Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

NEW NOVEL! Charlaine Harris: "All the Little Liars" (AURORA TEAGARDEN MYSTERIES)

Author:  Charlaine Harris
Plot Type:  Mystery
Ratings:  Violence3; Sensuality2; Humor—2   
Publisher and Titles:  Minotaur Books
Series novels in reading order:
   1     Real Murders (1990)
   2     A Bone to Pick (1992)
   3     Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (1994)
   4     The Julius House (1994)
   5     Dead Over Heels (1996)
   6     A Fool and His Honey (1999)
   7     Last Scene Alive (2002)
   8     Poppy Done to Death (2003)
   9     All the Little Liars (hardcover, audio, e-book10/4/2016; paperback10/3/2017)

After a brief introduction, this post begins with a review of the ninth novel in the series: All the Little Liars. Following that review are the titles and publisher's blurbs for the first eight novels (in reading order). 

     Although the AURORA TEAGARDEN (AT) series has absolutely no paranormal elements, I am reviewing it on my Fang-tastic Fiction blog because I have enjoyed reading all of the novels in the series and because it was written by Charlaine Harris, one of the all-time great story-tellers (in my humble opinion). It's been quite awhile since we last looked in on Aurora (aka Roe), but you'll be happy to learn that her life as a librarian and amateur sleuth in small-town Lawrenceton, Georgia, continues to be just as dramatic and dangerous as ever. New readers will enjoy the novel as a standalone, but it's even better if you have read the previous eight books so that you have full knowledge about the strange events and quirky characters from Roe's past adventures.

     And now―because I just can't stop myself―here are a few words about the Hallmark Channel's AT movies. At the beginning, I was really looking forward to seeing Roe's stories on screen, but just a few minutes into the first show, my high hopes plummeted into deep despair. If you've read the books, you'll recognize the bare bones of Harris's stories in each of the movies, but Hallmark's shows lack the style and substance of a true mystery. Instead, they are just a series of sappy, saccharine-sweet scenes that have the substantiality of marshmallows. Hallmark has essentially taken Aurora―one of Harris's trademark feisty, intelligent heroines―and turned her into a ditzy airhead who stumbles over clues as she blunders along on a half-baked "investigation." Hallmark's treatment of Roe's mother, Aida, is even worse―transforming her into a shrill, one-dimensional mannequin. Now, I'll admit that even in the novels, Aida isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she is not the dithering dingbat that Hallmark portrays. I guess that you could say that the TV writers "Hallmarked" the women to fit their stereotypical rules: be cute rather than smart; keep your banter as silly as possible; shriek a lot; and never out-think your man.    

     I was hoping that the addition of Yannick Bisson (in the third and fourth movies, playing Roe's first husband, Martin Bartell), would add some substance, but he barely gets to say a word. If you want to see Bisson's true talents, take a look at the CBC's Murdoch Mysteries (retitled The Artful Detective on the Ovation Channel) in which he plays the lead character, Detective William Murdoch, in a period drama set in early 20th Century Toronto.

     Here are the titles and dates of the AT Hallmark movies to date:
          > A Bone to Pick (April 2015)
          > Real Murders (July 2015)
          > Three Bedrooms, One Corpse (June 2016)
          > The Julius House (October 2016)

Click HERE to go to the AURORA TEAGARDEN series page on Harris's web site for the publishing history of the books in the series.

                    NOVEL 9:  All the Little Liars                     
     Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small Georgia town: four kids vanish from the school soccer field in an afternoon. Aurora’s 15-year-old brother Phillip is one of them. Also gone are two of his friends, and an 11-year-old girl who was just hoping to get a ride home from soccer practice. And then there’s an even worse discovery―at the kids’ last known destination, a dead body. 

     While the local police and sheriff’s department comb the county for the missing kids and interview everyone even remotely involved, Aurora and her new husband, true crime writer Robin Crusoe, begin their own investigation. Could the death and kidnappings have anything to do with a group of bullies at the middle school? Is Phillip’s disappearance related to Aurora’s father’s gambling debts? Or is Phillip himself, new to town and an unknown quantity, responsible for taking the other children? But regardless of the reason, as the days go by, the most important questions remain. Are the kids still alive? Who could be concealing them? Where could they be? 

     As the story opens, two life-changing events have just occurred: Roe and Robin Crusoe get married, and Roe gets confirmation that she is pregnant. Then, tragedy strikes when Roe's half-brother, Phillip, vanishes along with several of his friends. Harris provides all of the necessary background information that you need to understand why Phillip is living with Roe and Robin, so new readers of the series should immediately feel comfortable with the characters. 

     The plot focuses on Roe and Robin as they work together to figure out who took the teenagers, where they are being held, and how to rescue them. And because this is, in fact, a crime-based mystery, the two sleuths encounter murder, suicide, and various types of mayhem along the way.

     Although it's been years since I last read the AURORA books, I seem to remember that Roe always did most of her own investigating. That changes in this book because Robin is her true partner, both in life and in sleuthing. Unlike the earlier books, Roe doesn't go off on her own―so no TSTL moments―and their camaraderie is a joy to behold. If this were a paranormal romance, I'd call Robin her soul mate.

     Two problematic social issues simmer on the back-burner throughout this story: overindulgent helicopter parents and schoolyard bullying, both of which are at the heart of this mystery. Harris weaves this theme into the story line in a manner that will make you think hard about the horrific on-line trolling and cyberbullying that have caused pain, heartbreak, and personal tragedy for so many people.

     Harris is a skilled mystery writer, but this time I was able to predict the killer's identity and the probable chain of events long before they were revealed on the page. That didn't completely spoil the book for me, though, because I find Roe to be a charismatic character who holds my interest (in the books, not the movies). And I truly enjoyed watching her interactions with her new husband, Robin.

     Another change is that Roe doesn't clash (at least, not too much) with the local police, and that takes some of the spice out of the story. I always enjoyed the sardonic back-and-forth sniping that Roe had with the local cops, particularly her former boyfriend and his sarcastic wife (who have now moved out of state and never appear in this book). 

     All in all, I enjoyed the book, but i wish that the outcome had been less transparent. Roe's interior monologues about her anticipation and fears about her impending motherhood and her scenes with her wayward father added a great deal of emotion to the story, as―of course―did her worries about poor Phillip's fate. The ending leaves Roe's pregnancy just nearing the end of the first trimester, so perhaps Harris will be writing another AT mystery that Roe and Robin can solve as they jump into parenthood.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of All the Little Liars is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

                    NOVEL 1: Real Murders                         

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.

                    NOVEL 2: A Bone to Pick                         
Death comes calling on a small-town librarian whose life is passing her by. 

Aurora "Roe" Teagarden's fortunes change when a deceased acquaintance names her as heir to a rather substantial estate, including money, jewelry, and a house complete with a skull hidden in a window seat. Roe concludes that the elderly women has purposely left her a murder to solve. So she must identify the victim and figure out which one of her new, ordinary-seeming neighbors is a murderer—without putting herself in deadly danger.

                    NOVEL 3: Thee Bedrooms, One Corpse                    
Deciding if she wants to go into real estate becomes a life-or-death choice for Aurora "Roe" Teagarden. A naked corpse is discovered at her first house showing. And when a second body is found in another house for sale, it becomes obvious that there is a very cool killer at large in Lawrenceton, one who knows a great deal about real estate-and maybe too much about Roe.

                    NOVEL 4: The Julius House                         
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. 

                    NOVEL 5: Dead Over Heels                         
When death comes from out of the blue, part-time librarian "Roe" lands smack in the middle of a baffling murder case.

Roe never liked Detective Sergeant Jack Burns, but she never wanted to see him dead―especially not dropped from a plane right into her own backyard. Luckily, even Lawrenceton, Georgia's, finest know that Roe couldn't possibly be in two places at once, so her name is crossed off the suspect list.

But then other strange things happen around Roe, ranging from peculiar (her irascible cat turns up wearing a pink ribbon) to violent (her assistant at the library is attacked) to potentially deadly (her former lover is stabbed). Clearly there is a personal message in this madness that Roe must decipher―before it is too late. 

                    NOVEL 6: A Fool and His Honey                         
Aurora’s been around long enough to know that when a day starts out with your handyman going crazy in your front yard, it probably won’t get any better. Sure enough, her husband Martin’s niece Regina shows up with a baby whom no one knew she was expecting. Then she disappears, leaving behind the child—and a murdered husband. To find her, Roe and Martin retrace her steps from sunny Georgia back to snowy Ohio, where they will uncover dark family secrets—at their own peril. 

                    NOVEL 7: Last Scene Alive                         
Roe is still in mourning over her husband's death when a movie company arrives in Lawrenceton. They've come to make a film based on a book written by her one-time boyfriend Robin Crusoe, a book that detailed their shared investigation of a series of murders that occurred years before.

But when the lead actress—who is playing Roe—is killed, Robin and Roe join forces once again to thwart a killer, without knowing that Roe herself is the next target.

                    NOVEL 8: Poppy Done to Death                         
Not just any woman in Lawrenceton, Georgia, gets to be a member of the Uppity Women Book Club. But Roe's stepsister-in-law Poppy has climbed her way up the waiting list of the group—only to die on the day she's supposed to be inducted.

Sordid stories of infidelity in Poppy's marriage lead to a rash of suspects, and Roe begins to question her own heart. But her passion for the truth will drive her on—into the path of the cold-blooded killer.

No comments:

Post a Comment