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California Girl

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,365 Ratings  ·  163 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 -
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published September 28th 2004 by William Morrow (first published 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,252)
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Mike French
Aug 31, 2015 Mike French rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mike by: J Carson Black
Another very enjoyable and entertaining book from T.Jefferson Parker. A stand alone crime novel set in Orange County,California during the 50's and 60's.Kept me very interested from start to finish!
Jun 04, 2008 Terri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
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
Jan 19, 2014 Marleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 11, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jun 13, 2010 mark rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 05, 2012 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Cathy DuPont
Jun 27, 2012 Cathy DuPont rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cathy by: A T. Jefferson Parker fan
My third book into the writings of T. Jefferson Parker and a stand alone at that.

The other books read were the Merci Rayborn series which I really enjoyed. This one, not as much.

Everything seemed a little contrived. Seems silly saying that because of course, it's fiction. But nevertheless, people from the 1960's are interjected in the novel such as Richard Nixson, Charles Manson, Thomas Leary and a few others. Unfortunately, most added nothing to the plot that I could determine.

However, I mus
Jul 08, 2009 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
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
Nancy's postal book
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
Mar 26, 2015 Marca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A saga that unfolds over half a century in Orange County, CA. The Becker brothers who are typical California boys in the 1950’s. Three of the brothers end up forever tied to a young woman (Janelle) found murdered in a packing house where the Beckers once rumbled with the hoodlum brothers of Janelle when they were kids. The writing aptly describes the eras, especially the 1960’s. Richard Nixon, Timothy Leary, and Charles Manson guest-star in the drama (now that is a cast!). Nick Becker’s first ca ...more
Ken Schloman
Jan 23, 2012 Ken Schloman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
The four Becker boys, Clay, David, Nick and Andy, often found themselves at odds with the Vonn boys and during one particularly violent teenaged rumble the two little Vonn sisters, Janelle and Lynette, joined the fight by throwing rocks at the Beckers. The Vonn family, desperately poor and no stranger to crime, stayed at odds with the Beckers for many years. Now in 1963 the boys are grown: David is a minister, Nick a homicide detective for Orange County, Andy is a newspaper reporter and Clay has ...more
May 14, 2009 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2013 Peg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gerald Kinro
Sep 30, 2012 Gerald Kinro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2013 Philtrum rated it really liked it
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
Aug 31, 2010 Jerry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jan 28, 2016 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"California Girl" by T. Jefferson Parker is a pretty standard police procedural type of book with a first time detective. Although the author did a good job capturing the time and place of 1960s/1970s Southern California, a lot of the characters were more like caricatures. There were segments of the book that really strained credibility. The writing was solid, but the book plodded along for the first half. Overall a good mystery, but not my favorite type of book. Contains violence, drug use, pro ...more
Sep 03, 2008 Becca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2010 Rosina Lippi rated it liked it
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

Jun 18, 2015 Kaylol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Four decades on, Nick discovers that the man he arrested for the murder, the man the court convicted despite his 'not guilty' plea, may indeed have been innocent after all. But in order to unearth the truth, Becker will need to dig deep into his own family's darkest secrets." - That led me to think that a good part of the book would be set in the present...NOPE. Just the last few pages. I consider that a tasteless spoiler on the book cover.

Quite a nice story.
Lorna Collins
May 21, 2014 Lorna Collins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 16, 2015 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two families whose lives intertwine throughout the years, and a brutal murder of Janelle Von. Sometimes things are not exactly as they seem to be.

David, a charismatic evangelist, has a secret to keep. Once shared, his life changes. Nick, his brother, is a young cop who too has a secret, and, more importantly, a case involving Janelle's murder. Andy, the brother who is the idealistic journalist, who has to compromise, or perhaps sell his soul, to keep a secret. Lennie, one of the two brothers who
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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
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“I miss being young. I miss being young and strong. Young and fast. Young and in love. Nothing like it. Old love is good, too. But you get the feeling that the world mainly just wants you out of the way.” 0 likes
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