Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lily Bard Mysteries, by Charlaine Harris

For me, summer is all about reading book series.  There’s nothing more relaxing than being able to look at a giant pile of books on the corner of my coffee table, and know how I’m going to spend free time on evenings and weekends.  I seem to be able to dedicate more enthusiasm and brain power to series in the summer than at other times of the year.  The last two summers, my focus has been on Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series.  But, given that the last book isn’t out in paper-back yet, I decided to forgo a re-reading this summer in favour of another Harris series, this time it was the Lily Bard Mysteries: Shakespeare’s Landlord, Shakespeare’s Champion, Shakespeare’s Christmas, Shakespeare’s Trollop, and Shakespeare’s Counselor.  

Lily Bard is the survivor of a horrifically violent sex crime; in order to distance herself from that chapter of her life, Lily moved to the small town of Shakespeare in hopes of living a safe and quiet life.  When we first meet Lily in Shakespeare’s Landlord, she’s witnessing the disposal of a body; from that point on, Lily’s quiet and unnoticeable life is over.  Each book in the series revolves around crimes that Lily seems to be a peripheral witness too, but that eventually sucks her in to help solve because of her need to see justice done.  
Having been a fan of Harris’ for quite some time, I was looking for her usual device of the supernatural in these books, and yet there is none.  It’s refreshing to see that Harris is a wonderful author that can develop plots and characters without relying on a crutch, such as the supernatural.  Rather, the plots are developed through the creation of strong characters and face-paced writing that never lags.  While these books aren’t long (I read three in a day), they are well crafted and never come up short.

I think what Harris does so well is to create characters with believable quirks and personalities.  Lily, for example, is hiding from her past by taking menial jobs around town, but in her spare time, she’s something of a gym rat, always lifting weights and attending karate classes.  Harris takes an exceptional history, lays over it a mundane daily life, peppers that with extraordinary circumstances, and the end result is a dynamic, interesting, believable and engaging character.  

Regardless of her current use of the supernatural (which she does extremely well), I think the real skill that Harris has as an author is her ability to create characters.  In all the books of Harris’ that I’ve read so far, Lily Bard included, she has yet to create a character that I didn’t find believable and engaging on some level. 

So, final verdict?  Read these books.  They are well written, interesting, and dynamic.  If you’re looking for a great summer read, then I can’t recommend the Lily Bard series, or any of Harris’ books enough.

See my review of Harris' True Blood series here.
See my review of Harris' Harper Connelley series here.

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