Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mars Returns to Neptune

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham 
Reviewed by Diane K.M.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I'm a marshmallow. I admit it. 

Which means I am a Veronica Mars fan. Which means that not only have I watched all three seasons of the TV show (ahem, multiple times), I was also one of the 91,585 backers on Kickstarter who helped get the Veronica Mars movie made.

In short, I am the perfect audience for this book. If you liked the TV show and/or the movie, you will probably enjoy this novel, which is a new mystery (this is NOT a novelization of the movie or any of the episodes). The writing is true to the characters, and while I read I could even hear them speaking the lines. Kristen Bell's narration was so good that her thoughts and dialogue are especially vivid.

About the story, it's set shortly after the events of the movie take place. (If you have not yet watched the Veronica Mars movie, there are some spoilers in the book for how that case is solved.) It's Spring Break in Neptune, California, and a young woman goes missing. Veronica is hired as a private detective to try and find her, and while she's working that case, BOOM, another girl goes missing.

The plot twists are good, and as usual, Veronica gets herself into a few dangerous situations, but she's able to use her smarts (and the occasional weapon) to get out of a jam. The story pacing was good, and I raced through the book in just two sittings. I was even satisfied with the resolution of the cases. 

The story allows for interactions with almost the full cast of the show, including appearances by Wallace, Mac, Cliff, Weevil, and a few other surprises. Sadly, there isn't much with Veronica's boyfriend, Logan, because he's on military deployment for several months, but I read that Rob Thomas says the next book in the series will have more Logan in it. (Insert fangirl SQUEEEE here.)

I'm not going to try and convince non-Veronica fans to read this (if you want to be converted, I would recommend you start watching season 1 of the TV show), but if you are already a fellow marshmallow, you should check out the book. 

Now sing it with me: "A long time ago, we used to be friends..."

The Name of the Game is Death

The Name of the Game Is Death (Drake, #1)The Name of the Game Is Death by Dan J. Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a bank robbery goes pear-shaped and he is wounded, Roy Martin (aka Chet Arnold) and his partner split up, with the plan being Roy will receive payments in the mail. When the money dries up under suspicious circumstances, Roy goes on a road trip to investigate. Will Arnold get his money?

The Name of the Game is Death is a hardboiled gem that's been on my radar for a long time. Why didn't I take it from the mountainous unread pile before now?

It reads like one of Richard Stark's Parker books told in the first person. The man known as Roy Martin, Chet Arnold, and later, Earl Drake, is a slightly less mechanical version of Parker, a man that doesn't kill indiscriminately but does what it takes to get the job done. In this case, the job is finding out why the bank job money stopped being sent. The main character is pretty brutal, especially by the standards of the time this was written. Women and men alike fall beneath his guns.

Marlowe's prose is economical and punchy, again, similar to Richard Stark's. The plot has some wrinkles in it but it's pretty much a detective yarn with a criminal doing the detecting. This isn't literary fiction and doesn't try to be. It's full of bullets, booze, blood, and broads, everything a pulp detective story needs. It also has great lines like "It was as cold as a whore's heart."

Fun Easter Egg - The name of the bar Chet Arnold frequents is The Dixie Pig, the same name as the bar in The Dark Tower. I know Stephen King was into detective yarns at some point so it's a pretty safe bet he read this one.

The Name of the Game is Death is a pretty slim book but it's as long as it needs to be. Maybe the advent of e-books will user in a new golden age of detective novels that are 200 pages are less. They don't make them like this Fawcet Gold Medal classic anymore. 4 out of 5 stars.

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