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California Girl

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3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  1,096 ratings  ·  141 reviews
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, strange new ideas in the air about war, music, sex, and drugs, and new influences, ranging from Richard Nixon to Timothy Leary.

For the Becker brothers, however, the past is always present -...more
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by William Morrow (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,793)
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Sandi
When I was a kid growing up in northern San Diego County in the Sixties and Seventies, we used to make a yearly trek to Disneyland. We'd also make other treks to points north, especially Long Beach. Up until around 1974 or so, northern San Diego County was a pretty podunk place, but Orange County was even podunkier. Going up I-5 (or I-405), you saw hardly any civilization until you hit Anaheim or Long Beach. Even Anaheim would have been nothing if it weren't for the cheap motels and coffee shops...more
Terri
On the surface, California Girl is a well written crime novel. It will particularly appeal to those who have a familiarity with Orange County, California and are interested in a story that captures the atmosphere of the OC of the 1950s and 60s with its orange groves, hippie culture, and drive-in churches. There are cameo appearances by California icons Timothy Leary, Charles Manson, and Richard Nixon. Just the local interest and plot action are enough to make this a worthwhile read, but the auth...more
Marleen
I am glad to have followed the advice of a fellow avid crime/thriller fan here on Goodreads to pick up a book by T. Jefferson Parker. There’s something about his storytelling that compels me. I enjoyed California Girl because it immersed me in a time and a place where I know little about. The sixties in Orange County, CA. If you want, it pretty much boils down to “sex, drugs, and rock&roll”. It must’ve been a time like no other; those sixties, people falling so easily into debauchery, but it...more
David
California Girl is almost a history lesson in the 1960's for Orange County. It deals with the old John Birch Society, the hippies, dope, LSD and features cameos from Richard Nixon, Charlie Manson, and Timothy Leary (used fictiously, I'm certain-- but with an effort to be authentic).

The story features a lot of information and factioids about how the area was changing and some of the fads that were popular.

On top of that, Parker writes a decent mystery and populates it with a number of the usual...more
Nikki
Like Parker’s earlier Edgar winner, Silent Joe, California Girl is set in Orange County and brought home even more than the earlier book that Orange County is not Los Angeles.

There are a lot of ways one could describe California Girl. It’s a story about two families, the Beckers and the Vonns, and how they intersect and affect each other’s lives. It’s definitely a story of the changes in America, and specifically Orange County, from the 50s through the 60s and onward. Richard Nixon and Charles M...more
mark
I was thinking this was a five star when it began, and now I give it one AND place it on the "really bad" book shelf. That because of my growing disappointment the more I thought about it - I thought I really had found someone in author T. Jefferson Parker ... but he let me down. His protagonists, in all his novels, are basically the same guy, and in this novel he merges four brothers into one. The brothers are: a preacher, newspaper reporter, soldier, and detective. Their voice is the same. The...more
Chana
The main characters all interact on a casual and one to one basis with major news grabbers from the 1960's: Richard Nixon, Tim Leary and Charles Manson. I wonder how accurate these portrayals are to the truth; it sounded good and I appreciated in particular the interaction between one of our main characters and Manson. As a mystery I only found this book to be average, but it was redeemed by the history it recounted with the orange groves of Tustin, CA., the political and cult figures of the tim...more
Stacy
As always I enjoyed T Jefferson Parker's writing. This is a police procedural, but almost epic in terms of scope and the fact that the action takes place primarily amongst 4 brothers growing up in Orange County California in the 50's and their interaction with a poorer family that lives nearby and the right wing politics that defined that era in Orange County. I am also certain that T Jefferson Parker has been stalking me all my life because just like "LA Outlaws" I know every street, every land...more
Paula
Here's a mystery to kick start your summer! A hell of a good story, varied in its moods, rich in details about its 1968 southern California setting without being about the 1960s. To tell you the truth, I had to work at not crying at the end, which I didn't see coming. I'm struck by how nice it was to read a book that sits all by itself, no support from other books in a series, just selling its characters and creating its soul between two paperback covers, then saying "Done." I'm not done with th...more
Elaine Cramer
Book was kinda weird, way it was written. Finally figured out Parker was doing it on purpose. Worst thing I can say about the story. Think the narrative style would have worked better coming from Nick's POV only. Worked fine, really.

Listening to the audiobook, read by one of my favorite readers, Patrick Lawlor, I missed the change in POV a few times. It never took me very long to catch up though. I enjoyed reading about Orange County, and I didn't roll my eyes when the characters interacted with...more
Ken
2005 Edgar Award winner for best novel. Well deserved. Novel follows two families from the 1950's through the 90's. A murder thrown in. Ending a bit weaker than the balance of the story and that is all that keeps me from giving 5 stars. Good discription of the political climate in California in the 50's and 60's. Well worth the read even if you are not a great mystery fan.
Ann
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Larry Hoffer
I've only read one other T. Jefferson Parker book and it was one of those quick-read thrillers, so I didn't know quite what to expect from this book, but given that it won an Edgar Award (given to outstanding mysteries) I figured I was in for a great read. Umm, no. This book had a really interesting premise, and pretty multi-dimensional characters (most of them; some of them were straight out of Central Casting) but it just took FOREVER. And what I suspected would happen early on did, in a sort-...more
Peg
California Girl was recommended and since I had never read this author, I decided to give it a try. I enjoyed it but not as much as I had hoped I would. I can't quite put my finger on what was missing though. Lovely setting in Orange County, CA, in the 50s and 60s. Those years were times of many cultural changes so there is some history here for those of you too young to remember that era.

Two families are involved in the plot in this big novel. It is a murder mystery but we also read about the d...more
Kellie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gerald Kinro
This family saga is set in Orange County, California and revolves around a murdered beauty queen found beheaded in a warehouse. It begins in 1954 with action, a rumble pitting the Becker brothers, David, Nick, Clay and Andy against the lowlife Vonn brothers. Spectators are the Vonn sisters, Lynette and Janelle. Fast forward to 1968. Clay has died in Vietnam, David is a minister, Andy is a newspaper reporter, and Nick a detective. Janelle is the beauty queen who is murdered and beheaded. With the...more
Philtrum
I really liked this crime (plus) novel which is set, for the most part, in late 60s southern California.

It’s a bit of a half-hearted procedural novel. Half-hearted because in the late 60s there was little of the forensic science we have today and, to be honest, the investigating officer isn’t that good at his job.

So, although it’s nominally a crime novel, its themes are really much more familiar to a reader of mainstream fiction. It’s about family, sexuality, religion, growing older, the meaning...more
Jerry
I really wanted to like this book. I grew up in So Cal in the sixties, and was looking forward to this novel. Ultimately though, the book left me flat.

Two key issues I have: First, I don't know why Richard Nixon, Charles Manson, and Timothy Leary... were even in the story.. sure they were all Icons of OC in the sixties, but this novel tries to connect them in a way that just doesn't ring authentic... I could accept Leary and the tie-ins with the drug culture or even Nixon being in there, thou...more
LJ
CALIFORNIA GIRL (Police Proc/Amateur-Califorania-1950s to Cont) – G
Parker, T. Jefferson – 12th book
William Morrow, 2004- Hardcover
The Becker boys rumbled with the Vonn boys when they were young. But there was something about young Janelle Vonn that caught their eye. Now in the 1960's Janelle has reconnected with a couple of the Beckers, up until she is found murdered. Nick Becker, now a cop, is handling Janelle's murder as his first homicide case while Andy, a reporter, is also investigating.
***...more
Becca
It looks like on of those junky mysteries that they sell in grocery stores, but it's actually pretty good. The plot follows three brothers from the 1950s through the 1970s, and manages to successfully develop believable interesting characters. The portrayal of California in the heyday of 1960s and 70s drug culture is undoubtedly from a very conservative standpoint and is therefore slightly one-sided and stogy-sounding. The mystery itself is interesting, but the book is weirdly paced- about 3/4 o...more
Rosina Lippi
T. Jefferson Parker is on a list of about ten crime/suspense novelists whose work I follow quite closely. I particularly liked his novel Black Water, which I found not only a plain good read and interesting story, but it was also one of those books that haunted me for a long time. I still find myself thinking about the young cop who is suspected of killing his wife, now and then.

I liked California Girl, too, but not as much as his previous work.

This is a big novel with a complex plot that move

...more
Lorna Collins
This is an engaging read, especially for anyone who grew up in Southern California during the time of the crime. The writer's voice is unique, and his creation of place as character is extremely well-done. My only issue is in the great liberty taken by the author in the actions of the protagonist. In several places, he engages in completely illegal activities with no repercussions, and I found that annoying. Still, it is a fast read and keeps the reader engaged.
Susan
Set in Tustin and in Laguna Beach, Orange County CA, spanning decades since the 1950s. In 1954 young Becker boys David, Clay, Nick, and Andy face off against the Vonn boys in a "rumble". The Becker boys catch first sight of Lynnette and Janelle Vonn near the end of the fight. As the years pass, David becomes a minister, Clay a soldier, Nick a police officer, Andy a reporter. Janelle Vonn becomes Miss Tustin. Then Janelle is murdered, found in the abandoned "California Girl" orange packing house....more
Deirdre
In Orange County, CA, times are changing. The Orange groves are being replaced, and the 60's movements are in full swing. Drugs run rampant, and the times where kids were respectful sweater-wearing, tini-boppers are replaced with anarchial bell bottom and mini skirt cladded pot heads...but it isn't all free love and peace. Janelle Vonn, a 19 year old ex-beauty queen, and child of the new generation is found deceased in an old packing house. Now, three brothers who knew her since she was a little...more
B. Michele
In passing this book off to me, my brother said I would like it because of the murder mystery, but he couldn't believe how detailed the author went into each individual characters' lives. He was probably speaking from a catch-the-killer-in-one-episode perspective, though. For me, I live for intense character development, no matter what the plot. I loved California Girl because the characters were believable, even one of the main characters who never speaks for herself throughout the story. I lik...more
Debbie Williamson
Mar 31, 2014 Debbie Williamson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I loved California Girls. It was a book closely related to my life in California. Everything about it was likeable and the story was very good. Frustrating at times but in a good way. You don't have to have been raised in California to enjoy California Girls, the story could be taking place anywhere. It relates to all of us in some way, from the abuse and growing into who we are. Good book!
Janet
I listened to this book. I really wish I had actually read it instead. The story was truly keeping me on the edge trying to see what really happened. Fell in love with the brothers Nick Andy and Dave! They all were looking for a miracle. In faith, work and the world. Brought me back to the 70's in a way I could never have experienced it alone. Great details and focus on items from that time really (too many spoilers) made me smile and shake my head that we have not done any better. Some things h...more
Kimberly
I just couldn't finish this book. I grew up in Cali and not in the sixties mind you but I enjoyed the walk through the setting although he seemed to try to fit every single detail of California sixties into this one book. Nixon, manson and leary all in the same book? The plot seemed decent and some ok characters. But I just couldn't stomach the morals. This is my first by Parker and while I liked the way he wrote I just couldn't handle the language and sexual content. Not so much sex scenes as r...more
Shannon
I found this book interesting and would reccomend it to people who have lived in Southern Cal or people who really want to know what it's like to live in Southern Cal. It begins with a fist fight between teenage brothers from two families and then takes the characters through their late forties. One of the fist-fighting families inludes a younger sister who grows up to be beautiful, and then brutally murdered. The brothers from the other fistfighting family are all affected by this girl's life a...more
Molly
Quite the saga! David surprised me...Really liked this book. I want to read another book by this author to see if his writing style is the same in different works.

Edit to the review: Did they ever connect the RoMar cleaning stuff to actual LSD? Were the Stolz's behind that, or no?
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T. Jefferson Parker is the bestselling author of 20 crime novels, including Edgar Award-winners Silent Joe and California Girl. Parker's next work is a literary novel, Full Measure, to be published in October. He lives with his family in Southern California
More about T. Jefferson Parker...
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