22. California Girl, T. Jefferson Parker. Mystery, 2-7, pp. 370
I love being wrong about a book or an author. I really do. Wrong in that I’m certain that I won’t like the book, that I have a pretty good sense of what the author’s about. I know the type of writer he is and, “Thank you, no,” it’s not for me. And I am certain about all this without being, in any way, “informed” about either; I haven’t read the book or anything by the author.
That was my attitude about California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker. I’ve seen his books around, but never deigned to pick one up. I figure his books were – I don’t know – not my type. Not all that good, perhaps. I finally picked up a book by Parker for a buck at a book sale. It was a lousy sale and I really had to stretch to find three books. Parker’s book was clean and a first edition, so I thought, “What the hell. Can’t go too wrong for a buck.”
After completing California Girl yesterday, I would have paid more. Much more.
California Girl was a delight; a well-written, fast-paced read. Riveting. Remember, in the past I’ve said I enjoy books by John Lescroart. And I do. He’s good a writer with strong, memorable characters. But Lescroart’s plots leave something to be desired. They’re strained, a little too improbable, too convoluted. Parker’s plots aren’t like that. Here’s what Parker does – or better yet what he doesn’t do – there’s a murder and someone solves it. No complicated plot, but a simple, straight forward murder investigation.
Rather than the plot, Parker focuses on the people and their motives, their motivations. People, even good people, sometimes lie in the course of a murder investigation. Not because they committed the murder, but because they’ve got secrets. Secrets they don’t what others to know about. Sometimes people do things, extreme things, to keep those secrets from being exposed.
California Girl isn’t about the dead girl and it’s only peripherally about solving her murder. It's really about the three Becker brothers – a cop, a reporter and a pastor – whose lives are caught up with that of the dead girl. Parker's novel is about these three respond to the pressures imposed by the murder and that – far more than the crime itself or its solution – is what makes California Girl so good.
I will read other books by T. Jefferson Parker. Even if I have to pay more than a buck a book.