Our favorite young detective lives on in print once more.
Let’s get this out there right away: if you haven’t seen the TV series and movie, and read the first book in the Veronica Mars book series, you probably won’t get everything in this story. The second installment picks up after last year’s The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, and frequently references past cases and plots. But the show, movie, and first book are all excellent, so you should watch and read them anyway.
Veronica is still living in Neptune, where she returned to work as a private investigator, having passed up a lucrative law career to do so, though she is no longer living with her father, Keith. She’s got her own place, where her rich-asshole-turned-Navy-guy boyfriend Logan Echolls stays when he isn’t overseas.
Mr. Kiss and Tell opens with a prologue, where local antiques/junk dealer, Frank Koslowski, is out on his usual route, scouting for abandoned gems. While investigating a potential find, he stumbles across a young woman, apparently left for dead in a field. She’s very much alive, though, and is the catalyst for the rest of the novel.
In the first main chapter, we tie up a loose end from the Veronica Mars movie, when her friend Eli “Weevil” Navarro was shot and accused of trying to rob the wealthy Celeste Kane at gunpoint, an accusation for which he is now on trial. It launches right into the haves-vs-have-nots theme that has been a constant thread throughout the existence of this universe. Neptune, CA, with its two polar opposite communities — the extremely wealthy “09ers” and the working class or poor everyone else — at constant odds.
Post-trial, Veronica and her gang, including Keith and computer whiz Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie, are at the Mars Investigations office, when the new case du jour is presented. A man representing the insurance company employed by local swanky-ass hotel the Neptune Grand hires Veronica to investigate a claim against the hotel. Remember the young woman in the field from the prologue? She is suing, claiming that she was assaulted in the hotel and has named one of their employees as her assailant.
Of course, Veronica being Veronica, she isn’t going to be satisfied to simply help the insurance adjuster avoid liability. She takes the case hoping that she’ll be able to use the assignment to catch the rapist in question, whether it’s the accused hotel employee or someone else. Of course, I’m not going to tell you how this goes; you’ll just have to read the book. But suffice to say, the story delves into some interesting topics — police corruption, college sports, rape culture — and does it with Ms. Mars’ typical brainy charisma.
The writing can be a bit uneven at times — the setting descriptions of the opening pages read a bit like a pulpy detective novel of yore, where you keep expecting someone to be described as a “dame” with “legs that won’t quit,” but that rhythm is quickly lost in favor of more typically-paced plot exposition. Still, the novel is overall engaging and delightful. You can’t help but read each line in the voices each character had on television — Kristen Bell’s chirpy snark, Enrico Colantoni’s deadpan, Jason Dohring’s smug charm — which is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a visual reference for the characters and settings, but on the other, it makes you yearn to see the story in presented in front of you as a TV episode or movie.
This is an overall solid and fun crime novel, a mystery that’s twisty enough to keep it interesting without going too far into the realm of unbelievable. It’s a welcome addition to the Veronica Mars storyline, and hopefully indicative of more books to come.
Mr. Kill and Tell will be out January 20 via Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley. This review is my own uninfluenced opinion.