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Shakespeare's Counselor : Lily Bard Series : Book 5 - Charlaine Harris

Shakespeare's Counselor

Lily Bard Series : Book 5

Paperback

Published: February 2005
For Ages: 18+ years old
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Cleaning woman and karate expert Lily Bard is a woman with a complicated past. Trying her best to cope with her terrifying memories and horrible nightmares, she decides to join a weekly group therapy session in her hometown of Shakespeare, Arkansas. At first, Lily can hardly believe the number of her fellow Shakespeareans that share her life experiences.

As it turns out, the group members' feelings aren't the only things that need sorting out — they assemble for a session and find a woman dead, killed in bone-chilling fashion and deliberately left on display to send a twisted message. Who would commit such horrendous crime, and who is the intended recipient of the message?

Before long, Lily becomes embroiled in this disturbing murder and its aftermath, one in which the brutal killer's motives are entirely unclear. The truth is, the situation has dredged up more than a few of her own terrible secrets, and she may not be able to rest until she can untangle the who and why of this terrible crime. But can she accomplish this before the killer strikes again, and before her nightmares send her over the edge? Shakespeare's Counselor is the most complex and absorbing installment yet in Charlaine Harris's engaging, original, and more than slightly dark mystery series.

About the Author

Charlaine Harris is the internationally bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse books, now the Emmy Award-winning TV series True Blood, as well as the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard mystery series. She lives in southern Arkansas with her family.

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Shakespeare's Counselor
 
4.0

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4.0

great holiday reading

By happy reader

from sydney

About Me Casual Reader

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Engaging Characters
  • Page Turner
  • Well Written

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Gift
    • Travel Reading

    Comments about Shakespeare's Counselor:

    This series is a gentle character driven murder mystery sent in the American heartland. It is easy to read and a fun way to pass free time. it is best read in order as the character develops across the series.

    Comment on this review

    Harris writes neatly and with assurance. ("New York Times Book Review") Lily Bard...[is] the equal of Kay Scarpetta, Kinsey Millhone, and V.I. Warshawski. ("Library Journal")

    Chapter One

    I connected with a hard blow to the nose, rolled on top of him, gripped his neck, and started to squeeze. After the pain, the unfathomable humiliation, this rage was completely pure and good. His hands gripped my wrists, struggled to pull my fingers away. He was making noises, hoarse and pleading, and I gradually realized he was saying my name.

    That wasn't part of the memory.

    And I wasn't back in that shack in the cotton fields. I was on a firm wide bed, not a sagging cot.

    "Lily! Stop!" The grip on my wrists increased.

    I wasn't in the right place—or rather, the wrong place.

    "Lily!"

    This wasn't the right man ... the wrong man.

    I released my grip and scrambled off the bed, backing into a corner of the bedroom. My breath was coming in ragged pants, and my heart thudded way too close to my ears.

    A light came on, blinding me for the moment. When I got used to the radiance, I realized with agonizing slowness that I was looking at Jack. Jack Leeds. Jack had blood streaming from his nose and red marks on his neck.

    I'd done that to him.

    I'd done my best to kill the man I loved.

    "I know you don't want to do this, but maybe it'll help," Jack was telling me, his voice altered by the swelling of his nose and throat.

    I tried very hard not to look sullen. I didn't want to go to any damn therapy group. I didn't like to talkabout myself, and wasn't that what therapy was for? On the other hand, and this was the decisive hand, I didn't want to hit Jack again, either.

    For one thing, hitting was a terrible insult to the one you loved.

    For another thing, eventually Jack would hit me back. Considering how strong he was, that was not an unimportant factor.

    So, later that morning, after Jack left to drive to Little Rock to talk to a client, I called the number on the flyer we'd seen at the grocery store. Printed on bright green paper, it had caught Jack's eye while I was buying stamps at the office booth at the front of the store.

    It read:

    HAVE YOU BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED?
    ARE YOU FEELING ALONE?
    CALL TODAY 237-7777
    ATTEND OUR THERAPY GROUP
    ALONE NO MORE!



    "Hartsfield County Health Center," said a woman's voice.

    I cleared my throat. "I'd like to find out about the therapy group for rape survivors," I said, in as level a voice as I could manage.

    "Of course," said the woman, her voice scrupulously neutral and so consciously nonjudgmental it made my teeth hurt. "The group meets Tuesday nights at eight, here at the center. You don't have to give me your name at this time. Just come in the end door, you know, the door that opens on the staff parking lot? You can park there, too."

    "All right," I said. I hesitated, then asked a crucial question. "How much is it?"

    "We got a grant to do this," she said. "It's free."

    My tax dollars at work. Somehow that made me feel better.

    "Can I tell Tamsin you'll be coming?" the woman asked. Definitely a local; I could tell by the number of syllables in "tell."

    "Let me think about it," I told her, suddenly frightened of taking a step that would undoubtedly add to my pain.

    Carol Althaus lived in the middle of chaos. I had dropped all but three of my customers, and I wished Carol had been one of them, but I'd had one of my rare moments of pity and kept her on. I was only cleaning Carol, the Winthrops, and the Drinkwaters, and Monday was the day I did all three. I went back to the Winthrops on Thursday, and I remained open for the odd errand or special cleaning job other days, but I was also working for Jack, so my schedule was complicated.

    Carol's chaos was of her own making, the way I saw it, but it was still chaos, and I like order.

    Carol's life had gone out of control when she'd married Jay Althaus, a divorced salesman with two sons. To Jay's credit, he had custody of his sons. To Jay's debit, he was on the road all the time, and though he may have loved Carol, who was anemically attractive, religious, and stupid, he also needed a live-in baby-sitter. So he married Carol, and despite all their previous experiences with the two boys, they had their own babies, two girls. I'd begun working for Carol when she was pregnant with the second girl, throwing up intermittently every day and sitting limply in a recliner the rest of the time. I'd kept all of the children for a day and a half, only once, when Jay had had a car wreck out of town.

    Probably these children were not demonic. Possibly, they were quite typical. But collectively, they were hell.

    And hard on a house, too.

    Carol needed me to come at least twice a week, for maybe six hours at a stretch. She could afford four hours a week, just barely. I gave Carol Althaus the best value for her money she would find anywhere.

    During the school year, it was nearly possible for Carol to cope. Heather and Dawn were still at home, only five and three years old, but the boys (Cody and Tyler) were in school. Summers were another kettle of fish.

    It was late June, so the kids had all been home for about three weeks. Carol had enrolled them in four Bible schools. The First Baptists and the Central Methodists had already completed their summer programs, and the house was even more littered with paper fish and bread glued to paper plates, sheep made from cotton balls and Popsicle sticks, and lopsided drawings of fishermen pulling in nets filled with people. Shakespeare Combined Church (a fundamentalist coalition) and the joint Episcopalian/Catholic Bible schools were yet to come.

    I entered with my own key to find Carol standing in the middle of the kitchen, trying to get the snarls out of Dawn's long curls. The little girl was wailing. She had on a nightgown with Winnie the Pooh on the front. She was wearing toy plastic high heels and she'd gotten into her mother's makeup.

    I surveyed the kitchen and began to gather dishes. When I reentered the kitchen a minute later, laden with dirty glasses and two plates that had been on the floor in the den, Carol was still standing in the middle of the floor, a quizzical expression on her face.

    "Good morning, Lily," she said, in a pointed way.

    "Hello, Carol."

    "Is something wrong?"

    "No." Why tell Carol? Would she be reassured about my well-being if I told her I'd tried to kill Jack the night before?

    "You could say hello when you come in," Carol said, that little smile still playing across her face. Dawn looked up at me with as much fascination as if I'd been a cobra. Her hair was still a mess. I could solve that with a pair of scissors and a brush in about five minutes, and I found the idea very tempting.

    "I'm sorry, I was thinking of other things," I told Carol politely. "Was there anything special you needed done today?"

    Carol shook her head, that faint smile still on her face. "Just the usual magic," she said wryly, and bent to Dawn's head again. As she worked the brush through the little girl's thick hair, the oldest boy dashed into the kitchen in his swimming trunks.

    "Mom, can I go swimming?" Carol's fair complexion and brown hair had been passed on to both the girls, but the boys favored, I supposed, their own mother: they were both freckle-faced and redheaded.

    "Where?" Carol asked, using a yellow elastic band to pull Dawn's hair up into a ponytail.

    "Tommy Sutton's. I was invited," Cody assured her. "I can walk there by myself, remember?" Cody was ten and Carol had given him a range of streets he could take by himself.

    "Okay. Be back in two hours."

    Tyler erupted into the kitchen roaring with rage. "That's not fair! I want to go swimming!"

    "Weren't invited," Cody sneered. "I was."

    "I know Tommy's brother! I could go!"

    As Carol laid down the law I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen counters. Tyler retreated to his room with a lot of door slamming and fuming. Dawn trotted off to play with her Duplos, and Carol left the room in such a hurry I wondered if she was ill. Heather appeared at my elbow to watch my every move.

    I am not much of a kid person. I don't like, or dislike, all children. I take it on an individual basis, as I do with adults. I very nearly liked Heather Althaus. She would be old enough for kindergarten in the fall, she had short, easy-to-deal-with hair since a drastic self-barbering job that had driven Carol to tears, and she tried to take care of herself. Heather eyed me solemnly, said "Hey, Miss Lily," and extricated a frozen waffle from the side-by-side. After popping it in the toaster, Heather got her own plate, fork, and knife and set them on the counter. Heather had on lime green shorts and a kingfisher blue shirt, not a happy combination, but she'd gotten dressed herself and I could respect that. In acknowledgment, I poured a glass of orange juice for her and set it on the table. Tyler and Dawn trotted through on their way out to the fenced-in backyard.

    For a comfortable time, Heather and I shared the kitchen silently. As she ate her waffle, Heather raised her feet one at a time when I swept, and moved her own chair when I mopped.

    When there was only a puddle of syrup on the plate, Heather said, "My mama's gonna have a baby. She says God will give us a little brother or a sister. She says we don't get to pick."

    I leaned on my mop for a moment and considered this news. It explained the unpleasant noises coming from the bathroom. I could not think of one single thing to say, so I nodded. Heather wriggled off the chair and ran to the switch to turn on the overhead fan to dry the floor quickly, as I always did.

    "It's true the baby won't come for a long time?" the little girl asked me.

    "That's true," I said.

    "Tyler says Mama's tummy will get real big like a watermelon."

    "That's true, too."

    "Will they have to cut her open with a knife, like Daddy does the watermelon?"

    "No." I hoped I wasn't lying. "She won't pop, either," I added, just to cover another anxiety.

    "How will the baby get out?"

    "Moms like to explain that in their own way," I said, after I'd thought a little. I would rather have answered her matter-of-factly, but I didn't want to usurp Carol's role.

    Through the sliding glass doors to the backyard (doors that were perpetually decorated with handprints) I could see that Dawn had carried her Duplos into the sandbox. They'd have to be washed off. Tyler was firing the soft projectiles of some Nerf weapon in the general direction of a discarded plastic soda bottle he'd filled with water. The two seemed to be fine, and I couldn't see any danger actually lurking. I reminded myself to check again in five minutes, since Carol was definitely indisposed.

    With Heather at my heels, I went to the room she shared with her sister and began to change the sheets. I figured that any second, Heather would exhaust her attention span and go find something else to do. But instead, Heather sat on a child-sized Fisher-Price chair and observed me with close attention.

    "You don't look crazy," she told me.

    I stopped pulling the flat sheet straight and glanced over my shoulder at the little girl.

    "I'm not," I said, my voice flat and final.

    It would be hard to pin down exactly why this hurt me, but it did. What a senseless thing to waste emotion on, the repetition by a child of something she'd apparently heard adults say.

    "So why do you walk by yourself at night? Isn't that a scary thing to do? Only ghosts and monsters are out at night."

    My first response was that I myself was scarier than any ghost or monster. But that would hardly be reassuring to a little girl, and already other ideas were flickering through my head.

    "I'm not afraid at night," I said, which was close to the truth. I was not any more afraid at night than I was in the daytime, for sure.

    "So you do it to show them you're not afraid?" Heather asked.

    The same wrenching pain filled me that I'd felt when I saw Jack's bloody nose. I straightened, dirty sheets in a bundle in my arms, and looked down at the little girl for a long moment.

    "Yes," I said. "That's exactly why I do it."

    I knew then and there that I would be at the therapy session the next night. It was time.

    For now, I taught Heather how to make hospital folds.
    Charlaine Harris

    Charlaine Harris has been a published novelist for over twenty-five years. A native of the Mississippi Delta, she grew up in the middle of a cotton field. Now she lives in southern Arkansas with her husband, her three children, three dogs, and a duck. The duck stays outside.

    Though her early output consisted largely of ghost stories, by the time she hit college (Rhodes, in Memphis) Charlaine was writing poetry and plays. After holding down some low-level jobs, she had the opportunity to stay home and write, and the resulting two stand-alones were published by Houghton Mifflin. After a child-producing sabbatical, Charlaine latched on to the trend of writing mystery series, and soon had her own traditional books about a Georgia librarian, Aurora Teagarden. Her first Teagarden, Real Murders, garnered an Agatha nomination.

    Soon Charlaine was looking for another challenge, and the result was the much darker Lily Bard series. The books, set in Shakespeare, Arkansas, feature a heroine who has survived a terrible attack and is learning to live with its consequences.

    When Charlaine began to realize that neither of those series was ever going to set the literary world on fire, she regrouped and decided to write the book she’d always wanted to write. Not a traditional mystery, nor yet pure science fiction or romance, Dead Until Dark broke genre boundaries to appeal to a wide audience of people who just enjoy a good adventure. Each subsequent book about Sookie Stackhouse, telepathic Louisiana barmaid and friend to vampires, werewolves, and various other odd creatures, has drawn more readers. The southern vampire books are published in Japan, Great Britain, Greece, Germany, Thailand, Spain, France, and Russia.

    In addition to Sookie, Charlaine has another heroine with a strange ability. Harper Connelly, lightning-struck and strange, can find corpses . . . and that’s how she makes her living.

    In addition to her work as a writer, Charlaine is the past senior warden of St. James Episcopal Church, a board member of Mystery Writers of America, a past board member of Sisters in Crime, a member of the American Crime Writers League, and past president of the Arkansas Mystery Writers Alliance. She spends her “spare” time reading, watching her daughter play sports, travelling, and going to the movies.

    Visit Charlaine Harris's Booktopia Author Page


    ISBN: 9780425201145
    ISBN-10: 0425201147
    Series: Lily Bard Mysteries (Paperback)
    Audience: General
    For Ages: 18+ years old
    Format: Paperback
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 256
    Published: February 2005
    Dimensions (cm): 17.4 x 10.9  x 1.8
    Weight (kg): 0.12