I read this book a year or two ago, but I completely forgot that I had, picked it up from the library for some light entertainment, and got about three-quarters of the way through before I realised that the gory crimes and girly characters and burgeoning love triangles seemed strangely familiar. So…it’s basically unmemorable–generic in all senses of the word; indeed, it attempts to play with how closely it follows the procedures and developments of detective novels by being set among a group of avid murder fans, but that doesn’t make it any cleverer.
A group of people form a club called Real Murders, and meet monthly to present a “classic crime”–until one day things get All Too Real. The conventions of the detective novel are infused with the cliches of the romance genre, making the novel a brew stirred by a mysterious stranger, a sinister stalker, a shy librarian with a confident mother who doesn’t realise how attractive she is, and the perfectly ordinary folks of a small town in Georgia. Said librarian is Aurora “Roe” Teagarden–Harris does have a genius for coming up with eccentric names for her heroines–and she and the mysterious out-of-towner and a solid police officer team up to solve a murder, their detection accompanied by plenty of oddly decorous friction of the emotional/lustful kind. While the murders are bloody and graphic, the sexual tension is more about lingering glances and stolen kisses than the hot vampire shower scenes of Harris’s later work, in case anyone is wondering.
Real Murders was written in 1990, and the fashion and gadgetry have a retro feel that fans of Sue Grafton’s earlier stuff might enjoy–perhaps the saddest sign of the times is that the library where Roe works is busy enough to require extended evening openings. It’s a slight but vaguely entertaining read, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it or recommend it.