by Bruce TierneyOctober, 2004
Mystery of the month
I haven't done the research on this, but I think it is a good possibility that T. Jefferson Parker is the winningest recipient of the BookPage Tip of the Ice Pick Award to date. Congratulations to Mr. Parker yet again for his superb California Girl. The Becker and Vonn families have a history that dates back to a time when Orange County (California) still had more orange trees than people. As kids they had the occasion to rumble, and the Becker kids ran roughshod over the Vonns. By the mid-1960s, the Beckers had achieved respectability; the three brothers were a priest, a cop and a reporter. The Vonns, by contrast, were bikers and small-time criminals. As you might imagine, there was no love lost between the families. When Janelle, the youngest Vonn sister, comes forth with stories of sexual abuse, the Becker brothers come to her aid. It is to no avail, however; Janelle is found savagely murdered, decapitated, in an abandoned orange warehouse. The convoluted investigation touches on many of Southern California's cultural icons of the period: Richard Nixon, Charles Manson and Timothy Leary, to name but a few. As a police procedural, California Girl is first-rate; the true success of the book, though, is how well it captures the time and place, a sun-drenched, orange-scented utopia gone but affectionately remembered. If T. Jefferson Parker has any shortcomings as a writer, it is only that he can't pen them as fast as I can read them!