I'm not sure how much I actually like Charlaine Harris's writing, but I do have a soft spot for her books. I read all of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and I was excited about the premise for this series: Aurora (Roe) Teagarden is a member of a true crime book club called Real Murders. When members of the club start turning up dead, she's alternately in danger and under suspicion.
So here's my main problem with the book--if you've ever read some Sookie Stackhouse, you know that there's a long section in every book where Sookie has a day off and spends at least a chapter going to Wal Mart, laying out, and cleaning her house. The first third of Real Murders feels like that. Roe finds a body, but rather than investigating the crime she talks to her friends on the phone, cleans her windows, and buys a new outfit. (Including a pair of pants--possibly referred to as "slacks"--with "extravagant pleats." Not sure what those are, but in this book's world they are sexier than the skirts Roe normally wears.)
Given how...dare I say, boring...the first part of the story is, the finale feels like getting punched in the face. It's an interesting affect that made me bump my rating up by half a star.
There are some other odd touches in the book that made me wonder if it were set in an alternate universe. At one point Roe makes lunch for a friend, which involves microwaving a "frozen ham and cheese sandwich." WTF is this? Is she describing a Hot Pocket? Fresh ham and cheese sandwiches literally take less than a minute to make and I have never in my life heard of them being frozen for later use. If there are people who freeze their damn sandwiches, they need to rethink their lives. I am not budging on this issue.
There's also a character in the book who is a man with a "sophisticated" pageboy haircut. Not sure about anyone else, but this is what I imagine when you tell me a grown-ass man has a pageboy:
So, you know. Definitely the height of male fashion.
Finally, one of Roe's love interests (because there's some kind of law now that every mystery series has to involve a love triangle) is a red-headed man named Robin Crusoe. No! That is the stupidest name I've ever heard, and having some of your characters comment on how awful it is doesn't mean it's okay to use in your book when you could use literally any other name in the universe and it would be better. I'm going to be pissed off about this for the rest of the day.