MR KISS AND TELL is the second Veronica Mars novel, following THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE. Like any mystery, it can be read as a standalone if you’re just in it for the plot; however, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham are clearly interested in expanding their characters’ relationships alongside the mystery du jour, and in developing a few threads set to stretch through the whole series. I’d recommend you read it after THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE for maximum effect.
Also be forewarned that it spoils a couple of the big mysteries of TTDTL, even though it says little about how Veronica solves the case.
Veronica is now a fully-integrated partner at Mars Investigations, and she’s developing something of a reputation after two high-profile successes. She’s also gained a valuable contact in Petra Landros, owner of the Neptune Grand, who encourages her insurance company to hire Veronica to discover if the hotel is liable in the brutal rape of a nineteen-year-old woman. Veronica has deep reservations about how the case forces her to question the victim’s story, but as her investigation unfolds it becomes clear she’s the only one interested in getting justice on the victim’s behalf. And she's determined to do just that.
Like all of Veronica’s cases, this one is more complex than it appears on the surface. What the police and the insurance company consider a simple who’s-the-perp investigation turns out to be a nosedive into the world of online escorts and the systems that often let their abusers walk free. Veronica’s own view of the situation is clear: rape is inexcusable, no matter what the victim does for a living. Neptune’s duly elected law enforcement team, however, takes such a negative view of the women Veronica brings to their attention that she begins to wonder if conventional justice is even a possibility in cases like these. She and her father have always been fairly underhanded with their crime-solving methods, what with all the break-and-enter and the impersonations, but she now has to wonder how she feels about violence as a solution. If the sheriff’s office refuses to take the case any further, is Veronica willing to let a less legal authority step in and deal with the serial rapist before he can attack anyone else?
This potential reliance on violence has become a major issue ever since Keith gave Veronica a gun in the last book, and I don’t expect things will get much easier for her going forward.
On the character front, Thomas and Graham continue to utilize a whole host of folks from the show/movie even as they introduce and expand on new characters who are potential allies or enemies for Veronica et al. I was mighty pleased to see Keith share Veronica’s status as a POV character this time around, complete with his own crusade. Weevil and Cliff both play pivotal roles in Keith’s storyline.
Over on Veronica’s side of the fence, Mac continues to provide extensive support as Mars Investigations’s in-house hacker. Wallace, too, steps in to help when his expertise is required. And Logan is on extended shore leave, so Veronica spends a suitable amount of time working on her relationship in and around the case.
Petra Landros, the supermodel-turned-hotelier introduced in THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE, looks set to be a recurring character who could as easily be an enemy as an ally. She’s certainly a valuable client with deep pockets, but her allegiances will always be to Big Money rather than the pursit of justice. MR KISS AND TELL also introduces us to Marcia Langdon, a childhood neighbour of Keith’s who has recently retired from the army and is now keen to replace Dan Lamb as sheriff. Veronica can't wait to see her in office; Keith, having encountered her ruthlessness firsthand when he was a young deputy, isn’t so sure she’s a marked improvement on Lamb.
I was also pleased to see Veronica’s young half brother again. Random half siblings are one of my favourite narrative devices because they force people to rearrange their lives and reevaluate what they know about their parents. VERONICA MARS won my heart in large part because at one point or another every major character at least suspects they have a random half sibling kicking around out there; now Veronica has a real, verifiable one, and she's working hard to figure out her place in his life. And, on a more heartwrenching note, he's brought her back into contact with her mother after more than a decade of two-sided silence. I approve.
I enjoyed this very much, though I must admit I liked THE THOUSAND DOLLAR TAN LINE better. (That might have been down to Kristen Bell’s stellar performance. I knew going in that there was no way she’d ever be less than great, but it’s one thing to know something and another to experience it.) Still, MR KISS AND TELL is a solid entry that presents Veronica et al with plenty of new challenges, delivers a compelling and multilayered mystery, and sets up some storylines that could come to head in later books. I’m looking forward to the next one.
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