Series: Aurora Teagarden, Books 1- 4
Publisher: Scribner/ Berkley
Though a small town at heart, Lawrenceton, Georgia, has its dark side-and crime buffs. One of whom is librarian Aurora "Roe" Teagarden, a member of the Real Murders Club, which meets once a month to analyze famous cases. It's a harmless pastime-until the night she finds a member killed in a manner that eerily resembles the crime the club was about to discuss. And as other brutal "copycat" killings follow, Roe will have to uncover the person behind the terrifying game, one that casts all the members of Real Murders, herself included, as prime suspects-or potential victims.
Title: Real Murders
Start & Finished: 2/17/08
Author Charlaine Harris; best known for her paranormal Sookie Stackhouse (aka Southern Vampires) series, created her Aurora Teagarden mystery series in 1990. Her third book ever published was Real Murders. It was her very first go at a series and considering the fact that she’s had quite a few others since then, she was very successful with it.
This first book introduces us to the main character Aurora, a small-town librarian who is very interested in crimes. She soon discovers that she has quite a knack for solving them. My first impression of her wasn’t very flattering I’m afraid. She just was a hard person to really get to know but I liked that she didn’t actively pursue the investigation even though she was of course interested in it. It wasn’t her fault she kept practically tripping over dead bodies and murder weapons!
The idea behind the club Roe was a part of is that the members meet to discuss old murder investigations (that are actually real like Lizzie Borden, etc.) and several members are experienced in one area or another. I can’t say I would want to be near Lawrenceton while this particular serial killer was at work but the references to real crimes was an interesting additive to the plot. The person who is committing the crimes bases them off real murder investigations and is of course part of the club.
A mystery that involves a serial killer always runs the risk of revealing too much information because of the many crime scenes but Harris does a pretty good job of keeping the killer’s identity a secret. I had a sneaking suspicion of “whodunit” about halfway through the book but I wasn’t entirely sure especially since there were just so many good suspects! There were also a lot of good characters too like Roe’s two love interests Robin (the mystery writer) and fellow club member and local police detective Arthur Smith.
As I said before, there are several real life cases mentioned throughout the book and even some of the murders are based on. They are: Jack the Ripper, the Zebra murders, Julia Wallace’s murder, the poisoner Madeleine Smith, Piagentini and Waverly Jones murders, the Green River killer, Hillside Strangler, the chocolate poisoner Cordelia Botkin, the murder of June Anne Devaney, Ed Gein, the Croydon family poisoning, Jean-Paul Marat, Lizzie Borden, and the Moors Murders.
Aurora Teagarden's life was pretty much in order, though she wouldn't have objected to a nice relationship. All things considered, however, there wasn't anything to complain about. Then Jane Engle died. Aurora and Jane had been friends - not particularly close friends, but they'd both been members of the Real Murder Society and on occasion had shared tea, as well as an interest in crime. So Aurora was surprised to discover that she was named in Jane's will as the heir to her home and some money . . . about a half million dollars, in fact. A nice house, a lot of money . . . things were looking up nicely. But the house held a secret - a fact that was frighteningly obvious the first time Aurora went there and realized that someone had broken in, had been searching for something. It didn't take long to discover the secret: Jane had hidden a skull, and Aurora had just found it. Aurora Teagarden was no stranger to a good mystery, but she wasn't quite certain what to do with this one. Before she has a chance to consider her next move, someone decides that she already knows too much. Now she has a few more questions to answer: Whodunit? Who was it done to? And who seemed to keep on wanting to do it?
Title: A Bone to Pick
Start & Finished: 2/18/08
A Bone to Pick; the second story in Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series, takes place a couple of months after the first book Real Murders. A few things have happened to Roe since then: one of her boyfriend’s Robin, has left on a book tour, the other guy she was seeing (Arthur) is getting married, and her friend Jane Engle from The Real Murders Club (which has been disbanded) has died leaving Roe her cat Madeleine, her fortune, and her house. Complete with a skull and a mystery to solve. Poor Roe!
I can’t say I approved of the way Roe’s relationships turned out at first. I actually liked both Robin and Arthur a lot in Real Murders but Robin is absent from the A Bone to Pick and Arthur seems to have had a complete personality change. At least Roe is the same... just a whole lot richer and with a cat to boot. She also gets a new love interest during the course of the book named Aubrey Scott. He’s the local Episcopal minister but he acts just like a regular guy and he never gets “preachy” so I liked him.
The murder mystery itself wasn’t as harrowing as in the first book (no serial killer here!) but I still wasn’t able to figure out the “whodunit” until the very last second. I actually felt bad for the murderer too. It might just be me, but I felt like Charlaine Harris was more interested in developing her characters than developing a convincing murder mystery. Thankfully the book doesn’t suffer from it although I have to say this was my least favorite in the series.
Basking in an inheritance that makes her financially independent, Roe's looking for a new occupation. Her days as a librarian are over. Real estate might be fun, she thinks. And who better to teach her the tricks of the trade than her Lauren Bacall look-alike mother, Aida Brattle Teagarden Queensland, who happens to own one of the major real estate firms in town? Signing on as an apprentice, Roe agrees to show an expensive house to some out-of-town clients. The house has its charms, but the clients are not too thrilled with what's been left behind in the master bedroom: the corpse of real estate woman Tonia Lee Greenhouse. And Tonia's only the first victim. It quickly becomes clear that the killer is someone familiar with the real estate community in Lawrenceton, someone who has access to the houses that are on the market. Roe's not too sure she likes real estate, after all. She hadn't counted on murder. But she definitely likes her well-to-do client, Martin Bartell. In fact, it may be love at first sight.
Title: Three Bedrooms, One Corpse
Start & Finished: 2/19/08
Aurora Teagarden’s interest in real estate is short lived after she finds a dead body while showing a home in Charlaine Harris’ third story of the Teagarden series Three Bedrooms, One Corpse. One good thing does come out of the encounter though, she meets wealthy businessman Martin Bartell and it’s attraction at first sight.
Mrs. Harris’ series seems to be moving along at a fairly fast pace and Roe does a bit of growing up during the course of the novel. I’m glad that she decided not to follow in her mother’s footsteps because you can tell she really wasn’t real estate agent material but she doesn’t strike me as a woman of leisure either. I think she should just stick with being a librarian or maybe buy a bookstore. As you can tell, Roe’s relationships only seem to last for about the length of the current story or in the case of Aubrey the minister (a relationship that ends during this book on friendly terms) about a book and a half.
Even though Martin is a bit older than her I found myself hoping that they would stick so of course I never believed for one second he had anything to do with the murder. I did however guess who the real killer was early into the story but I wasn’t positive until right before Roe was. She does do a few things throughout the story that seem out of character for her and they nearly get her killed! So with her new romance maybe she’ll become a bit more careful in the future because wherever Roe seems to go there is always trouble!
Love at first sight turns into newlywed bliss for former librarian Aurora Teagarden— until violence cuts the honeymoon short.
Wealthy businessman Martin Bartell gives Roe exactly what she wants for their wedding: Julius House. But both the house and Martin come with murky pasts. And when Roe is attacked by an ax-wielding maniac, she realizes that the secrets inside her four walls—and her brand-new marriage—could destroy her.
Title: The Julius House
Start & Finished: 2/20/08
After a “whirl-wind” courtship, Aurora Teagarden becomes Mrs. Martin Bartell in Charlaine Harris’ fourth book in this series, The Julius House. Martin and Roe start looking for their first house together and of course being Roe, she wants the only house in Lawrenceton that has a mysterious past. The Julius family vanished without a trace six years earlier leaving everything behind and now Roe intends to find them.
Roe and Martin’s relationship moved incredibly fast (they just met each other in the last book), maybe a little too fast but they seem to really love each other even if there are still a few secrets. Most of the book seems to be about the couple getting married and moving into their new house. Roe doesn’t decide to look into the missing family’s disappearance until chapter nine, although since we are talking about Roe, the idea was probably there the moment she laid eyes on the house.
I was able to figure out where the family was before Roe did because Harris just gives such wonderful clues. They’re small but they are there if you pay attention. Something still didn’t seem quite right to me once the family was found which made perfect sense later on. This was a very good story and mystery and I can’t wait to read the next book Dead Over Heels to find out how Roe will handle the secrets her new hubby keeps trying to hide.
Charlaine Harris’ Wikipedia page includes more information about her and her other series as well as this biography/interview with the author. She also has a Q& A on her official site.
The Aurora Teagarden Series: Real Murders, A Bone to Pick, Three Bedrooms One Corpse, The Julius House, Dead Over Heels, A Fool and His Honey, Last Scene Alive, Poppy Done to Death