Release date: 4 October 2016
Rating: ★★ – 2/10
All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden series #9) blurb:
Librarian Aurora Teagarden is basking in the news of her pregnancy when disaster strikes her small town: four children, including her fifteen-year-old brother, Phillip, have vanished from the school football field. More worrying still, a dead body has been found at their last known location.
While the local police comb the county for the missing children, Aurora and her new husband, true crime writer Robin Crusoe, begin their own investigation. Could the two incidents have something to do with a group of school bullies? Are Aurora’s father’s gambling debts related to the disappearance of her brother? Or could it really be that Phillip himself, new to town and relatively unknown, is the one responsible?
Charlaine Harris, most notably known for writing the Southern Vampire series (which was then turned into the TV show True Blood) commenced writing the Aurora Teagarden mysteries in 1990, and published the eighth (and last at that time) in 2003. Fast forward 13 years and she has written and published book nine in the set.
Aurora Teagarden is a librarian turned sleuth, and is up to her 4’11” (5’0″ on a good day) height in trouble. I like most of Harris’ characters, each for different reasons, but Aurora’s love of books has always appealed to me.
As this story commences, Aurora (Roe) has married her second husband of the series, and her and Robin are expecting their first child. Roe is worried as she is an older first-time mother (at the age of 37), and so her and Robin are being careful before they announce anything. Phillip, Roe’s half-brother (aged 15) is also living with them as he ran away from his parents – their gambling, philandering father, Phil, and Phillip’s mum Betty Jo. Phillip has just started to fit in and make friends in town when he and said friends all go missing. Things go from bad to worse when a teenage body turns up, and another commits suicide.
I had always thought of Harris as a solid writer, but there was something about this books that just set me on edge. It could have been that I have been reading such stellar writing all this year up to now, but this book seemed like a half-assed effort to appease Harris’ readers who asked for more Aurora stories.
The writing was childish and immature, and the storyline was under-developed. The ending was bordering on the ridiculous and felt rushed. I’ve only made that complaint a few other times, but Harris’ final book in the Harper Connelly series had that same ‘crammed’ feeling – like she was trying to tie up everything in a neat bow too quickly and forgot about attempting to have the story make sense.
The characters also felt a bit flat – it could be that it’s been a long time between books, but it was nearly two decades between readings of the Obernewtyn series, so I can’t help but think that time is not the real reason here. Also, there is something about Robin that I just don’t like or trust. I kept waiting for Roe’s new hubby to be the kidnapper (even though I knew that wasn’t the case). In fact the book would have been just the same without him in it – he literally made no difference to the overall plot.
I kept hanging on, even as the number of pages quickly diminished, that the old Aurora from my memory would come back and start puzzling to figure it out. Librarian-turned-sleuth is what she is supposed to be – but it felt like she was too wrapped up in her own pregnancy (or dazed? I’m not sure), then right at the end she took a random pot shot of a guess and it miraculously all worked out for them. Not my kind of mystery – sorry Charlaine.
Harris’ other most recent novels are the Midnight trilogy, and I loved those. This just didn’t have the same spark. It felt like I was reading a poorly written episode of Pretty Little Liars with more aged characters in it, as if it was focused on the parents instead of the teens.
To be honest, I was pretty disappointed in this book, and (like HPatCC) I kind of wish that Harris had left well enough alone.