The Lily Bard Mysteries Omnibus: Book review
Reviewed by tvnz.co.nz's Mira Bradshaw
Trouble seems to stalk Lily Bard, who can't go anywhere without discovering a dead body. Lily has a traumatic past that has changed her irrevocably, resulting in her moving to a new town and changing her appearance and lifestyle. After four (presumably quiet) years, Lily's independent and somewhat isolated life is disrupted by the first of the many murders she encounters.
Lily inevitably becomes drawn in to each of the murders and her investigations are recounted in a series of books known as The Lily Bard Mysteries. The books are set in Shakespeare, a fictitious small town in Arkansas, in the mid to late nineties, which is around the time they were first published. This omnibus edition collects all five Lily Bard novels in a single volume.
When the first novel opens, Lily witnesses the dumping of a dead body, but she is reluctant to talk to the police. However, when Lily's troubled history makes her a suspect, she is forced to engage with the community in order to investigate.
All of the novels follow a similar format with the early discovery of a corpse and the subsequent murder investigation. Over the course of the series, Lily becomes part of the Shakespeare community and eventually she confronts her past. By the third book she is travelling back to her hometown to attend her sister's wedding and reconcile with her estranged family and by the end of the series she is attending a therapy group.
The Lily Bard Mysteries were penned by Charlaine Harris and have a similar feel to her other works. Fans of Harris' previous series - like the Sookie Stackhouse series and The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries - are likely to enjoy Lily Bard.
Once again, Harris has created an interesting protagonist. Lily is a damaged person, whose new life is dominated by cleaning (her new career) and working out with a particular focus on martial arts. Initially, Lily's personality makes the books a little dull. Her prickly demeanour and isolated life means that this omnibus has a slow start. But once the stories get going, things get interesting very quickly.
The novels focus on Lily's personal life and her evolution is both realistic and engaging. It's refreshing to read a whodunit where the main character is a trained fighter able to physically overcome foolish assailants (and just as pleasing that this doesn't help her much when her attacker has a gun).
Lily's personal journey makes this series more than just a set of murder mysteries. These novels also explore substantial issues with a particular focus on racism and sexual abuse. Although Harris deals with complex issues fairly well, I found that some of the attitudes dated the books a little. Of course, the fact that it is set in Arkansas may have also been a contributing factor.
As an omnibus collecting five novels, this book is large (935 pages in a large format). Although it is bulky and heavy, Lily's progression is one complete story and reading it as such is rewarding. I enjoyed Lily's story and I'm sure others who have enjoyed Harris' previous works will as well.
The Lily Bard Mysteries Omnibus, by Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Hachette (Orion)