Book Review: Real Murders, an Aurora Teagarden Novel, by Charlaine Harris

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Book #1 in the Aurora Teagarden series, 1990

Mostly recognized for her Sookie Stackhouse novels – the inspiration behind HBO’s True Blood, Charlaine Harris, is also the author of a number of other mysteries. Although Real Murders, Best Novel 1990 nomination for the Agatha Awards, was written in 1990, it is a read that shouldn’t go overlooked.  This is the first mystery to catch my interest and now I think I’m officially hooked on the genre.  I figured there might be a few other readers who weren’t familiar with the author’s earlier books and decided to write this review…

*Spoilers ahead…*

Lawrenceton, Georgia isn’t a particularly busy town, with its tight-knit, everyone-knows-everyone southern comfort, no one would ever suspect it would become the target of a brutal killing spree.  These killings aren’t just random murders either.  Each one involves individuals and is committed in ways that mimic famous historical victims and murders.

Aurora Teagarden aka Roe, a librarian at the local Lawrenceton library, is a quiet woman; she isn’t particularly noticeable and her life is pretty average if not somewhat boring, although, in the midst of all the strange happenings, she wouldn’t mind having that lifestyle back.  As member of the Real Murders club, a group of individuals who share a particular interest in mysteries, she is a prime suspect for the killings. The fact that she always seems to be around during the aftermath certainly isn’t helping her case.

The Real Murders club meets once a month to discuss historical murders, solved and unsolved.  They discuss the facts, decide who they think the murderer was or wasn’t, and try to figure out anything left unresolved.   With twelve members, each is able to lecture on the murder of their choice; this particular month belonged to Roe.

Close to the start of the meeting, Roe notices a couple of missing members and decides to check around the building (VFW Hall) before she starts her presentation.  Stepping into the side kitchen, Roe is startled by the sight of the massacred, bloodied, and brutally beaten body of the first victim.  Being familiar with famous murders, she immediately recognizes the similarities of the scene she just encountered.

As the days pass, more and more murders are committed, each matching up to that of a famous historical murder:  a politician stabbed in a bathtub just like French radical Jean-Paul Marat and a couple dismembered in their home just like the victims of the Lizzie Borden murders, just to name a few.  The parallels are starting to be much too similar to ignore and Roe can’t help but get involved…

While I enjoyed the book and have been converted to a mystery fan (I will soon be stepping up my game and delving into some Patterson and Evanovich), I was a little disappointed in the lack of “steaminess” I expected from Harris.  Besides that, the book was a quick read, fast paced – the murders beginning within the first couple chapters, and unique.  While some may be bored with the lack of “thriller” parts, it was a pleasant (in terms of gory details and chilling encounters) introduction into the realm of murder mysteries.

Have you read any books by Charlaine Harris?  Which series was your favorite?  Have any suggestions for what to read after this series?  Who’s your favorite mystery writer?

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