Monday, April 13, 2009

THE JULIUS HOUSE by CHARLAINE HARRIS

For the first 100 pages or so of The Julius House, Aurora Teagarden is too caught up in preparations for her weddng and her new life with Martin Bartell to worry about sleuthing. Roe travels to Ohio to surreptitiously buy the farm Martin grew up on as a wedding present; when she presents it to him, he presents her with the deed to the Julius House. She spends lots of time--and lots of money--fixing the house up. Then Martin presents her with another present: an assistant. Shelby Youngblood is an old army chum of Martin's, fallen on hard times, and he and his wife, Angel, will live in the mother-in-law apartment over the garage. Shelby will work at the plant for Martin, Angel will help Roe in whatever capacity she's needed.

There are actually two mysteries in this book: whatever happened to the Julius family, who all disappeared without a trace one morning, and what dark secret in Martin's past is preventing him from being fully present with Roe. How do the Youngbloods--who have many hidden talents between them--fit into it? Roe does an admirable job of solving both mysteries, although we're left up in the air at novel's end as to where the marriage will go.

Charlaine Harris' characters, even minor ones, are interesting and lively, and Lawrenceton, Georgia is as much a character as any human being. Her portrayal of small town Southern life--the quirks, the feuds, the nastiness that sometimes simmers and sometimes boils over violently--is spot-on...at least, it seems so to the reader, and isn't that one of the marks of effective writing?

A quick, charming read.

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