Book Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell (Veronica Mars #2)

Mr Kiss and Tell Veronica Mars2004 cult classic TV show Veronica Mars is one of the great loves of my life (it’s one of the tags used enough to actually show up in my tag cloud to the right, for the record). So of course I pre-ordered show creator Rob Thomas and co-writer Jennifer Graham’s second book in the novel series as soon as it was available, knowing that, even if I didn’t like, it, I still wanted to support the series and the world.

In Mr. Kiss and Tell, a girl has been brutally raped and assaulted, and claims that an employee at the Neptune Grand, where she spent the evening before her assault, is the perpetrator. She plans to sue the hotel, which hires Veronica to find out the truth.

The second half of this (as was the case in the first book), is much faster-paced and tighter than the first half, but only my familiarity with and love for the characters gives life to what is unfortunately rather an underwhelming, stale world. Every single plot twist and turn, except perhaps one, is predictable – the book sets up the two or three central conflicts in the first one-third and then unrolls them in exactly the way you’d expect, without deviation. One of these subplots is the institutionalized corruption and injustice of the police force, and the series wants to be a dark, gritty take on this, a reflection of 21st-century realities, but the depth of world and character-building just isn’t there. What does that structure look like, how does corruption interact with itself, what are the internal processes and motivations of those involved? The subplot is brushed on, hinted at further development, but never really delved into.

Logan takes up a scant handful of pages sprinkled through the novel, reflective of his non-prioritized role in Veronica’s life, which is faithful to the original series but is puzzling and frustrating at this point. Rob Thomas and the writers assured fans by the events of the film that Veronica is deeply in love with Logan and committed – yet one of the same things that tore them apart in the TV series is still evident, and unlike in the series, the book doesn’t show it as a flaw: Veronica’s compulsive habit of prioritizing her cases over everything in her life.

Nearly every scene with Logan was cut short by Veronica heading off to take care of case business that had cropped up – not once in the entire novel does she choose Logan over her work. She and Logan seem at best indifferent to and at worst baffled by each other’s passions – Veronica has made no effort to understand his life in the Navy beyond obsessively researching potential danger he might be in (a reference later in the novel explicitly references that she still doesn’t understand the ribbons on his dress uniform and what they mean, and forgot after he told her), and she refuses to talk about cases with him, while he meanwhile never asks about them. Thomas and co have always accurately portrayed that what draws Logan and Veronica together is their compulsive, highly driven nature – they’re both adrenaline junkies. This and Veronica’s lack of trust is what initially tore them apart, but the series seems to have no self-awareness that this continues to be a major obstacle in their relationship insofar as how they are still living it out: both are still following their separate passions without at all entering into or even attempting to engage the other’s. I had expected both the film and the books to finally address this and show character growth and show change in their relationship; yet not much seems to have changed beyond Logan finally getting over his wild ways. There’s still no sense of partnership.

Having said that, it’s still a fun read, and Veronica, which is a plus, feels real, she is very much recognizable as the character we all know and love, her snark at just the right level, and the final act is quite gripping. I just can’t help but feel that if I weren’t already familiar with these characters from other mediums, I wouldn’t get through this series as a set of stand-alone mysteries.

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