A Thousand Steps

T. Jefferson Parker. Forge, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-79353-9

The backdrop to this solid standalone from Edgar winner Parker, set in 1968 Laguna Beach, Calif., is the burgeoning counterculture—hippies, drugs, be-ins, and protests—but 16-year-old Matt Anthony is mostly worried about his fractured family. His dad has fled. His mom’s addicted to hash and opium. His brother’s fighting in Vietnam. And his sister, 18-year-old Jasmine, has gone missing, last seen at a stairway to the beach. The police, who don’t take Jasmine’s disappearance seriously and are busy trying to bust drug dealers, think she’s just another rebellious runaway. So Matt works tirelessly to find his sister, but his plan—to canvass every house in Laguna Beach—feels more desperate than useful. He’s also reluctantly roped in to help the cops investigate local drug trafficking. Parker offers a telling perspective on the people who used youth culture to traffic drugs (and much worse), but this works best as a thoughtful coming-of-age novel and a portrait of a Southern California town in the throes of substantial societal change. Crime fiction fans may just find enough to like. (Jan.)