Shakespeare’s Champion (Lily Bard #2)
Lily Bard has started over in the quiet town of Shakespeare, Arkansas, as a cleaning lady. One who works out her anger and the pain of her past in a martial arts class. For Lily, the gym is a place to get away from her troubles, not find more of them. But when she stumbles on the corpse of a local bodybuilder, his neck broken with a barbell, the town's underlying racial tensions begin to boil over. The white victim was connected to two unsolved murders of black residents in Shakespeare, and a dogged policeman is determined to stop the killing. Lily may have to decide whether to stay and fight for justice, or run away one more time.
For some reason I was convinced this was a cosy mystery series – and I really couldn’t be more wrong! There is violence of the extremes in Lily’s world with this book alone including death by beating, bombings, and racist extremists. Not that any of this is done badly, but it helps if you approach these books as a small town mystery/thriller rather than a cosy story. With this in mind it is an extremely competent mystery which starts for us with a death in Lily’s gym and ends in a big shoot out.
The writing is easy to relax into even if some of the events are not easy to read about. The town is boiling on the brink of social unrest between the black and white communities. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a city girl, or British but I find that kind of unrest in a small town difficult to understand in this day and age - I would hope that type of tension is less frequent these days (the book was originally written in 1997)!
Lily is still the same self contained survivor we met in Shakespeare’s Landlord but she seems to be forging friendships with other better even if opening up entirely isn’t easy for her. Her relationship with the local doctor, Carrie gives her some nice female friendship as otherwise Lily is surrounded by guys. A new love interest is introduced who has as much history and baggage as Lily so it will be interesting to see how this is balanced in the long term. Lily still isn’t the warmest of heroines and she likes to keep herself to herself, even in her own book, but she is constantly surprising and she is growing on me.
The murder mystery was intriguing and I have to confess I didn’t guess what was going on until near the end. This was a very good book that breaks expectations (or mine at least!) and entertained me throughout – and what more can you ask from a book?
Recommended for fans of Nora Roberts and Dean Koontz. 8 out of 10