Chris Nashawaty
October 01, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

California Girl

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
T. Jefferson Parker
publisher
William Morrow
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A

A cultural fault line runs through Orange County in the late ’60s. On one side, buzz-cut Republicans urge native son Richard Nixon to run for the White House. On the other, long-haired kids shack up by the surf in Laguna amid the dueling scents of sin-semilla and patchouli. Standing smack on that tectonic divide are the Beckers, three tight-knit brothers (a cop, a priest, and a reporter). After a troubled beauty queen they’ve known since childhood turns up murdered and headless, the Beckers pull together to search for the killer while trying to keep their own secrets hidden. T. Jefferson Parker’s drum-tight prose and richly layered characters borrow a bit from Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled L.A. noirs as well as the more psychologically lurid novels of Dennis Lehane, but California Girl easily earns Parker his own spot on the shelf between those two masters.

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