I picked up the first of the Lily Bard Mysteries, Shakespeare's Landlord, over a year ago to read on my e-reader, and found that the format I had checked out from the library wouldn't download directly to my e-reader and wrote a scathing review about the Publisher's choice to force a USB connection. Then, when I had time to breathe, I re-downloaded it in the right format, and tried again.
Wow. Lily Bard is possibly the best protagonist of a 'cozy' style mystery I have ever met. Instead of that wealthy woman of leisure, or the shop girl, or the career woman, Lily Bard is a self-employed house cleaner with a mysterious past. As her past is revealed, she makes a journey from being broken and alone through building solid friendships and alliances to becoming an integral part of the community of Shakespeare, Arkansas.
The mysteries are well sprinkled with tasty red herrings and interesting side plots, without being bloated. In an almost noir-ish style, Lily is the quintessential outsider who is able to pass invisibly among the movers, shakers, and murderers of the township.
[amazon_link id="0425213102" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]There are only five books in this series, and Charlaine Harris has stated that she doubts she'll return to the series, which in one sense is a shame, but another is just right, because this series ends very satisfactorily.
The southern small town atmosphere is well done without being overwrought, and the secondary characters are interesting in their own right, including several of the people that Lily cleans for. Harris did an excellent job of putting us in the 'gumshoes' of an intelligent, determined woman of such extremely modest means that she can't afford to go to the hospital even when she needs to.
[amazon_link id="042522497X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ][/amazon_link]Finally, without spoilers, it is hard to describe how much respect I have for Charlaine Harris' grasp of psychology. She really gets Lily Bard in such a way that you find yourself nodding at Lily's decisions, understanding why she makes them even you disagree with them.
I've read the Sookie Stackhouse books, and I'm a devoted fan of True Blood no matter how silly the plot lines get, so long as Alex Skarsgard gets topless every now and again, but Lily Bard is better. I can see why HBO picked Sookie for a series vehicle over Lily, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the characters or plots of the respective books.
If you like short, fast paced mysteries with good characterization and crackling plots, give the Lily Bard mysteries a try. Your brain and imagination will thank you.
- Sookie Stackhouse author Charlaine Harris announces "After Dead" (houseofvampires.wordpress.com)
- ScifiNow Interview with Charlaine Harris on "Dead Ever After" (houseofvampires.wordpress.com)
- Sookie Stackhouse's final chapter (shelf-life.ew.com)