Real Murders

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?

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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.

And who will be next and which criminal will they be following next? Jack the Ripper? Ed Gein? The Blackburn Baby Killer?

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.

Oh no!

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.

What?!

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.

Who’s next?

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.)

Nah, he’s not a good guy.

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.

Read it today!

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

Next Victim

Next Victim (Abby Sinclair and Tess McCallum Series #2) by Michael Prescott

Thoughts Before Reading:

So I picked this book up at a library book sale. I never realized that it was part of a series until I was going to post the book review on here. It is weird because the first book The Shadow Hunter, has nothing to do with Tess McCallum but featured Abby Sinclair.

Hmm…

And in this book there is no Abby Sinclair. I’m not sure why it is called the Abby Sinclair and Tess McCallum Series. Maybe they meet up later in the series?

Plot Synopsis:

FBI Agent Tess McCallum has been searching for  a serial killer for years. Barely anything is known about him other than the brand of duct tape he uses, the knife, etc. No one knows his name or anything else, just that he refers to himself as Mobius.

After he murdered her boyfriend, Tess became more determined than ever to get him. She goes after every lead and every person who has a ghost of a resemblance.

Meanwhile, Amanda Pierce is on the run from the federal government. She was working for a company that was creating a chemical weapon for the military. She has stolen it and was in the middle of trying to sell it, when she crossed paths with Mobius.

Now they are on a race against time as they have to find Mobius before he unleashes this chemical and kills millions.

But one thing is in their favor. When they were close to grabbing Mobius he slipped through them but left a very important clue behind. But will this clue be enough to find him? Or will al be lost?

I wonder…

Thoughts After Reading:

So when I first read this book I wanted to be a behavioral scientist and work for the FBI. I read this and was jazzed.

However, after I read the first book I reread this one and didn’t like it as much. This time it felt formulaic and predictable. In this book Tess had a personal connection to a death by the killer and was trying to hunt him down-proving herself and making up for the past-just like Abby.

Hmm…

The killer identity is a twist and it turns out to be someone they know professionally.

It gave me mixed feelings as it was a good thriller but was also…old hat.

It’s possible that Prescott might have done that to build a shared history for when they team up later. I’m not sure, but I’ll find out. When I start reading a series, I always finish it.

Eventually…

For more from Abby Sinclair and Tess McCallum Series, go to The Shadow Hunter

For more FBI Agent mysteries, go to Sunset Reads: Damian & Layla

For more serial killers, go to Candy from a Stranger

 

Death on Demand

Deathondemand

Death on Demand (Death on Demand #1) by Carolyn G. Hart

Thoughts Before Reading:

So I started this series with the book Deadly Valentine (Death on Demand #6) when I picked up an autographed copy at a library book sale. I love book sales.

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I really enjoyed that book and decided to start the series from the beginning, and let me tell you I wasn’t disappointed with it. While at times it may be predictable the character and stories always leave me coming back for more.

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Plot Synopsis:

So the book starts off strong with our murderer listing out the items they need to kill their intended victim:

1 Pair of Doctor’s Rubber Gloves

1 Spool of Black Extra-Strong Button-and-Carpet Thread

A Handful of Assorted Keys

Clear Fingernail Polish

Polish Remover

1 Dart

And just one more, the most important of all…

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We can’t reveal that just yet. The murderer needs a little more mystery.

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So Annie Laurence inherited the mystery bookstore, Death on Demand on Broward’s Rock, when her uncle died a few months ago.

Aw...

Aw…

Annie loves the store, as she has always been a book lover and mystery aficionado.

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She loves everything about the bookstore, except this upcoming Sunday. There are quite a few writers who reside on Broward’s Rock, south Carolina, giving Annie the idea to create a writer’s night in which they take turns lecturing or planing a program.

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It had been going well until mean, nasty Elliot Morgan dropped a bomb that he was going to blow apart the next meeting with his new book, all about the famous writers living on the island. Why does he have to go and ruin everything?

Really Mike?

WHY!

To further her anxiety, her old boyfriend is on his way.

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Annie met Max Darling after college when she was trying to strike it big on stage in New York. She was an actress, while Max was one of the producers. Max Darling is from an extremely wealthy family, so wealthy that he doesn’t need to work. Annie left him as she felt it wouldn’t work out as she was born in a lower economic scale and was only able to go to college on a scholarship.

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Max however is not one to give up on something he believes in and has tracked her down to Boward’s Rock using his charm, wit, and acting abilities.

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That day the store is closed, but Annie goes in for some inventory to settle her nerves as she contemplates what will happen tonight.

Tonight will be horrible!

Tonight will be horrible!

Max decides to stay that night and assist Annie with her writer’s group. The writers all enter in at their own pace. Captain Mac is a retired cop who moved to Broward’s Rock and was a friend of Annie’s uncle. He’s also been a big help to Annie after her Uncle Amos’ death. He’s not a writer, but participates in giving insight into police procedure and criminal experience.

1944: Dana Andrews puts the spotlight on Gene Tierney during the interrogation scene of the film noir, 'Laura', directed by Otto Preminger.

Emma Clyde is a mystery queen, and author of the famous Marigold Mystery Series.

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Janis and Jeff Farley; Jeff the writer of children books while Janis is the illustrator.

Fritz Hemphill who does green beret shoot ’em up war books.

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Kelly Rizzo who did psychological thrillers.

Sorry but I don't think so.

And Elliot bringing up the rear.

Hate him.

Hate him.

Just then Harriet Edelman comes in bursting with news that the vet Jill Kearney was murdered the night before.

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She went in to look on an animal recovering from a procedure and interrupted a robbery. She was smacked in the head and because of her thin skull, died from it.

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Suddenly Elliot announces his newest non-fiction book. Titles Criminal Minds, all about the horrible, scandalous things done by the authors who reside here on Broward’s Rock.

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Just then the lights go out, a scream rings, and when the lights come on Elliot dead by a poison dart.

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Chief Frank Saulter believes that Annie is the murderer, having first killed her uncle for her inheritance and then Elliot when he threatened to reveal it all in his book.

Not-Good

With Annie racing against the clock, it is up to her and Max to do some private detecting to figure out who the real killer is.

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As they start looking into what dirt Elliot had on the bunch this is what they find out.

  • Captain Mac admits that he was involved in a paternity suit.
  • Annie tells Max how she helped a friend escape a bad marriage and save their child by having the friend be admitted to a hospital under her name and give the baby up for adoption.
  • Kelly has had crimes of animal killing following her all over. She says her sister is the one that does it and she is just protecting her, but is that the truth?
  • Hal Douglas’ wife disappeared. Many believe he killed her, but he insists that he is innocent.
  • Harriet supposedly stole a story and printed it under her own name.
  • Jeff beats Janis.
  • Emma’s husband was cheating on her and then just happened to “fall overboard”.

Who is the killer? And will Annie figure it out before he strikes again? Or worse, she is put on trial for murder.

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Thoughts after reading:

So I love this book and the way Carolygn G. Hart writes the characters. Annie and Max are just fantastic!

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Annie is not only lovable but intelligent and able to out the pieces together quite nicely.

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I also love how sweet Max is and how he stays in the end to open his “private detective agency that isn’t a private detective agency.”

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*Spoiler Alert*

I only have two issues with the book:

  1. If Max has so much money, why didn’t they just buy a laptop to read Elliot’s disk instead of sneaking into Elliot’s house and Annie getting injured. You think that would be much easier for them right?
  2. I figured the mystery out really early on. Her uncle died and was investigating two places, where guess what Captiain Mac was the only person involved with one of them. I mean, come on. A paternity suit, you know it had to more than that Annie. Also, how could a police officer retire and afford an expensive house like he does. It’s obvious he’s dirty.

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But to tell the truth I really didn’t care about either one as I just loved the characters and decided to read the whole series.

And as I love this series you will be seeing a lot more reviews on them in the future!

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For more books from library book sales, go to A is for Alibi

For more mystery reviews, go to A Pinch of Poison