In the first novel of this four set omnibus late 20-something librarian Aurora 'Roe' Teagarden is hosting a meeting of the Real Murder group. A group of Lawrenceton citizens who are all fascinated by real life murder cases (a good few of them British murders as well), however the last thing Roe intends to find is the dead body of one of the members, chillingly laid out to resemble one of the real life cases the group would have researched. Soon Lawrenceton has a set of murder victims all copycats of real crimes and suspicion soon heads towards the group including Roe.
These novels fit the cosy mystery setting well - a small town with a regular cast of interwoven characters, a decent upstanding heroine, nothing too grisly and the heroine always stays one step ahead of the local police in tracking down the killer. The first novel (Real Murders) is the best by far, its got the best plot with several murders and lots of twists and suspects. Obviously as it introduces the characters it also has all of the setting up work to do, but it does it well. Roe is a likeable if mildly annoying character but she is smart, a little self deprecating and brave.
However after the first novel things go downhill a bit. Without trying to give too much away the novels become more about Roe's love life and personal situation and less about murders. Also the problem with small town cosy mysteries is that the characters need to be a mix of likeable and loathable (or its proper grammatical equivalent). Unfortunately it soon becomes clear that Roe's mother is pretty unlikeable as is her absent father, then most of her friends don't seem too nice and the men Roe dates are quite shabby as well. Its not very cosy when the only 'nice' character is the heroine! For me this the main problem - without other well written characters for Roe to interact with you end up with very dull repetitive novels. Perhaps this is also a fault with reading the novels as an omnibus - they are quite short so you can read them in one go making the whole thing merge into one huge book where the plot seems to get a little bit lost. Its a shame really as Harris is an excellent author and I was expecting good things from this. Individually I would rate the first book a 4 stars, 3 stars for the next two and 2 stars for the last book. For me the last book was a real step away from the others and it didn't work. Perhaps the next omnibus will pick up?