Shakespeare in Arkansas

Charlaine Harris is the author of two series: the Aurora Teagarden, librarian turned real estate agent, and the much edgier Lily Bard mysteries. In fact, the first in the Lily Bard series, Shakespeare's Landlord, almost qualifies as a scream of rage. These stories grab hold of you and shake you 'til your foundations rattle.

Lily Bard was a perfectly ordinary young woman with her degree, her job, her apartment, her fiancée, her parents, her sister. In fact life was unfolding with that veritable palette of possibilities that is the gift of the universe to those in their 20's. But something horrible happened to Lily and she's been living with the results ever since.

As she began to heal physically, she was surrounded by the love and support of her family, who eagerly awaited the return of their Lily. But their Lily was gone forever and the new Lily didn't want to talk about it. She crawled into a cave by moving to a small town and working as a house-cleaner, maid. 'Keep your head down, Lily; don't make eye contact. Don't talk to people.' But Lily had been the media frenzy of the day and soon enough someone finds out about her past. Then Lily moves on.

She moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas, because she saw the name on the map and the combination of Bard and Shakespeare appealed. She's been there four years now and things have been OK. She been cleaning houses and has a waiting list of clients. She bought a small house. And she's been studying martial arts. In fact, Lily has become physically strong and very skilled. She is known as someone who doesn't talk much and can keep a secret - after all, the one who cleans up your mess knows an awful lot about you. And underneath Lily's silence is a pool of almost lethal anger.

In Shakespeare's Landlord, Lily is out walking in the middle of the night (a habit on those frequent, sleepless nights) when she spots someone dumping a large object in the park. Since they are using her handmade trash cart, naturally Lily investigates. She finds the landlord of the apartment building next to her home. He is wrapped in garbage bags and very dead. Since he was the person who sold her the house, she can't leave him like that, so Lily removes the garbage bags and makes an anonymous 911 call. Well, you and I both know that nothing is anonymous in a small town and it isn't long before Lily is up to her ear lobes in the investigation. There's a new police chief in town and he, intrigued, looks up Lily's history. And soon her secret is out; but this time Lily doesn't want to move on. She discovers that she has made a home for herself, however spartan. And there are people who would like to be friends. And some who want to be more than friends. Oh yeah, looks like Lily has a life after all.

In Shakespeare's Champion vigilante justice raises its ugly head.

"After seeing him everywhere I turned, now he was nowhere. I passed through being worried, to being angry, and back through worried. I made my feelings cool down, concentrated on chilling them; I told myself the fear and rage engendered by our silent struggle in Beanie Winthrop's walk-in closet - what a location - had nudged me past some internal boundary marker."

And in Shakespeare's Christmas, it is time for Lily to go home again, this time for her sister's wedding. But an unsolved kidnapping hits way too close to home.

Lily is a extraordinary character: smart, tough, and more than a little complex. The stories are intense, well-written, stay-up-all-night reads. You can't help rooting for Lily and marveling at her strength, her recovery, and her growth. Excellent! A little more language and intensity than found in a cozy.

Read these in order if you possibly can; they are all available in St. Martin's Press hardcover. The following information is for pbs only.

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