Jeff T. Jefferson Parker

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California Girl
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California Girl California Girl
"Love, lust, murder, betrayal, suffering, and redemption all parade by as a brilliant tale-spinner once again has his way with us..."

Kirkus Reviews



When they were young, the four Becker brothers were a tight group, but it's the late 60's now, they've grown up and chosen different paths. One Becker brother didn't make it. One is a cop investigating his first homicide case, that of Janelle Vonn, the girl each of his brothers knew from when they were kids. One's a minister yearning to perform just one miracle. One is a reporter, drunk with ambition. These 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 danger.

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CALIFORNIA GIRL is a book I spent a lifetime preparing to write, but didn't know it. It "began" way back in 1968 when I was a freshman in high school, looking out at the great, confusing, turbulent, twisted, contradictory world around me. What was a 14-year old boy to make of the Vietnam war? Of drugs, sex and rock and roll? Of Nixon and Manson and Leary? Well, a couple of years ago I decided to go back and try to capture some of it in a book. So, welcome to California Girl.

CALIFORNIA GIRL is about fifty years, four brothers and the murder of a young woman they all knew and loved in different ways, a murder that goes incorrectly solved for nearly four decades. One brother is a cop on his first homicide case. Another is an ambitious newspaper reporter. The third is an evangelical minister who would love to hear God speak to him personally, just once. The fourth becomes a shadowy "advisor" in the early days of the Vietnam war. And the murdered "California girl," is young and bright and lovely and full of promise that can never be fulfilled.

CALIFORNIA GIRL is a national drama played out in the small Southern California towns of Tustin and Laguna beach, where I grew up.

Hope you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Note for book collectors:
Simultaneous hardcover release in US & UK, September 27, 2004

Morrow US hardcover Sept 2004 ISBN 0060562366
Morrow US mass-market paperback Dec 2006 ISBN 0060562374
HarperCollins UK hardcover Sept 2004 ISBN 0007149379
HarperCollins UK mass-market paperback May 2005 ISBN 0007149387
Brilliance Audio MP3-CD (unabridged) Sept 2004 ISBN 9781593356941
Brilliance Audio CD (unabridged) Sept 2004 ISBN 9781590869734
Brilliance Audio cassette (abridged) Dec 2005 ISBN 9781590869758
Brilliance Audio cassette (unabridged) Sept 2004 ISBN 9781590869703
Brilliance Audio (download) Sept 2004 ISBN 9781597101172


Winner of the MWA Edgar Award for Best Novel of 2004. Shortlisted for the Anthony, Hammett and Macavity Awards for Best Novel.

[A] gripping, atmospheric saga...California Girl is an unforgettable book.
   —Wall Street Journal

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 sinsemilla 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. 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 Girl easily earns Parker his own spot on the shelf between these two masters.
   —Entertainment Weekly, Editor's Choice

   Blazingly pretty at 19, Janelle Vonn was the quintessential California Girl, and all men were drawn to her, including the one who killed her.
   Instead of the Earps and the Clantons, Parker presents the Beckers and the Vonns; instead of the OK Corral, the abandoned SunBlest Oranges packing house in Tustin, California; and instead of a firefight, a rumble, the aftermath of a school-kid incident. That's when Nick and Andy Becker first set eyes on a five-year-old Janelle, an interested, if curiously detached, witness to her brothers' humiliation. When the same setting is cordoned off as a murder scene fifteen years later, in October, 1968, with Janelle the brutally mistreated victim, Nick Becker, homicide detective for Tustin PD, is there. So is Andy Becker, crime reporter for the Orange County Journal. For different reasons, Janelle was special to both of them. Catching her killer is a matter of personal importance, though both already lead complicated lives. They independently begin to investigate, uncovering a long and varied list of suspects: a US congressman, a newspaper publisher, a musician, a high-school football coach, a third Becker brother, and even, momentarily, Timothy Leary. Charles Manson makes a brief but chilling appearance as well.
   Love, lust, murder, betrayal, suffering, and redemption all parade by as a brilliant tale-spinner once again has his way with us.
   —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

If you haven't read any of T. Jefferson Parker's books, you are missing out on something special. This one is highly recommended!
   —Nancy Eaton for

Absorbing, atmospheric, violent, and evocative, California Girl is T. Jefferson Parker's best work yet.
   —Claire E. White for

Parker has produced a masterpiece filled with intriguing, multi-dimensional characters, an enthralling, sweeping plot and some of the finest writing you'll ever read, inside the genre or out. It is everything Dennis Lehane's Mystic River tried to be, but wasn't. Publishers try to promote books with statements like "If you read only one mystery novel this year, this should be it!" In the case of California Girl, it's absolutely true.
   —David Montgomery for the Chicago Sun-Times

This is a powerful book filled with great writing. A perfect example of why I read mysteries.
   —Deadly Pleasures magazine