Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Mystery #1) by Charlaine Harris
So you all know how much I love book sales.
Part of the fun is the mystery that you never know what you are going to find at a sale.
So one book sale I went to, it was the last day and they were trying to unload everything. It was a dollar a bag so I filled mine up with anything I found that sparked my interest.
I can’t help it, it is an addiction.
This one struck my eye as it was a mystery, involved a serial killer, and copying “real murders”.
This was during my “I want to be a behavioral scientist” phase, before Criminal Minds came out, and I would read anything on the subject. So this idea of someone copying real murders seemed like a hit idea to me.
I enjoyed the book so much, that I read it at least four times a year. The story is great, the characters fun, the mystery just perfect. It is a fantastic read and so engrossing! I just couldn’t put it down.
I was shocked when I discovered that this was the same Harris that wrote the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries. I never would have made that connection as this isn’t as sex generated or full of supernatural characters.
And with Hallmark turning this book into a film, one that I can review for Horrorfest if I desire, what better time to choose to review this book?
Aurora “Roe” Teagarden is in her late twenties and lives a pretty quiet life in Lawrenceton, Georgia. She works as manager for her mother’s condos and as a librarian.
Her best friend moved away recently, and she isn’t seeing anyone romantically. The only other thing she is really involved in, is the club Real Murders.
A year ago there was a book signing of a true crime novel and several people from Lawrenceton traveled to the city to attend. When they realized they all shared an interest in true crime they created a group that meets once a month to discuss past crimes, try to figure out unsolved cases, and learn about police work or the criminal mind. Each time they meet, a different person has a chance to create a program and share with the group.
Their group consists of Roe: Jane Engle, retired school librarian and substitute, specializing in Victorian murders, particularly Madeline Smith; LeMaster Cane, African-American and interested in the racial killings of the ’60s and ’70s, especially the Zebra murders and Jones-Piagentini shootings; John Queensland, Roe’s mother’s boyfriend, an expert on Lizzie Borden; Sally Allison, newspaper reporter; Perry Allison, Sally’s son, is not quite all there and shows an unhealthy interest in the Hillside Stranglers and the Green River killer; Gifford Doakes and his friend (boyfriend?) Reynaldo, who likes massacres such as St. Valentine’s Day or the Holocaust; Detective Arthur Smith, interested in studying old crimes and seeing how police worked the case; Bankston Waites and his girlfriend Melanie; Benjamin Greer, guy who has tried everything to “belong”; Gerald Wright and his jealous wife Mamie.
Tonight is Roe’s night to share and she is covering the Wallace case from the 1930s, where William Herbert Wallace was convicted for killing his wife Julia. She is a little nervous and heads over slightly early. This month Mamie is the opener of the VFW hall they rent, followed by Sally who is in charge of refreshments. When Roe gets there she looks around for the others, but instead receives a phone call asking to speak to Julia Wallace.
Roe can’t find Mamie, but runs into Sally. As more people arrive, Roe finds it even odder they haven’t found Mamie in the building.
Surprisingly Elizabeth Ann “Lizanne” Buckley, the most beautiful and easily bored woman in town, comes to the meeting and brings Robin Crusoe, mystery writer.
Roe can’t brush off Mamie’s disappearance and starts searching the building for her. As she looks, she comes across her dead body.
Roe goes into shock over seeing her that way, but notices the similarities between this and the Wallace case. So eerily similar that someone must have copied it and arranged the body.
Everyone is subjected to long questioning, with Detective Arthur Smith making plans to meet with Roe the next day and get more information on the Wallace case.
The next day comes and Roe is finally able to give the talk she practiced.
Wallace Herbert Wallace was a Liverpool insurance salesman (like Gerald), and married with no children (just like the Wrights). Wallace had a regular schedule for collecting insurance payments from subscribers to his company and he bring the money home on Tuesdays. Wallace played chess and was entered in the tournament at his local club. There was a chart on the wall detailing when each person would play, one anybody could see.
Wallace didn’t have a phone at home and received a message from another member who had taken a call from a “Qualtrough” to meet him at his house the next evening.
Now the call came when Wallace wasn’t at the club so he could have left it himself at a phone booth down the way. He talks about the message with his friends at the club; is he puzzled or just trying to instill the message in other’s minds?
The next night, Wallace goes out to meet Qualtrough. Qualtrough left the address Menlove Gardens East, but no such place exists. Wallace asks many people for help, even a policeman. Is he set on getting the new client or is he just trying to create an alibi?
Wallace returns home but his key won’t work. Julia has bolted the front door for some reason and won’t answer any knocks on the door. A couple who lives next door hears him as he heads in the back to get into the house; Wallace and the couple enter the house and see things out of place.
The box where the insurance money is usually held has been rifled. Wallace checks the house and finds his wife in the parlor, a room rarely used. Julia is lying in front of the gas fire with a raincoat under her, and she has been beaten to death brutally, but not raped; just like Mamie.
There was no real case against Wallace, just a lot of circumstantial evidence and pressure to arrest the killer.
Roe is absolutely disgusted with this killer. They killed Mamie not because she was Mamie or they had an issue with her; something that would be partially understood psychologically, but only because she was an insurance salesman’s wife and childless.
Later Roe heads to the store and right into Robin Crusoe. Robin is interested in the case, and wants to know more, along with getting away from his disheveled house. While he is there a package comes to Roe, but it is actually for her mother, Aida Teagarden, and sent by Roe’s father. Roe lets her know and she comes right over. The package is Mrs. See’s chocolate, her favorite!
But it is a bit odd that Roe’s father, Aida’s ex, would send her chocolate; and even stranger that it took six days to get from the city, an hour away.
Aida opens up the container and picks up a caramel filled one, when Roe notices that there is a puncture underneath.
She stops her mom and they look at all the cream filled ones. They all have punctures.
Arthur and his partner, Detective Lynn Ligget, come to question the group about the event and later it is revealed that the chocolates were poisoned. This murder copies the Botkin Case, as it appears someone is trying to kill all those in the group, or their family, copying real murders.
Aurora calls a meeting of Real Murders to see if they can figure out who the killer might be, who dislikes any of them? But no one is helpful and the group disbands.
Unfortunately that does not stop the killing, as Benjamin Greer’s boss, potential mayoral candidate is killed in the bathtub, the same way as Marat during the French Revolution.
Meanwhile, amidst the killings, Roe has struck the interest of Robin and Arthur. Both men she finds very attractive, and who will win out as the series progresses? (For me I like Robin. Arthur is too egotistical and just expects her to go along with him even though he doesn’t really ask her like he should.)
But Roe has more on her mind than love, what murder will be copied next and which of her friends will be the next victim?
Thoughts After Reading:
I won’t reveal any more as the ending is great. You will definitely have to check this book out for yourself. What a twist!
The other thing I like about this is that it isn’t gruesome but very intellectual, with all the past true crime that was researched, it is just fascinating to boot.
For more librarian sleuth mysteries, go to Death Threads
For more serial killers, go to Next Victim
For more true crime, go to The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town