A different world then, a different world now ... California in the 1960s, and the winds of change are raging. Orange groves uprooted for tract houses, people flooding into Orange County, strange new ideas in the air about war, music, sex, and drugs, and new influences, ranging from Richard Nixon to Timothy Leary. For the Becker brothers, however, the past is always present -- and it comes crashing back full force when the body of the lovely and mysterious Janelle Vonn is discovered in an abandoned orange-packing plant. The Beckers and the Vonns have a history, beginning years ago in high school with a rumble between the brothers of each clan. But boys grow up. Now one Becker brother is a cop on his first homicide case. One's a minister yearning to perform just one miracle. One is a reporter drunk with ambition. And all three are about to collide with the changing world of 1968 as each brother, in his own unique way, tries to find Janelle's killer. As suspects multiply and secrets are exposed, the three Becker brothers are drawn further into the case, deeper into the past, and closer to danger.
Since the Edgar-winning Laguna Beach in 1985, Parker has been known for his literate mysteries set in Southern California. This latest involves a very cold case from the 1960s. The story is framed by the elegiac meditations of Nick Becker, former L.A. cop, who deeply regrets lost youth and opportunities, but the bulk of the story suggests that Nick hasn't missed all that much. The core experience of his youth, his first case as an L.A. sheriff's officer, involved standing over the body of a neighbor girl, staring at it with his reporter brother, Andy. The girl, whom they knew had been molested and drugged by her brothers and later became a local beauty queen and Playboy cover girl, was found brutally murdered on the floor of a packinghouse. Before readers get to this core incident, which took place in 1968, the novel lurches through chapters depicting the Becker family in 1954, 1960, and 1963. It's obvious Parker wants to recapture the '60s, but he does so in an extremely heavy-handed, lugubrious fashion, hitting readers over the head with ways in which the times touched the family. The mystery itself moves extremely slowly, relying for its partial solution on an extremely corny deus ex machina device. Parker devotees will stick with him, but this one won't attract new fans. --Connie Fletcher Copyright 2004 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review
Set on Parker's usual turf, this Orange County, Calif., saga is a family drama carefully wrapped around a mystery involving a murdered beauty queen. Back in 1954, the Becker brothers, David, Nick, Clay and Andy, win a fight with the wrong-side-of-the-tracks Vonn brothers at the Sunblesst orange packinghouse. After the rumble, the Vonns' little sisters, Lynette and Janelle, show up to throw rocks. Thus begins a lifelong association between three of the brothers and the two girls. In 1968, Janelle is back at the packinghouse, only now she's lying dead on the floor, her decapitated head several feet from her torso. Nick is with the county sheriff's department working his first case as lead detective. Brother Clay has been killed in Vietnam, Andy is a reporter on a local newspaper and David is a minister. Framing the occasionally glacial narrative with Nick's present-day reworking of the case, Parker (Cold Pursuit, etc.) introduces a wide variety of quirky period characters, from stoned-out hippies to Dick Nixon and his conservative cronies, one of whom might be Janelle's killer. Readers should think mainstream novel rather than thriller and prepare to wait patiently for the rewards offered by this intricately plotted tale. Agent, Robert Gottlieb. (Oct.) Forecast: A solid push by the publisher is an attempt to move Parker from regional to national bestseller lists, though this rather slow entry makes that a long shot. Five-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal Review
Besides telling a killer story, Parker's latest thriller hauntingly evokes a time (the 1960s) and a place (Southern California). The Becker boys (Andy the homicide reporter, Nick the cop, and David the minister; Clay was killed in Vietnam) grew up near the Vonns, a troubled, abusive family burdened with more than its share of tragedy. When 19-year-old beauty queen Janell Vonn, the essence of a California girl, is found beheaded in the abandoned SunBlesst packing house, the Becker brothers begin their separate quests to find her killer, finally bringing him to justice while realizing redemption for themselves. But 40 years after a conviction, it becomes apparent that the Beckers were wrong, very wrong. Drenched in lust, love, betrayal, and unfulfilled promise, California Girl features masterly plotting, smart prose, and memorable characters. Another excellent work from the author of Cold Pursuit; highly recommended. [See Mystery Prepub, LJ 6/1/04.]-Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Novelist T. Jefferson Parker was born in Los Angeles, California in 1953. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, in 1976, and initially worked as a reporter for a weekly newspaper. While writing for the Daily Pilot, he won three Orange County Press Club Awards. His first novel, Laguna Heat, was made into an HBO movie starring Harry Hamlin, Jason Robards and Rip Torn. His other works include The Triggerman's Dance, Where Serpents Lie, The Blue Hour, Red Light, and Cold Pursuit. Silent Joe and California Girl won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2002 and 2005 respectively. Silent Joe also received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Mystery/Thriller. When not working on his books, Parker spends his time with his family, hiking, hunting and fishing, and playing tennis. He enjoys diving, snorkeling, and travel. (Bowker Author Biography)