Before the Sookie Stackhouse series, which are now better-known as HBO TV show True Blood, Charlaine Harris wrote about the adventures of two other heroines; Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard. Now that the Sookie Stackhouse novels have come to an end, Harris’ previous books are being re-released in the UK starting with the first instalment of the Lily Bard series Shakespeare’s Landlord.
Originally published in the US in 1996, Shakespeare’s Landlord was published for the first time here in the UK in 2011. The series started mid-way through Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series and lasted for a total of five books coming to a close in 2001 just as the Sookie Stackhouse series began. Shakespeare’s Landlord introduces us to Lily Bard, a young woman who moves to the town of Shakespeare, Akansas to escape from her dark and violent past. Mostly keeping herself to herself, Lily passes her time as a cleaner to the neighbouring apartments in her block and attends regular martial arts classes. One night she spots a body being dumped in the town park and she tries her hardest to stay out of the investigation. Unfortunately for Lily the police and her neighbours start to point the finger at her and her secret past threatens to be revealed.
The first thing to note about Lily Bard is that she doesn’t possess any supernatural powers like Harris’ most famous creation Sookie Stackhouse. Instead she’s an unassuming girl with a dark past that almost took away her future. She’s an easier character to relate to than Sookie and she’s also a character that readers can sympathise with. In Shakespeare’s Landlord she tries so hard to stay out of the murder investigation and tries to cover up the fact that she saw anything or checked the body to see if the victim was still alive. Obviously this grossly backfires and Lily has to turn investigator so that she doesn’t get framed for the murder.
Whilst helping police chief Claude Freidrich, Lily finds herself targeted by someone who is putting reminders of her past in public places. Is it possible that the killer knows all about Lily’s past? We couldn’t possibly say so you’ll have to read the book if you want to find out. What we can say is that the two storylines work together to take the book to its conclusion and will keep you guessing until the final pages.
It’s clear from reading Shakespeare’s Landlord that Harris was beginning to perfect her craft and becoming a strong crime/mystery writer. There are elements in the book that can be seen as influences for the Sookie Stackhouse series that followed. Lily, like Sookie, is a strong independent women who can’t help but get herself into trouble. Fans of Harris’ will know that the author likes to pepper her work with some rather bold sex scenes and she does that here too. Harris is definitely a master in being able to keep you turning the pages without giving too much away about the killer.#
Shakespeare’s Landlord isn’t a perfect book by any means but it’s an enjoyable read. Part of the problem we had with it is that the finale seemed to be over and done with very quickly. After a great build-up and some genuinely intriguing clues throughout, the end was a bit of a let-down. Having said that though we enjoyed it enough to want to pick up its sequel Shakespeare’s Champion and continue on with Lily’s adventures. If you’ve read the Sookie Stackhouse books then you should give Lily Bard a try. We think you might like her.