A Thousand Steps – T. Jefferson Parker

This is a slightly quirky, dysfunctional family, mystery set in 1968 Laguna Beach California. Matt Anthony is the strangely stable kid with a brother fighting in Vietnam, soon to come home, and an older sister Jazz who is still in high school. At sixteen, he can drive his Mom’s van but usually travels by bike to go fishing and precisely deliver papers for a little much needed cash. His mother has a big drug problem, barely pays the rent waitressing in a pirate themed restaurant and is tuned out of her children’s lives a lot of the time. His father left long ago and contributes nothing. He’s politically right wing, very into guns and pretends in phone calls to his son that he’s there for him, but he never is. Matt and Jazz both do some work in an early version of a New Age bookstore and gallery. This is the summer that his long time crush has a crush back at him but another girl, who attends meetings at the retreat occupying acres on a hill also catches his eye. And along the way, Jazz disappears, the police say she’s a runaway, odd factions in town seem to have unexpected connections, his mother moves the family to the part of town that is known for free living and drug use, and Matt’s loyalties are all over the place, with one exception: He knows his sister did not run away. He knows she is being held somewhere against her will. And he will do all he can to save her. This is a cool pastiche of the era, with various points of view represented through fairly quick sketches, but sufficient and engrossing. Matt is a great character. Enjoyed.

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