A few months ago in this post, I highlighted a preview of a new Hallmark TV movie, “A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery,” based on the book series by Charlaine Harris. The title character is a younger librarian, played by Candace Cameron Bure, who also served as executive producer.
The Aurora Teagarden Mystery series continues this summer, with the next TV movie set to premiere this Sunday, July 26, on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. Will you be watching along with me?
I also recently rewatched the premiere movie, “A Bone to Pick,” and overall, it’s an enjoyable show. If there’s a bone to pick — I couldn’t resist the pun! — it is a typically “cozy” type of mystery, nothing too scary or mentally taxing. It’s the kind of show where there is a lot of light, and everyone seems to have huge living rooms. I most enjoyed the warm portrayal of its title character as a multi-faceted and multi-talented reel librarian.
Setting the stage for sleuthing
The TV movie starts out not in the library, but instead in Aurora’s bedroom, where she is braiding her hair and practicing a presentation about a notorious historical murder, a speech she delivers in a town hall where the “Real Murders Club” has gathered.
After the successful presentation, an older member, Jane, ruffles up some controversy by stating that Aurora should run for president of the club. Jane then invites Aurora to her house the next day to pick up a few out-of-print titles about true crime, and we learn a lot of character background — including the fact that Jane is a retired librarian! The plot doesn’t get going until we learn that soon after, Jane has passed away and left her house and estate to none other than Aurora. Part of the legacy she left to Aurora includes a hidden skull and a mystery to solve….
*MILD SPOILER ALERTS*
The resulting mystery is not all that interesting: It includes break-ins and cheating spouses and a really far-fetched conclusion involving a pregnant cop practically giving birth while arresting the perps.
Librarian role call
This TV movie and the series definitely fit into the Class I category, with Candace Cameron Bure as the title character Aurora Teagarden, or “Roe” for short. Here are the other librarian characters in the story (who, strangely, don’t get seem to get screen credits):
- Jane, the spinster librarian who died and left Roe her estate
- Lillian, the middle-aged spinster librarian meanie who scares children and is always on Roe’s case
- Characters also mention a Mr. Crowley, the head of the library, but we never see him onscreen
Salary and education
The low salary given to librarians gets mentioned quite a lot throughout the TV movie. Roe doesn’t even expect to afford rent on her librarian’s salary (her mother pays her rent), and she wonders how Jane was able to afford such a big house (it turns out Jane had inherited money).
- I can’t afford a new dress. / Because you are woefully underpaid.
- I never thought I’d own a house, not on a librarian’s salary.
- Too bad I can’t afford it.
Moral of the story? Pay librarians what they are worth! (This means at least a living wage, y’all.)
Education and “library science” also merit a mention, mostly in the early exposition scene between Roe and Jane. Her master’s thesis was in true-crime literature, which sounded odd to me. Jane agreed!
Roe: I wish I had had access to a collection like this when I was getting my master’s. My thesis was in true-crime literature.
Jane: That wasn’t a speciality of library science in my day.
Roe: It’s still not, officially. I think I’m the only librarian in the state who has it.
Side note: I also did a research project in my Children’s Literature graduate class, a project all about character types in detective and mystery stories for children and young adults. We’re so alike! ;)
Here’s how Roe would probably react to that statement:
There are several scenes highlighting the bright and spacious public library. The sign on the front door says “Lawrenceton Public Library,” which is a nod to the Lawrenceton, Georgia, setting of the books. However, the TV movie was filmed in British Columbia.
Librarian tasks we see onscreen include: opening up the library, researching on the computer, shelving books, and helping a little boy find a book (he’s scared of Lillian, the dragon-lady librarian, who is really rude and condescending to him). Lillian is a total rule-monger and Spinster Librarian character type.
Reel librarian style
Roe’s fashion sense is subjected to many negative comments throughout the TV film, mainly by Roe’s mother — and by Roe herself!
- This has no pizzazz. [her mother, referring to a blazer with piped trim, seen above]
- I’m sorry, I wanted to change into something nicer. [Roe, wearing a sweater on a date]
- This is what you wore, on a date?! [Her mother, after Roe’s date]
- Please tell me you’re not wearing that to church. [Roe’s mother]
- I wish I had more fashion sense. [Roe, going shopping]
I didn’t really get this style criticism, because she looks cute, relatable, and modern to me. Cardigans and practical coats abound. (I did think they overdid it with the praise whenever she wore a dress.) But no one except her mother ever comments on her hair and her signature side braid.
Roe has got skillz. She is smart, observant, and resourceful, and she’s not afraid to do research and get her hands dirty. And it’s nice to see how she uses her skills as a public librarian, as well, using knowledge of patrons she observed who were frequent visitors to the library. People also trust her, given her position in the community.
We definitely see a well-rounded character in Roe and an atypical reel librarian portrayal. I haven’t read the series, so I don’t know how close it is to the character in the books. We get to see different sides to Roe, the good and the flawed. Other characters, including her friends, both compliment and challenge her.
Roe has relatable flaws — she is stubborn and doesn’t really listen to her closest friend or her mother. She prioritizes her own pleasure in figuring out a puzzle above the logical (and legal) step of handing over evidence to the police — and then doesn’t want to return the skull to the police because she doesn’t want to get in trouble for withholding evidence! Gotta go with her mother on that one — “maybe you deserve to be behind bars.”
Roe is also warm-hearted, friendly, and generous. And she’s definitely got spunk! It is interesting to note that Roe is susceptible to stereotypes — she starts dating a young minister — but is also open-minded when those stereotypes are challenged. (As a librarian, wouldn’t Roe be used to being stereotyped by one’s profession?)
Her sleuthing skills are highly praised throughout, including how she had set up a crime board in the living room of her new house. But it really annoyed me that common sense takes a back seat sometimes. For example, she set up her “secret” crime board — complete with maps and post-it notes and records — in full view of the front door and the front windows with blinds wide open for anyone to see what she was up to.
Connections between research and sleuthing
Does Roe being a librarian matter to the story? In some ways, it seems more important that she’s a member of the Real Murders Club, but the fact that she’s a librarian is emphasized throughout the TV movie. She applies the same skills — her intelligence and logical way of thinking, her organizational and research skills, as well as her friendly demeanor — to both her job as a librarian and to her adventures as an amateur sleuth.
Roe connects the dots for the audience by using research in her sleuthing, skills she obviously picked up as a librarian. So I would argue that yes, identifying Roe as a librarian not only helps the audience trust Roe but also helps us believe in her skills as an amateur detective.
I mentioned in this prior post, “Nancy Drew as a librarian?,” how much overlap I personally see between private detectives and librarians, and I’ve already stated that I think Nancy Drew would have been an AWESOME librarian. I’d like to think that in the character of Aurora Teagarden, we can have the best of both worlds — why choose between being a private detective and a librarian? You can be good at both! ;)
I will wrap things up with a compliment(?) that Jane bestowed upon Roe in an early scene:
“You have a mind for murder like no one else I know.“
“Thank you. I think.“
Again, the next Aurora Teagarden Mystery movie, “Real Murders,” premieres in a few days, on July 26. Are you interested in watching along with me?