Shakespeare's Champion

Lily Bard Mysteries: 2

by
Charlaine Harris

ISBN: 0-312-17005-X Order from: Amazon.com

A tense and somber tale of fallible and hurt humans struggling against petty but murderous evil in a provincial Southern setting.

Reviewed by David on September 20, 1998

Genre: Mystery (Amateur Sleuth, Suspense)

Synopsis: Lily Bard came to the small town of Shakespeare to escape her painful past. Running her own cleaning and errand service and working out in a local gym, she uses the routine of her life to both forget the past and to isolate her from prying acquaintances. However, when a rash of unexplained murders touches one of her gym regulars, she is reluctantly dragged into the mystery. However, her decency is as strong as her desire to avoid involvement, and her desire to help will place her squarely in the path of the viciousness and cruelty that move under the illusion of a sleepy little town. Trying to hide and heal her own scars, physical and emotional, she cannot escape new ones as she struggles desperately to stop the killing.

Full Review:
Charlaine Harris reading at Torcon 2003
Charlaine Harris reading at Torcon 2003

Harris, the author of the Alice Teagarden mysteries, introduced Lily Bard, the young woman who came to the Arkansas town of Shakespeare to forget her painful past in Shakespeare's Landlord.

The book is rather somber. Lily, although young and strong, is suffering from loneliness and distrust. She is a woman who is unlikely to trust others, and is as stubborn as she is honest. Instead of risking relationships built on false expectations, she prefers to cut them clean, suffering in loneliness. It is all the more painful for her when some of her few friends are killed or alienated by a string of murders.

When Lily intervenes to save a black youth from a brutal beating, she is dragged into an ugly trouble brewing along the race lines. When strangers hiding their own painful pasts turn up, and some of her friends turn out to be worse than enemies, Lily has to struggle to stay alive, and to keep the murders from claiming other victims.

She does not always succeed. This novel features a sympathetic heroine, combining strength with vulnerability, and passion with fear. It also shows that innocence and good will is not enough to keep from pain and death. It shows the struggle against evil, no less dangerous for its pettiness and stupidity, and shows not victory so much as survival. It ends with a hope for the future, but leaves the reader with a sympathetic ache for the injuries of Lily Bard. The heroine is injured repeatedly in the novel. Her stubborn prickliness, strength and predilection for getting stabbed, injured and otherwise abused remind me of Anita Blake, a heroine of an excellent supernatural mystery series. However, unlike Anita, Lily has fewer allies or weapons, and no magic to save the day: only pain, courage and endurance.

Shakespeare's Champion is less about unraveling of mysteries than about the struggle of scared, hurt and confused but decent people against brutal crime. While quite successful in this portrayal, its darkness, despite the hopeful conclusion, makes me ambivalent about reading the sequel.

A paperback version of Shakespeare's Champion is almost out and can be ordered now.

The new novel by Harris, Shakespeare's Christmas, should be available in October 1998.

Overall: 6; Plot: 6; Characters: 6; Style: 5.5; World-building: 5.5; Originality: 6;

Copyright date 1997, St. Martin's Press, December 1997, Cloth, 214 pages

ISBN: 0-312-17005-X Order from: Amazon.com


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