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review 2020-03-04 12:54
"An Easy Death – Gunnie Rose #1" by Charlaine Harris
An Easy Death - Charlaine Harris,Barbara Barnes

An Easy Death" is the first book in a new series from Charlaine Harris that is set in an alternative America where history diverged after Roosevelt's assassination. It tells the story of Elizabeth Rosie, a nineteen-year-old "gunnie" who makes her living providing armed protection to travellers across the, now largely lawless, West.

 

It seems to me that this book fits into an emerging "Weird West" genre - an American West with magic as an added ingredient and some difference is history. I'm thinking of books like "The Curse Of Jakob Tracy""The Devil's Revolver" or "Make Me No Grave".

 

Gunnie Rose knows that the world she lives in is hard and unforgiving and likely to take her life if she lets it. Still, there's no point in complaining about what you can't change so she does what needs to be done, which in her case means using her guns to kill anyone who tries to kill the clients she's protecting. The title, "An Easy Death", is what Gunnies wish each other. It's the best luck they can reasonably hope for.

 

 

There's a lot of violence in this book. The body count is so high that I lost track after it reached double figures. The violence and the killing are grim rather than gratuitous but it is brutal and unrelenting. Gunnie Rose knows that she's a killer. She mostly takes no pleasure in it and sometimes pays a significant emotional price for it. She has her standards but, if someone needs killing, which definitely includes any of the many people who are trying to kill her, she will shoot them dead and move on.

 

Part of the pleasure in the book comes from discovering the complicated world that Charlaine Harris has placed Gunnie in. This is a fractured America that has lost land to its neighbours and has seen twelve of the original colonies ally with Britain. San Diego has become the home of the Holy Russian Empire (HRE). It's the place where the Tsar fled to in 1918, bringing with him his priests, his magicians and his army. The HRE welcomes magicians from across the world and trains them to use their magic to serve the Tsar.

 

Gunny Rose ends up with two magicians as clients and travels with them as they search for a missing minor magician who has something they need.

 

They have their secrets and Gunny Rose has more than a few of her own. Both sets of secrets get tangled up as the three of them try to carry out their mission while surviving a series of attacks.

 

I enjoyed this book and I think the series has a lot of promise but some of the world-building resulted in potted history lessons that flattened the story a little. Elizabeth Rose is easy to admire but less easy to like. Still, I want to find out what happens to her next.

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review 2020-01-20 16:15
GRAVE SIGHT by Charlaine Harris
Grave Sight - Charlaine Harris
  Harper finds dead people and can tell how they died. Called to Sarne, Arkansas to find a body she then goes on to find that several dead people related to the body she was called to find did not die they way their death certificates said. Now she is involved in finding out what happened to these people and she may not make it out alive.

Good world building. I read this fast. It was so intriguing. I wanted to find out what was going on and how it all fit together. I liked Harper and her brother Tolliver. They also have an interesting back story. The characters in this book were odd. None really wanted Harper around but are forced to deal with the consequences of what she tells them. Old wounds are opened and there is lots of scandal in this small town. Look forward to reading the next book.
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review 2019-10-18 12:16
"Real Murders - Aurora Teagarden #1" by Charlaine Harris.
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Book 1) - Charlaine Harris

 

 

 

 

"Real Murders" is a not so Cosy Mystery that is mildly subversive and moderately entertaining.

 

"Real Murders" was an odd book. It's a Cosy Mystery that makes you think about just how cosy any murder mystery can be.

 
 

It's about the murder of a member of the Real Murder Club, who meet once a month to talk about true crimes. It starts with what seems to be a copycat murder of one of the group and escalates from there.

 
 

Like other cosy mysteries, "Real Murders" focuses on a small group of people in an intimate, small-town setting, it has most of the violence occurs out of sight of the reader, it's coy about sex, it defaults to a humour rather than aggression when dealing with stress and the main character, who glories in the name Aurora Teagarden, is a small-town-librarian who is almost too innocent to have made it to twenty-seven.

 
 

Yet the murders in this book, and there are lots of them, are gruesome, cruel and driven by the sort of hard-boiled sociopathic narcissism that reminded me of Hitchock's adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's "Rope". The murders also revisit actual murders, using them as game fodder, with little or no empathy for the real people involved.

 
 

The Real Murder Club the suspects and murder victims are all members of is a ghoulish, voyeuristic thing, yet it's members, including the unfailingly nice Aurora Teagarden, seem unaware of this until the killing starts and the group's existence comes under public scrutiny.

 
 

Having read "A Secret Rage" her unflinching book about rape and the equally hard-hitting Lily Bard series, starting with "Shakespeare's Landlord", I know that Charlain Harris can be quite a serious writer when she chooses to be, so I wondered how subversive she intended to be in "Real Murders".

 
 

I never read true crime. I understand why people do but I can never rid myself of a sense of voyeurism. The one exception might be "The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper" because of its focus on the lives of the women Jack The Ripper killed but even then, I dislike the continued fame of the Ripper. I was pleased to see that, in the early chapters of the book, Harris seemed to be challenging the ethics of True Crime buffs and perhaps the idea of "Cosy" mystery, even while writing one. She's suggesting that the process of treating killing someone as the starting point for a puzzle serves to desensitise us to the reality of murder.

 
 

Here's what's going through the mind of Aurora Teagarden who has discovered the body and called the police.

 
 

I knew he was about to tell Gerald that his wife was dead, and I found myself wondering how Gerald would take it. Then I was ashamed. At moments I understood in decent human terms what had happened to a woman I knew, and at moments I seemed to be thinking of Mamie’s death as one of our club’s study cases.

 
 

This is followed by a police interview where the detective's disgust at the idea of a Real Murder Club is very clear.

 
 

Sadly, that was pretty much the end of any visible subversion. After that, it devolved into a game of pin-the-blame-on-the-suspect in the traditional way. The plot was clever. I didn't guess who was doing the killing and the denouement was skillfully managed.

 
 

I was entertained although mostly because the Texan small-town life being described is so far from my experience. Harris' writing is smooth and efficient and Aurora Teagarden is likeable if a little relentlessly, self-deprecatingly ordinary. There wasn't enough there to make me want to read the rest of the series.

 

 

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text 2019-10-13 02:12
Reading progress update: I've read 69%. -with multiple gruesome murders so far, I know my attention should not be on this but...
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Book 1) - Charlaine Harris

...sometimes it's the smallest details that display cultural differences the best.

 

Our heroine has a distressed friend come unexpectedly to her door. As it's lunchtime, she offers him something to eat. Normal so far - at least my normal - then I read:

 

It’s hard to perform like Hannah Housewife when you’ve had no warning, but I microwaved a frozen ham and cheese sandwich, poured some potato chips out of a bag, and scraped together a rather depressing salad.

 

And now I'm completely distracted. A grown woman, living alone and she has no food in the house? And she needs "warning* before she can cook a meal? That's weird.

 

But the truly strange thing, the one I'd like independent confirmation of is: DO PEOPLE REALLY KEEP HAM AND CHEESE SANDWICHES IN THEIR FREEZER?

 

Surely not. FROZEN ham and cheese sandwiches? FROZEN cheese? FROZEN white bread? FROZEN ham?

 

And if they do, would they really MICROWAVE one and offer it as FOOD to a guest?

 

I find I'm more stunned by this than by any of the (fairly nasty) murders.

 

So, for the American and especially Texan members here, please let me know, is this something someone would actually do?

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text 2019-10-12 22:24
Reading progress update: I've read 56%. this is just about holding my attention but...
Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Book 1) - Charlaine Harris

mainly because the Texan small town life being described is so far from my experience. Harris' writing is smooth and efficient and her character is likeable if a little relentlessly, self-deprecatingly ordinary.

 

I think I must have imagined the subversive part. There's no sign of it anymore. We're playing pin the blame on the suspect in the traditional way.

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