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SHAKESPEARE'S TROLLOP
by Charlaine Harris
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2004
208 pages
$5.99
ISBN: 0425196992


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Lily Bard is not really surprised when she finds the body of her neighbor, Deedra Dean. "Deedra's was a shake-your-head death -- not entirely unanticipated, within the realm of possibility. Since Deedra had been in her twenties, the mere fact that she was dead should have been shocking, but there again . . . it wasn't." The obvious assumption, supported by the scene of the crime and the manner of her death, was that Deedra was killed by one of her numerous sexual partners. The only line that Deedra apparently wouldn't cross was that of marriage; she didn't knowingly have sex with married men.

Lily comes under suspicion briefly, when it is discovered that Deedra was killed by a sharp blow to the chest, similar to a karate strike. But there are many other people in Shakespeare with both the training and the strength to deliver such a blow, and quite a few of them had been, at one time or another, intimate with Deedra.

While the investigation into Deedra's death is ongoing, Lily saves the life of one of her clients, Joe C Prader, when his house is set on fire. Joe C is in his 90s, and not a nice old man. He is Deedra's great-grandfather, which may or may not be relevant to Deedra's death, since he left most of his estate to his great-grandchildren, by-passing all the relatives in between, including the grand-daughter who has taken care of him for the last, long 15 years. She is more than a little upset when she finds out the contents of his will.

Lily has lost some clients recently, which has put her in that tenuous area of financial difficulty between scraping by and not quite making ends meet. She is finally getting comfortable in Shakespeare, Arkansas, and doesn't want to leave. Her relationship with Jack is getting to that point where somebody will probably have to move, and she doesn't know if Jack is ready or willing or able to move to Shakespeare from Little Rock.

And something about Deedra's death really bothers Lily. Not any one big something, but a lot of little somethings. Where is the TV Guide, which is always in the drawer in the living room table? What happened to Deedra's purse, and her spare apartment key? Why were Deedra's clothes, including the string of pearls from her father, strewn about the crime scene? For reasons not quite clear to Lily, it is important to her to find out what really happened and why.

This is book number four in the Shakespeare/Lily Bard series. I suspect that reading the series in order would bring some depth to the characters, explain some history briefly alluded to but not relevant to this story. I didn't feel I was missing anything of great importance by reading this book first. Harris is very skillful at bringing in pertinent details without bogging the reader down in ancient history. Her ability to convey the insularity, the family histories and the gossipyness of a small Southern town without making it all sound stereotypically stupid is a testament to her skill as a writer and storyteller.

If you like books about small Southern towns, about the way family histories affect what happens today, about why people do the things they do, then you will probably enjoy the Shakespeare series and Lily Bard. She is a complex, strong female trying to make herself comfortable when that's not a place she'd ever thought she'd find herself in again.

I have already gone to my library and requested the previous three books -- SHAKESPEARE'S LANDLORD, SHAKESPEARE'S CHAMPION, and SHAKESPEARE'S CHRISTMAS. I look forward to reading them, and to searching out other Charlaine Harris works. She writes two other series. One features Aurora Teagarden, librarian-turned-real estate agent in Lawrenceton, Georgia; the other Sookie Stackhouse, a cocktail waitress and her vampire boyfriend, Bill, in small-town Louisiana.

Reviewed by P. J. Coldren, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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