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California Girl(Unabr.) [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio Cassette]

Parker T. Jefferson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Sept. 28 2004
A different world then, a different world now…California in the 1960s, and the winds of change are raging. Orange groves uprooted for tract houses, people flooding into Orange County, and strange new ideas in the air about war, music, sex, and drugs, and new influences including Richard Nixon and Timothy Leary. But for the Becker brothers, the past is always present and it comes crashing back when the body of the lovely and mysterious Janelle Vonn is discovered in an abandoned orange packinghouse. The Beckers and Vonns have a history, beginning years ago in high school with a rumble between the brothers of each clan. But boys grow up. Now one Becker brother is a cop on his first homicide case. One’s a minister yearning to perform just one miracle. One is a reporter drunk with ambition. And all three are about to collide with the changing world of 1968 as each brother, in his own special way, tries to find Janelle’s killer. As the suspects multiply and secrets are exposed, the Becker brothers are all drawn further into the case, deeper into the past, and closer to the danger.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Set on Parker's usual turf, this Orange County, Calif., saga is a family drama carefully wrapped around a mystery involving a murdered beauty queen. Back in 1954, the Becker brothers, David, Nick, Clay and Andy, win a fight with the wrong-side-of-the-tracks Vonn brothers at the Sunblesst orange packinghouse. After the rumble, the Vonns' little sisters, Lynette and Janelle, show up to throw rocks. Thus begins a lifelong association between three of the brothers and the two girls. In 1968, Janelle is back at the packinghouse, only now she's lying dead on the floor, her decapitated head several feet from her torso. Nick is with the county sheriff's department working his first case as lead detective. Brother Clay has been killed in Vietnam, Andy is a reporter on a local newspaper and David is a minister. Framing the occasionally glacial narrative with Nick's present-day reworking of the case, Parker (Cold Pursuit, etc.) introduces a wide variety of quirky period characters, from stoned-out hippies to Dick Nixon and his conservative cronies, one of whom might be Janelle's killer. Readers should think mainstream novel rather than thriller and prepare to wait patiently for the rewards offered by this intricately plotted tale.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Since the Edgar-winning Laguna Beach in 1985, Parker has been known for his literate mysteries set in Southern California. This latest involves a very cold case from the 1960s. The story is framed by the elegiac meditations of Nick Becker, former L.A. cop, who deeply regrets lost youth and opportunities, but the bulk of the story suggests that Nick hasn't missed all that much. The core experience of his youth, his first case as an L.A. sheriff's officer, involved standing over the body of a neighbor girl, staring at it with his reporter brother, Andy. The girl, whom they knew had been molested and drugged by her brothers and later became a local beauty queen and Playboy cover girl, was found brutally murdered on the floor of a packinghouse. Before readers get to this core incident, which took place in 1968, the novel lurches through chapters depicting the Becker family in 1954, 1960, and 1963. It's obvious Parker wants to recapture the '60s, but he does so in an extremely heavy-handed, lugubrious fashion, hitting readers over the head with ways in which the times touched the family. The mystery itself moves extremely slowly, relying for its partial solution on an extremely corny deus ex machina device. Parker devotees will stick with him, but this one won't attract new fans. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. It has a bit of everything, but most of all, it's an exciting read. Set in the early fifties/sixties in California, shortly after I graduated from high school and moved to California myself. I love the title and think this author is very talented.

Also recommended: all books by Mary Higgins Clark, Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, Victoria Taylor Murray, and Betty Dravis, especially 1106 GRAND BOULEVARD
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  73 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parker delivers yet again with this dynamic novel. Nov. 9 2004
By Jeremy Lynch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
California Girl is about the Becker boys and follows them into early adulthood. One becomes a homicide detective, one a minister and one a reporter. The bulk of the novel is focused on the death of a young woman, whom the Becker men have known most of their life. Her death affects each of them in a different way.

I have to start by saying I am a fan of Parker's writing and have always been impressed by his work. Having said that, I think California Girl is an exciting step in a new direction. Less of a novel about catching the killer and more about the effects the murder has on the people around her. Like Lehane with Mystic River and Rozan with Absent Friends, Parker is stepping to the next level with a novel that is every bit a piece of literature as it is a crime novel.
It is work like this that helps remove any posible stigma that comes with the term "genre novel"

In April 2005, California Girl was awarded the Edgar award for best Novel of 2004, by the Mystery Writers of America.
It is Parker's second Best Novel Edgar, as Silent Joe also won.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars California in the 60's Jan. 14 2005
By S. Roddom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The 1950s and 60s were a chaotic time, in a world that was

undergoing tremendous social change, the youth of California were

not unaffected. The story is about the Becker brothers, Nick (now a

homicide detective), David (a Priest) and Andy (a journalist). The

three boys are mentally transported back to relive their childhood

when Nick is assigned, as his first case, the investigation of the

beheading murder of Janelle Vonn, the younger sister of the violent

Vonn brothers - arch-enemies from the boy's childhood. Andy

recognises that the story of the investigation could lead to his

break into big-time journalism so follows the case closely. Janelle

was abused by her brothers and Nick and Andy had helped her escape

to start a new life, her escape caused a violent encounter between

the two sets of brothers. David, Nick and Andy all investigate the

case from different angles, occasionally co-operating and sharing

their information. As secrets are revealed - careers, lives and

loves are threatened. Are the brothers able to solve the crime

before they become victims of it?

Parker is a very descriptive author, and has used powerful imagery

to portray an investigation that is totally guesswork and hunch

following, does not include computers and modern day forensic

techniques. The era is well researched and brought back memories

of events and fashions of the day. Parker even had well known `real'

characters flitting in and out of the story, such as Richard Nixon

was a friend of the Becker brother's parents. This is my first book

by this author and I found his portrayal of the different characters

to be meticulous, I felt that I knew them all personally by the end

of the book. The plot was good, the characterisation was good and

the writing was excellent.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff! Oct. 1 2004
By Reader/author - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Mr. Parker has always been exceptional at characterization, but this book nails real atmosphere as well, and is at the top of my 2004 list, along with The Narrows by Michael Connelly, Memorial Day by Harry Shannon and that new Robert Crais. The 60's seem especially relevent these days (war and all) so the writing really make my skin ripple. Great stuff! Buy it, you won't be disappointed. As usual.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece! Dec 19 2004
By nobizinfla - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A Plus for T. Jefferson Parker's incredible "California Girl."

Stylish and engaging, it transports you back to 1968 in Orange County (and up to present day)...again mixing real life characters (Dick Nixon, Tim Leary, Charles Manson) with a fictional cast of vividly sketched characters.

The three Becker brothers (a cop, a crime reporter and a minister) have an intense commitment to finding the truth about a decapitated friend from their teenage years.

Their search for the facts leads to compromise, concessions and exposure of the brothers' secrets.

It is a subtle, sophisticated, cerebral novel with justice the overruling topic...no matter how long it may take.

A well-crafted look back at a period of time that fashioned a generation told in a most intriguing manner.

As good as any book I have read this year.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and passion gone wrong and ultimately made right Oct. 15 2004
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
T. Jefferson Parker is one of those writers who quietly and incrementally has been building a loyal following. This hasn't been easy, since Parker has more often than not eschewed the creation of a recurring character. While three of his novels (THE BLUE HOUR, BLACK LIGHT and BLACK WATER) have featured detective Merci Rayborn, most of his books have been stand-alone works, with Parker choosing to let each of his novels rise or fall on its own merits. The result, deliberately or otherwise, is that one truly never knows what is going to happen in a T. Jefferson Parker novel. The only certainty that one has upon cracking the binding of a new Parker book is that it will make that reader's "Best Novel" list for that particular year.

CALIFORNIA GIRL is no exception to this rule. It is a story that spans four decades, from 1960 to the present. The primary focus of the novel, however, is 1968. The setting is southern California, the site of a cultural and political maelstrom that continues to have ramifications to this day. The Becker brothers have taken different vocational paths: one is a homicide detective, one a reporter, and one a minister. Yet their paths are going to cross, and dramatically so, when the mutilated body of Janelle Vonn is discovered in an abandoned warehouse. Vonn was a woman who seemed doomed to a bad end almost from the day she was born, and the crowd that she ran with --- druggies, surfers and musicians --- fed into her seeming penchant for self-destruction. Each of the Becker brothers had their own unique tie, past or present, to Vonn, and thus each tries in his own separate way to find her murderer and bring him to justice.

Parker captures the southern California era of the late 1960s perfectly, and anyone who lived through it will feel a number of familiar tugs while reading CALIFORNIA GIRL. Parker gets those all-important secondary details down nicely --- I had forgotten all about Sugar Rice Crinkles, and would love a bowlful right about now --- making the evocation of the era all the more real. More importantly, however, this is a meticulously crafted mystery, a masterfully told tale of love and passion gone wrong and ultimately made right.

CALIFORNIA GIRL is a haunting work, one that provides a satisfying ending in lieu of a happy one. As with the majority of Parker's novels, there will not be a sequel here, but one is not necessary. It stands alone, and well.

--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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