A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker, 2022 Forge Book, hardcover mystery novel
Plot Summary: (edited slightly from the publisher’s blurb)
A Thousand Steps is a beguiling thriller, an incisive coming-of-age story, and a vivid portrait of a turbulent time and place by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker.
Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment. Matt Anthony is just trying get by.
Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad left home six years ago and is in Oklahoma, or Texas, or somewhere, his brother’s fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it, especially since another missing girl has just turned up dead, on the beach.
All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast, if it’s not already too late.”
I was living in Laguna Beach, CA in 1968 so I knew the small beach town intimately, the streets, shops, bars, restaurants. Parker knows the town too, and he got the feel of Laguna in 1968 just about right. I do think he over played the level of drugs being openly consumed, as I saw very little of that, but he has most of it spot on, right down to the names of the owners of The Sandpiper, where I used to play darts.
The book kept me turning pages, but I was “in town, a local” and that was part of it. Pretty good plot, Matt is a good character, good book. If you’ve enjoyed any of Parker’s other books, you’ll like this one.