4+ out of 5 stars
Aurora Teagarden is the star of a series of eight murder-mystery books, beginning in 1990 and ending in 2003, written by Charlaine Harris. A ninth book is scheduled to be released in October of this year. Other books written by Charlaine Harris include telepaths, vampires, werewolves and elves, and since Aurora is very small, the first book was ruined for me waiting to find out she had supernatural powers and was half elf, or something. There is nothing supernatural at all in these books. Most of this series was written early in Charlaine Harris’ career, and (for me) are not as good as the Southern Vampire (Sookie Stackhouse) or Midnight, Texas Trilogy books (both fantasies), which means I didn’t drop everything to read them and give people dark looks for interrupting me. That being said, they were good enough that I binged the series and didn’t read any other book until I finished it, was up late several nights with one book or the other, and have pre-ordered the book scheduled to be released in October.
Aurora Teagarden is a diminutive (4’11”) southern bell librarian around whom murders happen with exceptional frequency. She has a keen sense of appropriate polite behavior, is extremely insightful, and shows exceptional courage and physical bravery when absolutely required. Her life and perspectives change throughout the books — Ms. Harris is not afraid to torture her character with shocks and losses. The books are just as much about Aurora’s life-adventures and challenges as they are about the murder mysteries. For me, these books were like peering into an alien land: the land of small-town Southern hospitality and sensibilities. Social offenses that absolutely incensed Aurora would for the most part only have irritated me, or amused me, or I wouldn’t have noticed them at all. And the people around her didn’t act like she was a loony, but like her anger was justified.
As an example (that gives away no murder plot details) Aurora was once asked out to dinner by an actress and other movie people. At the restaurant, Aurora caught her hostess mimicking her mannerisms — not in a mocking way but to use them in the shaping of a character she was playing. Honestly, this would have amused me. I would have eaten the meal. Aurora left in a huff, her friend chewed out the actress and the actress was embarrassed.
I feel there are clues here as to why I sometimes offend people and don’t know why, but it’s all so murky.
Lest you think you won’t like Aurora, you will. We wouldn’t get along in real life as she’d keep flying mad for inexplicable reasons and that would tick me off, but being privy to the inside of her head changed all that. It’s the psychology of Aurora, written in the first person and nailed beautifully by Charlaine Harris, as she’s faced with a variety of horrifying deaths, mysteries and personal upheavals that make this series so juicy and satisfying. The murder mystery part is handled very well, with enough subtle and well paced clues so that sometimes I was a little ahead of Aurora, sometimes behind but never too far off one way or the other, and only rarely figured out who done it in advance of Aurora — a critical but difficult thing for mystery writers to pull off.
The books in the series are:
- Real Murders (1990)
- A Bone to Pick (1992)
- Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (1994)
- The Julius House (1995)
- Dead Over Heels (1996)
- A Fool And His Honey (1999)
- Last Scene Alive (2002)
- Poppy Done to Death (2003)
- All the Little Liars (2016) — scheduled to be released in October
- Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire books were the basis for the HBO series True Blood. The books will still be great fun even if you’ve seen the shows as the books are more complex, and the book plots diverge more and more from the shows’ as the stories progress. The Southern Vampire book series is a solid 5 out of 5.
- Hallmark has adapted several of the Aurora Teagarden books into two hour movies: A Bone To Pick premiered on April 7, 2015; Real Murders premiered on July 26, 2015; and Three Bedrooms, One Corpse premiered on June 12, 2016. Julius House is scheduled to show October 16th. I just watched A Bone to Pick and it was absolutely horrible: 1 out of 5 stars. I wish I could un-see it. I hope the memories of these wretched cookie cutter, 2-demensional Hallmarked characters fade from my mind before the next book comes out.
— Jenny Tennant