Hulu's Veronica Mars revival premieres on July 26, and the long-awaited season 4 finds Veronica back in her hometown of Neptune, California, solving mysteries alongside her dad Keith at Mars Investigations. It's been 12 years since the original CW/UPN show's final episode aired in 2007, and a lot has happened in the V Mars universe since then—both onscreen, and in the pages of two official novels.
Seasons 1 through 3 are available for streaming on Hulu (truly jealous of anyone who gets to experience Veronica Mars for the very first time!). Diehard Marshmallows last saw Kristen Bell reprise her breakthrough role in the 2014 Kickstarter-funded movie, but they may have missed the two Veronica Mars books, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line and Mr. Kiss and Tell.
Both novels were co-written by series creator Rob Thomas, and when it comes to how that affects the eight-episode Hulu series, Thomas has said that the events that occurred in the books are "98% canon." That means they're legit backstory, and worth catching up on ahead of watching—but what if you don't have time to read them, given all the binge-watching on your plate ahead of season 4?
Fear not: Here's a recap of the Veronica Mars books ahead of Hulu's revival.
What happened in Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line?
The first novel, The Ten Thousand Dollar Tan Line, was published on March 25, 2014 right on the heels of the movie's March 14 release date. As such, it picks up shortly after the film's storyline (it also bears a few similarities to the plot of Hulu's series). For those who need that sweet, sweet Veronica voiceover, the mystery is also available as an audiobook narrated by Bell. This does, admittedly, make the fact that the book's written in the third person a little strange.
Per the end of the movie, 28-year-old Veronica has ditched her longtime plan to leave Neptune behind forever, abandoning her intentions to start fresh after law school. She and computer genius Mac, one of her few close friends from Neptune High, are both Mars Investigations employees. Keith Mars is still bummed that Veronica chose to forego a fancy law career in New York City. Wallace Fennel, Weevil Navarro, Cliff McCormack, and Dick Casablancas are in the mix, to varying degrees. Logan Echolls, Veronica's on-again boyfriend, is still in the navy and stationed in the Middle East, so they're doing a long distance thing they both find frustrating.
As in the new season 4, it's spring break in Neptune—a lucrative time for local business owners, a bacchanalia for tourists, and hell on earth for local residents. Also echoed in the plot of the new season: A series of crimes threaten to ruin Neptune's standing as a spring break hotspot.
Petra Landros, a former underwear model turned owner of local luxury hotel Neptune Grand following her husband's accidental death, hires Keith and Veronica to find a coed named Hayley DeWalt who's gone missing. Sheriff Dan Lamb (introduced in the movie as the brother of the villainous late Sheriff Don Lamb) isn't helping, and the Mars duo takes the case. But before she can dig deeper into what happened to Hayley, a second girl named Aurora Scott disappears.
Investigating Aurora Scott's whereabouts leads Veronica back to her mother Lianne, an alcoholic who left her family before the TV series began. Lianne's remarried to a man she met in rehab named Tanner Scott, and the two drop some huge news: Aurora Scott is Veronica's stepsister, and she's got a young half brother named Hunter.
Ultimately, Veronica figures out that the two young women's disappearances were unrelated. She discovers Hayley's body; she was evidently killed by her boyfriend. Her stepsister Aurora, however, is alive and extremely sketchy. Aurora and her dad, Tanner, faked her disappearance in an attempt to gain ransom money for both Aurora and Hayley. Then, Aurora schemed with her boyfriend to double-cross Tanner. Aurora, her boyfriend, and Tanner are all arrested, though Aurora dodges prison as a minor and remains living with Lianne.
The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is full of twists and turns, so much so that it gets sort of confusing at times? It continues adult Veronica's character development, as she finds herself in situations far more dangerous than she ever did on the original show.
Keith Mars is still recovering from his near-fatal car accident.
In the movie, there's an attempt on Keith's life when a vehicle T-bones the car he's in for a clandestine meeting with Deputy Sacks (poor Sacks didn't survive). Keith struggles to recover from the effects the "accident" had on his body and his brain; his ongoing recovery five years later is addressed in Hulu's series.
What happened in Mr. Kiss and Tell?
The second Veronica Mars book, Mr. Kiss and Tell, was published in January 20, 2015. If you're going to read one Veronica Mars novel, this should be it—the events are most relevant to the Hulu series, and frankly, it's the better read.
In Mr. Kiss and Tell, Veronica and Keith are once again hired by Neptune Grand owner Petra Landros, this time to investigate the assault and attempted murder of a woman who claimed a hotel employee did it. Veronica soon clears the suspect, who's been deported to Mexico (Neptune's relationship to and exploitation of Mexican immigrants is an ongoing theme of Veronica Mars), and soon she's off on her own, non-subsidized investigation into who really did it.
Her need to know is fueled in part by who the victim is: It's Grace Manning, sister of Meg Manning, Veronica's high school friend who dated Duncan Kane before dying following the bus accident in season 2 (this family is doomed). Veronica's investigation leads her to catch a serial rapist and murderer who targets sex workers—a man that Wallace peripherally knows. Best of all, the case reunites her with ex-boyfriend Leo D'Amato, who's become a detective with the San Diego Police Department, to bust the bad guy.
The book interweaves a B plot that finds Weevil, Keith, and Clint McCormack hatching a plan to sue the Neptune PD (following the events of the movie, in which Weevil was framed). By the book's end, Sheriff Dan Lamb is out of the picture, unseated by new candidate Marcia Langdon.
Logan and Veronica are still together, and they've got a puppy named Pony.
Logan returns from his deployment in Mr. Kiss and Tell, and Veronica has a hard time with the fact that she's a perpetually-worried military girlfriend now. But LoVe are more serious than ever; they're shacked up and they've got a cute new puppy named Pony (so named for the million times Veronica asked Keith for a pony). Veronica's suppressing doubts about their long-term viability, Logan's all in, and shockingly stable these days.
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"Look: Prior to this series on Hulu, I was not 100 percent Team Logan," Bell told OprahMag. "Because if Veronica were my daughter or my best friend, I’d want her to be with someone who doesn’t have as many…issues that haven’t been worked through as Logan. But this is a different Logan."
Sheriff Marcia Langdon is introduced in Mr. Kiss and Tell, and she's got a past in Neptune.
Marcia Langdon, a tough-as-nails former Army general, grew up in Neptune. She and her family lived down the street from Keith Mars when he was a young cop. As a teenager she found cocaine in her brother, Bobby "Tauntaun" Langdon's room, and her innate urge for justice led her to call the police on him. The move alienated her from her family, and Bobby ultimately died in prison. In Mr. Kiss and Tell, Keith remembers that while he liked and admired Marcia's character and strong sense of justice back then, there's something about her he finds tough to pin down.
Leo re-entered Veronica's life in Mr. Kiss and Tell.
Veronica casually dated Leo D'Amato in high school (he's played by Max Greenfield, who went on to become Schmidt on New Girl). What started as an evidence-ferreting flirtation with the rookie Neptune cop on Veronica's end became a short-lived romance.
In Mr. Kiss and Tell, Leo's a detective with the San Diego PD. In a mental tailspin over whether she can handle Logan's intense military life, she finds herself entertaining the idea of rekindling things with Leo (though he seems oblivious). Regardless, their flirting is way less creepy now that Veronica's no longer in high school.
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