Book Review: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, a Veronica Mars Novel

On the heels of the Veronica Mars film release, Rob Thomas (with Jennifer Graham) released the first of a new Veronica Mars book series, which will serve as the official continuation of the show and movie. Subtitled The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, the book–which hit shelves March 25, less than two weeks after the film’s theatrical release–picks up a couple months after the events depicted in the movie; Veronica is back in her hometown of Neptune and dons her private eye hat once again.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line: Synopsis

With her father Keith still recovering from the injuries he sustained in the car crash, Veronica takes over Mars Investigations and hires Mac as her “technical analyst,” a more professional title than simply “hacker.” As the bills start piling up and cases become smaller and further between, Veronica is beginning to think Mac may have to go back to working for Kane Software when Petra Landros, ex-model owner of the Neptune Grand and an influential member of the Neptune Chamber of Commerce, walks into the office and presents Veronica with a case: Hayley Dewalt, one of the hordes of spring breakers who flock to Neptune each year, went missing a week ago, and–to put it in the simplest of terms–her disappearance is bad for business and publicity. So Landros hires Veronica on the Chamber’s and Hayley’s parents’ behalves in the hope that the girl’s discovery (or recovery) will curb the influx of reservation cancellations and restore the town’s seasonal profits.

Veronica delves into the case of what could initially be a kidnapping, murder, willful disappearance, or some combination of the three. And, as Veronica discovers, due to the fact that the Neptune Chamber of Commerce foots the bill for all of Sheriff Dan Lamb’s campaign expenses, the narcissistic and corrupt sheriff is required to assist Veronica however he can along the way. As Veronica–with sidekick Wallace–infiltrates the house where Hayley was last seen under the guise of being a spring breaking coed named Amber (a persona fans of the show should fondly recall seeing on more than one occasion), she is led to believe the two hosts of the party are involved in the disappearance in some way. Eduardo and Rico Gutierrez, however hospitable they may be, are on the payroll of the powerful Milenios cartel, notorious for their ruthless killings and violence.

But as the case of Hayley Dewalt’s disappearance progresses, suddenly another girl goes missing: Aurora Scott, only 16 years old, disappears from the same party at the same beachfront mansion where Veronica had been under cover. When Aurora’s parents make an appearance on the morning news to appeal to the kidnappers for their daughter’s return, Veronica is confronted by a ghost from her past and another layer of complexity is added to a nearly insurmountable case.

First Impressions of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line unfolds in much the same way as the larger mysteries of the show; Veronica takes the case, interviews the immediate family, and then begins to stake out the leads and fill out the missing information piece by piece. She goes undercover a couple times at huge, wild party, first to look for anyone who might have information about Hayley’s last sighting, and then to locate the guy who pawned Hayley’s necklace the day after her disappearance. There’s quite a bit of leg work too; she travels to Stanford, San Diego, and eventually a gas station in Bakersfield. Much of the time, though, Veronica is sifting through the information she has, hoping it’ll piece together in a way it hadn’t before and begin to yield answers.

The interesting thing about reading about Veronica solving a mystery rather than watching is that you can follow even the minutiae of her thoughts. For example, she starts carrying around a notebook and taking notes while she’s interviewing family, friends, and leads; if you’ve seen the show, you’ll know she’s never done that before, and even in the book she states she doesn’t do this in order to remember things better. Rather, it’s a tactic for extracting information: Pauses in questioning and avoiding eye contact gives the person more time to consider what they’re saying, or if they’re withholding information it gives them the chance to decide to come forth with whatever it was they were trying to hide. It was neat to get such thorough insight into Veronica’s actions and behaviors that you wouldn’t get in the show, even with a voiceover. Granted, not every little flip of her hair had some sort of investigative significance, but there were some instances, like with the notebook, where her actions were calculated and had purpose.

Bottom Line

Overall the book was very enjoyable to read, especially as a fan of the show and film. The only thing I can think of that didn’t quite ring true, at least for me, was Veronica’s dialogue. The character of Veronica Mars is very sassy, witty, sarcastic, and she has puns and pop culture references for days. I feel like Veronica’s dialogue in the book was a bit weak; she definitely wasn’t at the top of her game. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with Thomas having co-written this book with the Jennifer Graham woman–like maybe he wrote specific scenes and then she fleshed out everything else based on his outlines, or something to that effect–, but while reading the book, several times I thought to myself, “This just doesn’t quite sound like Veronica.” And there were several instances where Veronica would say something or react to something being said and I would think, “No. There’s no way Veronica would say that,” or “Veronica would never pass up the chance for a witty come-back.” At times, it was almost like Veronica seemed a bit passive, which, again, is totally out of the ordinary for her character.

Having said that, I still enjoyed this book very much. I read it over like six hours in two sittings because I just couldn’t put it down. Although I have one minor gripe with the book–mainly in terms of the execution–the content is mostly all there, and it’s still Veronica Mars. As for a quantitative rating, I would give Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line at least a solid 4 out of 5, if not a little more.

It’s hard for me to say whether or not someone who hasn’t seen the show and film would enjoy this book as much as a fan because, obviously, I’m biased, but I do believe that there is a quality whodunit here, even if it might be a little generic to the non-fan. I can say with complete confidence, however, that any fan of Veronica Mars will very much enjoy this first installment in Rob Thomas’ new book series.

About the author

My name is Dane. I'm a writer at Android Authority as well as a tech journalist in general. As well, I'm a marketing guru, designer, and a budding web developer. My passions include portmanteaus, artisanal coffees, jackets, and the smell of fresh technology in the morning.