The Lily Bard Mysteries Omnibus Paperback – Nov 25 2010
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Lily Bard is starting over again. She's disguised herself as much as she can, cutting her hair short and wearing baggy clothes, and she's moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas, where, working as a cleaning lady, she can sweep away the secrets of her dark, violent past. But Shakespeare is not the peaceful little community Lily had hoped for, and her idea of just fading into the background looks like it's doomed right from the beginning, when she discovers the dead body of her landlord ...Before long, everyone is going to know Lily Bard's name.
About the Author
Charlaine Harris is the author of several NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series. She is married, with children, and lives in Arkansas.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
`Lily Bard' is by far Harris's darkest work. When Charlaine Harris was younger she was the victim of a sexual assault. With this knowledge in mind, it becomes clear that the `Lily Bard' series is perhaps closest to Charlaine's heart.
Lily Bard has a tragic history. She is a rape survivor. So horrific and awful was the assault, and so dramatic was her escape, that Lily's name and story were in the news for months following her recovery. Because of the undue media attention Lily effectively went into hiding; finding the small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas on a map and deciding that she would live out her life in solitude. Before escaping into anonymity Lily underwent a physical change; she discovered bodybuilding and set herself the task of making her body into a weapon so that she would never again feel physically threatened.
I love Charlaine Harris. She is a beautiful writer, able to effortlessly flip between fresh prose and acerbic wit. Her stories are often fanciful, but grounded in reality. And her heroines all follow the same mould of being utterly ordinary women living extraordinary lives. Sookie Stackhouse, for instance, is a thoroughly ordinary waitress whose life is irrevocably changed when a vampire walks into her town. Likewise, Lily Bard is a cleaning lady whose loner-existence is changed when her landlord is murdered. Charlaine's other murder-mystery series, `Aurora Teagarden', has a title character who is a librarian but finds herself thrown into a murder investigation when a friend is found bludgeoned to death.
The contrast of ordinary woman/extraordinary circumstances has more meaning in the `Lily Bard' series than any other of Charlaine's works. Lily's extraordinary circumstances can be stretched to the event that brought her to Shakespeare, Arkansas to begin with - her rape. Lily was an ordinary girl when one event changed the entire trajectory of her life.
The `Lily Bard' series is very dark - far more so than Charlaine's other books, even the most recent Sookie novels. But surprisingly enough the Bard series has a very clear, uplifting message at its centre. The series is ultimately about reconnecting. In the beginning Lily is a determined loner, scarred by the events of her past, Lily is convinced that the key to her well-being lies in never allowing anyone to get close to her. Over the course of five books however, we witness Lily making tentative connections with those around her - she finds romance, love, and friendship and learns that these connections are important to her continued physical and mental recovery. It is a beautiful message - and seems to be Charlaine imparting her own wisdom to victims about how to continue living your life without fear of the past. And although the series has a lot of darkness, it ultimately ends on a high-note and happy ending.
I love this series, not least of all because of Lily Bard herself. Lily is a ballsy, funny, loyal and hard-working woman. When you learn, in explicit detail, the events of her rape your respect for Lily increases ten-fold. In the beginning Lily is defined by the rape. The ordeal shaped her entire life - she moved far away from home (and the pitying looks of family and friends) to live out a life in quiet, safe solitude. She began bodybuilding as a means to protect herself, so fearful that the past would repeat itself. Clearly letting tragedy define who you become is no way to live - and Charlaine articulates this message beautifully through the character of Lily as she evolves throughout the five books. In each book there is a new murder-mystery, and as the local cleaning lady privy to the skeletons in her client's closets, Lily finds herself at the centre of all of the cases. Through these mysteries Lily is able to measure her own mettle, push herself and discover the levels of her bravery;
I also love this series because of the romance at its centre. In book two `Shakespare's Champion' Lily finds her leading man - Jack Leeds - and trust me when I say he is H-O-T. The Bard series also has one of my all-time favourite secondary characters - Bobo - the son of one of Lily's cleaning clients who pines after her in the sweetest puppy-love fashion.
If fans of the `Sooke Stackhouse' books come to the `Lily Bard' series with a hope that it will scratch a Sookie itch, they will be disappointed. This is in no way supernatural or urban fantasy. This series is strictly murder-mystery. The only similarities between the books are Charlaine's love of a good, steamy romance for her heroines, ordinary leading ladies leading extraordinary lives and doing so with tremendous courage and biting wit.
Highly recommend this series.
P.S. - Sookie fans might be interested to know that Lily Bard and Jack Leeds make a cross-over appearance in Sookie book #5, 'Dead as a Doornail'.
Shakespeare, Arkansas, is a small town rather distant from any cities. It has crime and a police department to deter and investigate such crimes. Recently it is has also acquired Lily Bard.
Shakespeare's Landlord (1996) is the first novel in this series. Lily often walks around town when her memories start to bother her. One night, she notices someone moving something into the park across from her house. That person is using her garbage cart to carry the load.
Lily watches the unknown person enter the park and come out a short while later with the empty cart. The person returns the cart to its proper place behind her house and leaves the scene. Lily crosses the street to enter the park.
She finds a body encased within two garbage bags. She pulls out her flashlight and examines the body. It is Pardon and is thoroughly dead.
Lily removes the garbage bags with her fingerprints and leaves the body in the park. After returning home, she starts worrying about some child finding the body. So she calls Claude Friedrich and tells him that a body has been dumped in the park.
The next day, Lily visits Mrs. Hofstettler. Marie asks if she noticed the excitement within the park. Police cars and an ambulance had kept her awake for hours.
Then Marie asks Lily to turn on the radio to find out what had happened in the park. As Lily is doing some light housekeeping, they hear the news about Pardon. Naturally, Lily already knows about it, but Marie is rather agitated.
Shakespeare's Champion (1997) is the second novel in this series. Lily and Bobo are asked by the sick owner to open Body Time in the morning. Del Packard's car is outside when they arrive, but he was given a key to the place so that he could practice his body building. As they turn on the lights, they find Del's body lying on a pressing bench in a corner.
At first they believe that his throat had been crushed by the weight of the bar, but the lights were all off when they arrived. Besides, he had said that a spotter was to meet him the previous evening. Had he been murdered?
Del is the third death in Shakespeare within a month or so. First the young black boy Darnell Glass was beaten to death. Then the white Len Elgin was shot. Now Del is dead. Racial tensions are rising again for the first time in thirty years.
It all started with a minor auto accident. A local boy hit Darnell's car and refused to admit that he was at fault. An argument ensued and all four white boys accosted Darnell.
Darnell got in the first punch, but the other three white boys started swinging at him. Two policemen -- one off duty and the other on patrol -- were present, but stayed back from the fight. Lily and a black Marine separated the boys, but Lily got blindsided and fell down, knocking her head against a table.
Shakespeare's Christmas (1998) is the third novel in this series. Lily rides on a float -- really a pickup bed -- in the Shakespeare Christmas parade. She is more warmly dressed than the younger women on the Body Time float, but not as warm as Raphael, who is driving the pickup. She keeps smiling and throwing candy into the crowd. Her cheeks hurt from all the artificial smiling.
After the parade, Lily goes home and packs for her sister's wedding. She talks to Jack on the phone and asks him to spend Christmas with her. Then they awkwardly say goodbyes and Lily goes back to packing.
Lily will be a bridesmaid in the wedding and Varena has already bought the dress. Lily hopes that the dress matches her complexion and doesn't expose her scars. She still has to buy clothes for the showers and dinners.
Lily goes to Montrose to buy some party clothes. She meets Bobo there and explains her errand. Bobo asks what clothes she already has that would be proper for the occasions. Lily tells hem that she has one good black suit and Bobo is amazed. He shares what little he knows about clothing and leaves her with the clerk.
Lily has arranged with her clients to have the week off. She finishes the jobs remaining for this week. While cleaning Carrie's office, she reads an article about unsolved crimes. The item about Summer Dawn Macklesby attracts her attention.
Shakespeare's Trollop] (2000) is the fourth novel in this series. Lily discovers the corpse of Deedra Dean on a country lane. Deedra is naked and sitting behind the steering wheel of her car. Her clothing is scattered around the car, but her purse is gone.
The body is just outside the city limits, so the 911 dispatcher sends the call to the the county sheriff's office. Marta is the first to arrive the scene, but another deputy is just behind her. Others come shortly after that.
Then Marlon drives up. He is very distraught and heads for the body. A deputy grabs him to keep the crime scene unspoiled. Then Marlon tries to take a swing at Marta and Lily knocks the wind out of him.
Lily tells the Sheriff almost everything she knows about the murder, which is not very much. She does lie about whether she has seen any of Deedra's lovers. Since Deedra had been one of her clients, she has a key to the apartment.
After relinquishing the key, Lily goes off to finish her next job. Jack calls while she is cleaning a house and says that he will be taking a plane to Sacramento. He is looking for a runaway boy.
Shakespeare's Counselor (2001) is the fifth novel in this series. Lily has a nightmare and smashes Jack's nose. Jack suggests (again) that Lily try therapy for rape victims. Lily is so rattled by the incident that she doesn't even argue. The next day she calls the county health clinic and makes an appointment to join the rape therapy group.
The following night, Lily arrives a bit early at the health clinic and meets Tamsin. After a few words, Tamsin receives a phone call and Lily can tell that she is terrified. Then Tamsin shows Lily the group therapy room and leaves her with the group.
Lily already knows Janet and Sandy, but she is less familiar with the others. Tamsin comes into the room and makes sure that everybody knows each other. The other women are Carla, Melanie and Firella.
After the introductions, Tamsin asks them to relate the experiences that led to them joining the group. Sandy states that she had been a victim of rape while she was a college student, but doesn't tell the details.
When Lily takes her turn, she describes the circumstances that led to her abduction, rape and torture. She also describes her killing of the kidnapper. One woman remembers the incident and mentions that she had thought Lily to have been foolish to walk from her broken down car. Tamsin leads the class in reciting the rule: Don't blame the victim for the crime.
These tales are the only novels in the series. The author had other omnibus volumes in the Aurora Teagarden and Southern Vampire series.
Highly recommended for Harris fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of murder mysteries, amateur detectives, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
Lily has been through a very traumatic ordeal and is recovering from that in a new town. She cleans houses for a living and practices self-defense in her spare time. I like how Charlaine Harris sticks to the same themes for her series: single women living alone, often working in simple jobs, recovering from a sometimes tragic past, whose lives get really interesting after one or a series of events. The reader comes in when the protagonist's life gets interesting. I guess that appeals to me because I am a lover of consistency!
I think the reason why I liked this series much better than the Aurora Teagarden series is that I respected and liked Lily so much. I like a female lead who can take care of herself, and Lily certainly can. Like the Aurora Teagarden series, each book in this series is a mystery that gets solved by the end of the book with the story of Lily's love life continuing between books. I like the end of the series---things are wrapped up but not unrealistically so.
Just One Gripe:
This series is heavy on the everyday life. More so than the Sookie series.
The Best Thing About This Series:
I like Lily. She's got gumption!
Lily moves to the small Arkansas town of Shakespeare to work as a domestic cleaner, or maid, looking for a quiet life. But Small towns of course have their own secrets, and sometimes open conflicts. Charlaine Harris has created a marvellous flawed heroine in Lily - I admire Lily's strength of character, feel for her loneliness, understand her defensive habit of keeping people at arm's length. And reading these great mystery novels also inspires me to exercise more (much lighter weights than Lily can lift!) and do a little to tackle my untidy house (how I wish Lily were real and living in my neighbourhood - and that I could afford to hire her as my cleaner!).
Love, desire, hatred, greed, bigotry, friendlienss - there's a terrific ensemble of characters around Lily whose stories intersect naturally in the small community of Shakespeare.