Lily Bard appears in her second of the five mysteries set in the small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas. In the first book, Shakespeare's Landlord (read before I started this blog, so sorry, no review here!), the reader learns of the traumatic events that led to her move to Shakespeare, where she cleans houses for a living, spends lots of time at the gym, and keeps to herself. Those events are touched upon in this book, and while this is a stand-alone story, it is better understood if read after the first one.
The book opens with the murder: a young man goes into the gym to lift weights, and ends up dead. The reader knows it is murder, but Lily does not...yet...when she comes into the gym early the next morning and discovers the body. As disturbing as it is to find the victim, he is the third in series of unexplained, apparently unrelated deaths, one of which, at least, appears to be racially motivated. Lily grows increasingly upset as she witnesses increasing evidence of racial unrest in her small town and wonders if it can somehow be connected with this most recent death.
In her job as a cleaning woman, she tends to become aware of personal information about residents, and she keeps it to herself. However, as the unrest in her town grows, certain facts - such as guns under beds and mysterious bags - give her unsettling suspicions. To complicate matters, a handsome stranger in town seems to be popping up in all kinds of places. Before Lily realizes what's happening, she's experiencing feelings for him that she'd thought she'd safely locked away...
I always enjoy Charlaine Harris's books, and this one is no exception. The first in the series does an excellent job of introducing Lily, and in this one her character is further developed and explored. There is a nice mix of her personal life with the twists and turns of the murder mystery, and the darkness and horror of racial hate crimes is portrayed in a powerful way. Lily is a strong woman who has been overcome adversity without becoming bitter, an admirable heroine I look forward to spending more time with.
Books in the Lily Bard series:
1. Shakespeare's Landlord
2. Shakespeare's Champion
3. Shakespeare's Christmas
4. Shakespeare's Trollop
5. Shakespeare's Counselor
Shakespeare's Champion (#2 in the Lily Bard mystery series) by Charlaine Harris (St. Martin's Press, 1997)
Also reviewed at:
An Adventure in Reading: "This little series has piqued my interest again and has me reading a book not on any challenge list. Crazy times."
Enough to Read: "This was a good mystery with lots of twists - leaving both me and Lily guessing until the end."