One of the best things about vacationing at Ramona’s house is how much reading I get done. She’s always got a book or two set aside for me to read while I’m there, and we spend long stretches comfortably settled in with our cups of tea, reading our separate books together. I know some people would consider that a waste of good vacation time, but to us, it’s what vacation is for: doing whatever you want, no schedule, no pressure: total relaxation.
Browsing at the local library (having returned the first round of vacation books), I spotted Charlaine Harris’ The Julius House, and asked Mom to check it out for me. I didn’t realize at the time that it was the fourth book in a mystery series; the description on the back simply drew me in. The basic plot is our heroine, Aurora (‘Roe’) Teagarden, moves into a house from which the previous occupants vanished–breakfast left on the table, no bodies or evidence of foul play found, and no sign of any of them since. She sets out to solve the mystery as she renovates the house. I didn’t get to the book until the last night of vacation, and only read three chapters, which haunted me. The book evoked a real feeling of dread, and I kept wondering what on earth could have happened to the Juliuses.
Before I even left Iowa, I logged on to the Multnomah County Library’s website and reserved the first two books in the series. I’ve now devoured the whole series (eight books so far), and have that sad-but-satisfied feeling you get when you gobble your way through something delicious. (As Mom would say when we bugged her for more cookies or other treats: “You won’t be happy until it’s all gone!”) I didn’t want to be out of new Teagarden books to read, but there was no way for me to do anything but zip through them, one after another. The only breaks I took were when the library hold list made me wait a week or two to get my hands on the next in the series.
The murder mysteries are a mixed bag–some are a bit obvious, some strain credulity, most do a good job of keeping the reading feeling clued in without being too sure of the answer, and some are perfectly chilling–like the answer to what happened to the Julius family. The strength of the series in the ongoing saga of Roe’s personal life. Harris does a lot of development there, in and around the murder cases, and it kept me anxious for the next book as much as the mysteries did. A lot of authors don’t let their central characters change too much, but boy, does Roe go through the ringer! She’s a good character, well fleshed-out and convincing. When she suffers the death of someone very close to her (as opposed to all those neighbors and acquaintances who are always getting bumped off) her bereavement is very affecting. I happened to finish that book at bedtime, and fell asleep feeling quite bleak for poor Roe; I had to remind myself a couple of times no-one was really dead, it was just a novel!
If you enjoy mysteries, I absolutely recommend the Aurora Teagarden series. As for me, I take comfort in the fact that Charlaine Harris has two other crime-solving heroines heading up their own series of novels. Hmm, who first: Lily Bard, or Harper Connelly? Let’s see what’s available at the library!