Click here to read reviewer Rashmi Srinivas' take on California Girl.
Parker is a seasoned author of mysteries and thrillers, and his California Girl is about the murder of young, beautiful Janelle Vonn, a former “Miss Tustin” beauty queen in Orange County, Florida. Janelle Vonn’s family life as a child was not pretty as she was at the mercy of three older and deranged brothers, a young sister who could not help her, a mentally unstable mother and a father who was apparently powerless to help Janelle keep her brothers away from her.
When Janelle winds up brutally murdered and decapitated, Nick Becker has his hands on his first lead homicide case. Nick is in his early thirties with three brothers of his own - David, Clay, and Andy. The Becker brothers and the Vonn brothers never got along, and a fight back in 1954 during their youth took place at the Sunblesst Orange Packinghouse, where Janelle’s body was abandoned so many years later in 1968. The story flashes back to the “rumble” between the Becker and Vonn brothers at the packinghouse, and even the two Vonn girls, Lynette and Janelle, make a brief appearance at the “rumble” - Lynette throws rocks at the Beckers.
Now time has passed, and Nick has Janelle’s murder to solve. Nick’s brother Andy is a local reporter, and the two work together in an “off the record” sort of way as they both have their own unique methods to garner information and possible suspects for Janelle’s murder. David is a minister who is trying to build up a congregation using an old drive-in as his preaching grounds. Clay went to Vietnam and was killed in the line of duty, and his death was something the Becker boys’ parents continued to suffer from with years and years of grief.
While Nick works on solving Janelle’s murder with his quirky and interesting partner Lucky Lobell, the reader becomes familiar with the lives of the Becker brothers and their own personal conflicts and desires, and what unfolds is a family saga of sorts combined with Nick’s fervent desire to crack his first case and avenge Janelle’s killer. The book is made even more entertaining and interesting due to its setting in California in the 1960s and 1970s – a time that gave rise to hippies, drugs, free love and a separate band of political conservatives – and many characters of who could be responsible for Janelle’s death.
California Girl is an intricate mystery, and while it is certainly an entertaining page-turner, the family sagas of the Beckers, the Vonns, and the time period and setting made it one of the most interesting mysteries/thrillers that I have read in some time. Parker is a “new author” for me, although he certainly has several books under his belt. I look forward to checking out some of his previous titles.