One of the things that I admire about Charlaine Harris is her willingness to follow the growth of her, usually broken or stigmatized, main characters, even when the venture into politically incorrect territory.
I’ve seen reviews of previous books in which Harris is criticised because Lily Bard, a survivor of a vicious gang rape, saw the promiscuity of, Deedra Dean, one of her customers, as a lack of self-respect. Lily cannot understand why Deedra would put herself at risk just to have sex with men that she does not care about. This raised a red flag for some readers. How dare Lily judge this woman!
Yet the point of this series of books is to get inside the head of Lily Bard as she does what she can to rebuild her life. Lily’s impatience with Deedra speaks more to her own need for security and her lack of trust in men than it does to any moral condemnation of Deedra’s behaviour.
This book starts with Lily discovering Deedra Dean’s body in a car in the woods, apparently the victim of one the many men she had sex with. Part of the power of this series is that Lily grows and changes with every book. Lily is not as locked away emotionally as she was in book one. Her reaction to Deedra’s death, which she cannot get out of her mind, shows that while she still cannot grasp why Deedra behaved with such little self-regard, she cannot abide the idea of her being killed for it. This unwillingness to accept that Deedra “got what she deserved” eventually leads Lily to unravel what really happened to Deedra.
Along the way we also see how Lily deals with people who treat her badly (a sleazy man in his nineties, too used to getting his own way and too lascivious for polite company) or who suspect her honest (a Deputy Police Chief who sees her as perpetrator, not rescuer) and see that, although she has grown strong enough to withstand these people, she still behaves honourably towards them.
We also see that Lily has built a home for herself in Shakespeare. She has friends and people who respect her. She is no longer the invisible person she used to want to be.
The plot has enough twists and turns to be interesting and picks up on characters and storyline from previous books in a consistent way but, ultimately, it felt a little too elaborate for me.
I enjoyed the book, not so much for the plot, as for the opportunity to spend more time with Lily and see who she is becoming.
Although I found this to be the weakest of the Lily Bard books so far, it is still a good read, well-written, thought-provoking and intimate.