Cleaning woman and karate expert Lily Bard is back in Charlaine Harris's latest cozy-but-noirish mystery about the dark secrets of a small Southern town
In Shakespeare’s Christmas, Lily heads home to Bartley, Arkansas--always an uncomfortable scenario for the introverted Lily--for her sister Varena’s Christmas wedding. But Lily has more to worry about than being a bridesmaid for a sister to whom she’s no longer close. Soon after she arrives in Bartley, Lily’s private-detective boyfriend shows up too, and not just for moral support: He’s investigating a four-year-old unsolved kidnapping.
Try as she might, Lily can’t help but get involved when she discovers that the case hits dangerously close to home--for Varena’s new husband is the widowed father of a girl bearing a remarkable resemblance to the vanished child.
Harris, author of the Aurora Teagarden cozies, adds a touch of grit to her books featuring briskly efficient, 31-year-old Arkansas cleaning lady Lily Bard. Lily hides a traumatic past under a prickly exterior, but, in the series' third book (after Shakespeare's Champion, 1997), this karate expert lowers her defenses just long enough to reconcile with her family and help solve a series of grisly murders. Returning to her home town of Bartley (a stone's throw from her residence in Shakespeare, Ark.) for her sister Varena's wedding, Lily is plunged headlong into an eight-year-old kidnapping investigation after her lover and confidant, Jack Leeds, a PI with a questionable past, arrives to follow up an anonymous tip that the kidnapper and the missing girl are both in Bartley. When the town's beloved family practitioner, his nurse and a young mother are bludgeoned to death, suspicion falls on Varena's fiance--a widower who just happens to have an eight-year-old daughter. The investigation intensifies, and Lily uses her family connections and her impeccable cleaning skills to ferret out some crucial information. Harris tells a forceful story with a complex, flawed heroine who is wary of emotional attachments. The denizens of Bartley--the shrewd sheriff; old high-school classmates with long memories; Lily's loving but overprotective parents--form a memorable gallery of secondary characters. Harris's blend of cozy style with more hard-boiled elements isn't always smooth, but it's interesting to see her working toward a deeper complexity.