I was a firm fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series long before it got a very racy makeover by HBO in their televised version, True Blood. Read my review of Dead Reckoning here, and my review of Deadlocked here. I also enjoyed Harris’s paranormal whodunit series featuring Harper Connolly, read my review of Grave Sight here.
So would I also appreciate this straight crime novel, introducing Lily Bard that Harris wrote pre-Sookie? Disguising herself with short hair and baggy clothes, Lily Bard has started a new life; she’s a cleaning lady in the sleepy town of Shakespeare, where she can sweep away the secrets of her dark and violent past. However her plan to live a quiet, unobserved life begins to crumble when she discovers the dead body of her nosy landlord.
Harris has certainly given us a feisty, troubled heroine in Lily. While the novel has provided a murder victim and the puzzle of who exactly has done it – the engine that drives this book forward is Lily’s journey. While being caught up in this adventure, her arid, rigidly controlled life suddenly acquires a lot more complications – and excitement. And some of that excitement is enjoyable, while some of it isn’t…
But for all of this to work, we need to care about Lily – and Harris excels in giving us enjoyably angst-ridden heroines who we can care about. I find it fascinating how much writers reveal about themselves – and while I don’t know whether Harris is a clean freak or not, she seems to admire women who are. Whenever Sookie’s life gets way too much for her to handle, she resorts to cleaning the house from top to bottom. I just wish that I, too, responded to Life’s hiccups by wanting to tidy drawers and scrub surfaces, instead of curling into a ball under the duvet and reaching for another book… And here is Lily – who has been hanging onto her sanity by her fingernails, courtesy of her self-defence classes and the day job where she goes into dirty, untidy dwellings and blasts through them, putting everything in order, again.
So is Lily Bard just another Sookie Stackhouse without the gift/curse of reading other people’s thoughts? No. While there are similarities – they are both young women who have major issues to overcome – there are also important differences. Lily is far chippier and less caring of what other people think – and far more prone to sudden bursts of violence. However, no matter how engrossing the main protagonist and first person narrator is in crime fiction, the dealbreaker has to be the plot and the unravelling of the murder mystery. And as far as that is concerned, Harris delivers the goods – while establishing Lily Bard as a sufficiently engrossing character to carry a series, she also provides us with an entertaining murder mystery. I didn’t guess the murderer until Lily solved the case, and the book was so satisfactorily wrapped up, Himself rushed out and ordered the rest of the books in the series. As a solid fan of her writing, I am delighted to have come across Lily Bard and her adventures and if you enjoy crime mysteries featuring spiky female protagonists, then give it a go – and whatever you do, don’t judge Charlaine Harris the writer by all the shenanigans that go on in True Blood.