Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2)
By: Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Publisher: Vintage


Since Veronica's return to Neptune and work as a private investigator, her life has settled into a regular rhythm of Daddy-Daughter dinners (now including Logan, recently returned from his latest deployment), co-running Mars Investigations, and continuing to strive to be the biggest thorn possible in Sheriff Dan Lamb's side. For if there is one constant in Neptune, it's the corruption under-pinning the city's veneer of wealth and respectability. Riding high on the success of Weevil's exoneration, she and her father begin to brainstorm how to take Weevil's case further, transforming him into a symbol of the systemic corruption in the sheriff's department. But Veronica's latest solo success has gained her a measure of notoriety, and the offer of a (lucrative) solo job investigating possible fraudulent insurance claim against the Neptune Grand Hotel. 

Grace Manning (fans of the show will remember her as the younger sister of Meg, featuring in the "Donut Run" episode), the victim of a vicious rape, was left with no memories of the attack, until memories began to resurface and she accused a Neptune Grand employee. The deeper Veronica digs, the more she begins to realize that Grace's attack may be the tip of the iceberg. Driven by her own demons, Veronica digs ever deeper, determined to stop a monster from hurting one more girl -- but the cost may be more than she's willing to pay, as her drive to succeed threatens to disrupt the fragile balance she's achieved since returning to Neptune. 

Following the release of the Kickstarter-backed film, I was thrilled when Rob Thomas furthered his commitment to Veronica Mars with the promise of a series of original novels. The first, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, was a fabulous addition to the world of the show, sliding seamlessly into place as a literary extension to the film world. I sped through Thomas and Graham's first collaboration and was immediately left wanting more -- but concerned that lightning this good surely couldn't strike twice. Book versions of beloved television shows aren't supposed to be this compulsively readable and addictive. But I was -- no surprise -- wrong.

Mr. Kiss-and-Tell is vintage Veronica Mars, delving deep into the seedy underbelly society and stripping away the glossy veneer of Neptune's culture of wealth and privilege. This book is everything I want in a Mars story - dark, twisty plotting, razor-sharp characterizations, nail-biting suspense, and a healthy dose of Logan-related relationship goodness. With a serial rapist as the focus of the central case, this book is necessarily darker in tone, and though difficult at times to read it fits with Veronica's noir-tinged history. This is especially true in how the case is resolved -- when it comes to crime in Neptune, life -- and justice -- is rarely as black-or-white as one might like, instead often meted out in shades of gray.

Woven throughout Veronica's investigation are the wonderful character moments that have come to define the series. Where the first novel focused on Veronica's relationship with Keith, this novel's primary relational focus is on her renewed romance with Logan. The exploration of the struggles facing military couples was brutally real and honest, and I absolutely adore where this series of novels is taking these characters that I love so much -- it's the next best thing until the next film, eh Rob Thomas? :) 

Veronica's relationship with Logan is a piercing ray of light in her shadowy world. It's a hope this natural born cynic with a marshmallow-soft heart will need to survive in the ever-evolving world of Neptune's criminal and social whirl. This series is a masterclass in how to do tie-in fiction right -- compelling stories, pitch-perfect characters, and chilling suspense -- and I need more, as the opportunity to live within Veronica's world for a brief span will never, ever grow old. 

About the book:

In the second book in the New York Times bestselling mystery series, Veronica Mars is back with a case that will expose the hidden workings of one of Neptune’s most murderous locations.

The Neptune Grand has always been the seaside town’s ritziest hotel, despite the shady dealings and high-profile scandals that seem to follow its elite guests. When a woman claims that she was brutally assaulted in one of its rooms and left for dead by a staff member, the owners know that they have a potential powder keg on their hands. They turn to Veronica to disprove—or prove—the woman's story.
The case is a complicated mix of hard facts, mysterious occurrences, and uncooperative witnesses. The hotel refuses to turn over its reservation list and the victim won’t divulge who she was meeting that night. Add in the facts that the attack happened months ago, the victim’s memory is fuzzy, and there are holes in the hotel’s surveillance system, and Veronica has a convoluted mess on her hands. As she works to fill in the missing pieces, it becomes clear that someone is lying—but who? And why?

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