It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read anything by Charlaine Harris, but she is candy for this book-dragon heart and just like a Bit-O-Honey, I still enjoy her characters. Admittedly, I’ve only read the Sookie Stackhouse books, and not even all of those. (I loved the books so much more than the TV show.) I have been introduced to Manfred and all those “not so normal” folks seeking refuge in Midnight through the Midnight, Texas TV series, which I did enjoy, and that trilogy is on my “one day” list even though not yet in the TBR pile. And thanks to the Hallmark Channel, I know who Aurora Teagarden is. Harris is incredibly talented in the worlds she creates. She’s not going to win any awards for “literary fiction” but the woman can spin a tale that will hold your attention until it reaches its usually satisfying close. CANDY.
(Also, she’s a very nice woman who actually responded and responded promptly to a message I’d sent several years ago.)
When I saw an Aurora Teagarden mystery at the huge library sale in my county last year, I added it to my box. (I am really missing that sale this year. $5 a box. Any sized box.) And I have no regrets. It’s a quick and delightful little mystery.
Published in 2016, over a decade after Poppy Done to Death, All the Little Liars marked the return of the beloved mystery-solving librarian. Interest in the series undoubtedly increased after Hallmark and Candace Cameron Bure started making the Aurora movies, and Harris has published another one since All the Little Liars.
All the Little Liars revolves around Roe’s missing half-brother, who had moved in with her and Robin after walking in on his dad cheating on his mon. Phillip has adjusted well and seems to be a typical teenage kid. Better still, he’s made friends with twins Josh and Joss. He seems happy, or as happy as a kid with such dysfunctional parents can be.
Then he turns up missing. Along with Josh and Joss. And Liza, the 11-year-old daughter of the preacher. And the notorious town bad boy, Clayton. Rumors began to circulate, and Roe is hellbent to get to the bottom of it and find her brother.
A body is found, and Roe is called out to ensure it’s not Phillip. The fact Roe is called to the scene, before the body is even flipped over, is not realistic. Nor is it realistic to think they’d call her to see if the body was her brother when the body is clearly female. But the scene is important and considering the POV of the story, Roe had to be there for us to be there.
The body belongs to another teen, Tammy. Why her disappearance hadn’t been acknowledged, I don’t know, but she’s found in an alleyway, having been struck by a car. Turns out, she is Joss’s girlfriend. Or was. There is a very brief but touching moment where Joss’s mother learns she’s a lesbian and Tammy was her girlfriend. Joss is still missing, and her mother goes to Tammy’s funeral in her place.
Clayton’s parents have claimed he has been kidnapped and they’ve received ransom information. They beg Roe not to tell the police or the kidnappers will hurt their son. Roe and Robin conduct a little stakeout to find the drop-off. There’s certainly something rotten here – none of the other parents have received any contact from the kidnappers.
Josh’s car is found. There is blood inside. It belongs to Joss. A bloody shirt is found further out. The shirt and the blood are Josh’s. Roe gets a call from an unknown caller. It’s Phillip and he says someone has a gun on her and that Josh is hurt. Is the “Liza” or “Joss”? Who has the gun? Where are they?
Roe learns that Liza had been bullied, severely bullied, by three girls at school. One of the girls is Clayton’s sister. “Little bitches” they’re called by everyone. Even Roe – and she is not one prone to potty mouth. Clayton’s sister threatens to tell everyone that Phillip was having sex with Liza – a blatant lie, but she is a vicious child. Much like her brother.
Roe learns that Clayton’s girlfriend, Connie, is never far from his side. She’s surprised that Connie isn’t missing as all witness accounts place her with Clayton the day of the kidnapping. She tries to speak with Connie, but Connie’s mother won’t let her. She encourages law enforcement to question the teenage girl further. Connie ultimately commits suicide.
As per the formula, Roe is able to put the pieces together faster than local police and the FBI. And, as also per the formula, she takes some risks and makes some enemies along the way.
I’m not going to spoil the fun by giving away the ending, but if you want a quick, little mystery – you can’t go wrong with Aurora Teagarden.