Today I Read…The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand Dollar Tan LineToday I read The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, the first Veronica Mars original novel, which follows the recent movie.

Ah, spring break in Neptune, California. There’s nothing quite like it. The time when hundreds of drunken college students descend on Neptune’s sun-soaked streets to party like they’re not flunking out of the very expensive schools mommy and daddy are paying for.

And Veronica Mars is right back where she started– back in Neptune, working in her father’s detective agency and trying to help people and pay the bills, in the face of a corrupt and incompetent sheriff’s office. Nancy Drew never had to put up with this shit.

But now girls have started to go missing from the wild parties that happen every night, and the good and very rich people of Neptune want these unfortunate and tourist-unfriendly events to stop happening. Oh, and to save the girls too, of course, as long as it’s handled discretely. Too bad they hired Veronica Mars to find the girls. Because discrete is definitely not her middle name.

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So, I loved the Veronica Mars movie (proud Kickstarter backer here!), and I was happy when Rob Thomas announced that he would be continuing the story in a series of original tie-in novels. It’s always best when the creator continues the story–they know their world the best, and Rob Thomas is definitely no exception. It’s a serviceable stand-alone mystery, but it shines best as part of the world of Veronica Mars. It’s filled with in-jokes and references that only the obsessive fan will catch, such as Martina Vasquez and Norris Clayton. It needs more Logan, but then I usually want more Logan. There’s some great set-up for future books, but I don’t want to get too in-depth since the movie is still in theaters. I will say that you should definitely see the movie before reading the book–the book occurs two months later, and there are a lot of events that have happened in Veronica’s life since we last saw her at Hearst College at the end of season three of the TV series. There’s a bit of a recap, but you’ll miss a lot of details if you don’t watch the movie first, and Veronica Mars has always been all about the details.

I know that I said it was a serviceable stand-alone mystery, but I would really recommend this book first to fans of Veronica Mars. Rob Thomas has said that he made the movie first for the fans and then for the wider audience, and the book is clearly the same. Veronica…she’s not always a nice person. Turning the other cheek to her just means that you’re a sucker who’s going to get hit twice. What she is, is fascinating. She screws up, and she tries again. She doesn’t give up. She’s deeply flawed as a person, but you still root for her even when she’s turned her life into a disaster. I think you need to get that to really feel for her as the protagonist. To understand why Dan Lamb is an ass, and why she worries about her father, and her issues with a certain person who shows up but isn’t in the movie and I’m definitely not saying more about that because spoilers.

So, to sum up, I loved it and I can’t wait for the next one! And Veronica Mars? You’re still a marshmallow.

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By Wednesday morning, the coastal town that sparkled at night looked … mundane. Not just mundane. Dirty. Pools of spilled beer collected in the seams of the sidewalk, and the rank tang of overfilled Dumpsters wafted out from the alleys. The ghostly forms of used condoms littered doorways and bushes, and shattered glass covered the street.

The Sea Nymph Motel was eerily silent when eighteen-year-old Bri Lafond stumbled in. Almost all of the guests were spring breakers, and the party didn’t get started until early afternoon. She had been at a rave on the inland edge of town, and by the time the party had wound down at 4:00 a.m. she hadn’t been able to get a cab. She’d still been high enough that the idea of walking back to the motel had seemed feasible. Now, bone tired, she trudged through the sandy courtyard to the room she and her three best friends from UC Berkeley had rented. It was one of the cheapest available, facing the Dumpster in the parking lot. Now she didn’t care, fumbling with the lock and wanting only to fall into one of the two doubles they’d been sharing all week.

The room’s blinds gaped open, letting in a ray of pallid light. Leah was sprawled across the bed with her head shoved under a pillow, still wearing a sequined dress from the night before. Her legs were bruised and smudged with dirt. Melanie sat with her back to the headboard, sipping from a paper Starbucks cup. She wore board shorts and a bikini top, her long blond hair tousled and smears of makeup caking her eyes. She looked up when she heard the door open.

“I have a surf lesson in, like, half an hour, and I’m still drunk,” she said. She looked at Bri, her eyes focusing with difficulty. “Where’ve you been? You look like shit.”

“Thanks a lot.” Bri leaned down to unzip her boots, her feet throbbing. “Where’s Hayley? Is she surfing too?”

“Haven’t seen her.” Melanie closed her eyes and rested her head back against the wall. Bri froze, one boot off, the other still pinching her toes. She looked up.

“Since when?”

“Since … since the party on Monday, I guess.” Melanie opened her eyes. “Shit.”

Bri blinked, then tugged the other boot off her foot. She sank to the bed and gently pushed Leah’s shoulder. “Hey, Leah. Wake up. Did you see Hayley yesterday?”

Leah gave a low moan from under the pillow. For a moment she curled into a tight ball, her arm circled protectively over her head. It took them a few more minutes of prodding and cooing her name before she finally pulled away the pillow and looked blearily up at them. “Hayley? Not since the … the party on Monday.”

A bleak, empty feeling expanded into every corner of Bri’s body. She scrolled back through her messages. There was nothing from Hayley since Monday afternoon.

Now Bri remembered seeing Leah doing lines of coke off an antique coffee table, holding her long honey-colored hair off her neck as she bent over. She remembered hands running up her hips, a slurring male voice telling her she’d be really hot if she grew her hair out. She remembered seeing flashes of Hayley, leaning up to whisper in the ear of a boy in a perfectly cut white suit, his eyes long lashed and sultry, his lips pouting playfully.

Beyond that everything was a blur. She’d woken up the next morning in a lawn chair by the motel pool, shivering in the early morning chill, her purse tucked under her head. She had no idea how she’d gotten home.

“Did you see her leave the party with someone?” Bri looked at her friends. Both shook their heads slowly.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Melanie said hesitantly. “She’s probably with some guy she met at the party. She’ll come up for air sooner or later.”

“But we promised we’d check in with each other at least once a day. We promised.” Bri’s voice was shriller than she’d meant for it to sound. They’d made a pact on the way down that no matter what they were up to, no matter how much fun they were having, they’d look out for one another. The dark, empty feeling in her gut yawned even wider.

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