The latest gripping thriller from T. Jefferson Parker

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Located at 1968 Laguna Beach, California, T. Jefferson ParkerThe gripping new novel from “A Thousand Steps” (Forge, 368 pages, ★★★★ of four) opens ominously with the body of a local high school girl who disappeared two months earlier while washing on the ground.

Cycling up the Pacific Coastal Highway, Matt Anthony, a 16-year-old delivery boy, rushes to the police flashing lights where he sees his first dead body, not at all suspecting that this disturbing moment would be the first of a year. long streak in the traumatic and dangerous days to come.

Soon after, Matt’s 18-year-old sister Jasmine (aka Jazz), a too-cool-for-school freethinker he loves, disappears as she celebrates her high school graduation. Police accuse her of just being another runaway hippie girl. And that begins the compelling chronicle of the novel that turns the pages of Matt’s relentless and obsessive search of the Laguna Beach neighborhoods, legendary psychedelic and spiritual hotspots, and bizarre characters as he tries to save his abducted sister.

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Parker’s credits from Southern California include three Edgar Award and 26 previous novels, the most recent among them “Then She Vanished” (2020) and “The Last Good Guy” (2019). He knows Laguna Beach personally, living there especially at the age of Matt’s age in 1968.

Parker’s writing ground consists of sunny SoCal thrillers – stories about someone looking for someone who’s gone missing. In “A Thousand Steps” he relaxes the harsh investigative process to make his protagonist an intelligent, curious, self-reliant, determined and totally sympathetic teenager who loves nothing better than fishing, painting, delivering newspapers. , continuing her first kiss. girlfriend and scoring food (Matt is still hungry).

Meanwhile, Matt’s family life is a mess. Her mother is a wayward hippie addicted to opium hash and can’t pay rent with her waitress job. Her occasional right-wing cop dad hates liberal Laguna and abandoned the family years earlier. His brother Kyle just hopes to survive the last days of his tour of Vietnam. And his sister Jazz, well….

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Parker masterfully transports readers to the late 1960s, accurately detailing everyday life during those tumultuous times when anti-Vietnam War protests escalated with the counter-culture of peace and love and escalated. in a societal change movement whose mantra was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. In Laguna, that meant the smell of patchouli and grass; the T-Street Surf Boys; Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and Dylan on the radio; Timothy Leary, a disciple of LSD, preaching a higher conscience at the Mystic Arts World art gallery; the Brotherhood of Eternal Love trading in Jesus, Buddha and illegal drugs; and spiritual centers like the fictional Vortex of Purity attracting seekers of enlightenment.

The title of the novel refers to the descent of Ninth Avenue to the 1000 Steps beach in Laguna, but more so to Matt’s frustrating and stubborn search for his sister who takes him door to door to every address. from the city.

This twisty tale of a teenager’s desperate plan to save his sister and family from the keel is a gripping coming-of-age thriller that will win you over with its’ 60s vibe and backdrop, and you will captivate with its captivating storytelling and believable cast. of characters, including a heroic child that you can’t help but root for.

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