television series Party Down. He lives in Austin with his wife and two children. He hasn’t fully recovered from Ray Allen’s three-pointer in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals.
Jennifer Graham graduated from Reed College and received her MFA from the University of Texas at Austin. Her short stories have appeared in The Seattle Review and Zahir. She currently lives in Austin with her husband.
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