From Publishers Weekly
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.
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Parkers 12th novel is a gripping saga of three brothers and their relationship to one doomed and abused young woman over the course of a generation. Parker uses Janelle as a focal point for examining a diverse set of characters; in investigating her murder, for example, the Becker brothers dig deep within themselves. Yet perhaps the best character is 60s-era Southern California itself: its blue sky, ocean, drive-in churches, orange groves, tract homes, peace protests, and drugs, spotted with cameos by Richard Nixon, Timothy Leary, and other celebrities. California Girl
, though technically a crime novel, is also a family saga and history, though it tries too hard at the latter. If sometimes too self-conscious or superficial in tone, the novel offers a not-so-innocent look at the tarnished California dream.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.