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Shakespeare's Christmas - Charlaine Harris

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      10.03.2013 11:08
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      Disappointing thriller

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      After living for several years in the small town Shakespeare Lilly Bard has to return to her former home for her younger sisters wedding. Lilly is dreading going back because she has a happy and settled life as a cleaning lady and she knows going back will remind everyone of her sad history. And Bartley is a town where the people never will forget the ordeal Lilly went through.

      Despite the wedding being on Christmas Eve, she still hopes to return to Shakespeare on Christmas Day and spend the rest of the holiday with her boyfriend Jack. However, not only has she got to deal with the wedding, her family and her past she also gets involved in an eight year old mystery. And when the Doctor and Nurse are both murdered in the clinic she was visiting with her sister Lilly cannot stand by quietly and wait to see what happens. She must try and resolve it before her little sisters big day.

      ==My thought of the novel:==

      I thought this was quite an ordinary thriller and for me anyway it was quite a disappointment. I struggled to find anything within the storyline of interest. To start with we had the wedding that Lily neither felt part of or really wanted to be at and I found this negativity was transported to me as I found this a story that never interested me. Added to which I found the mystery itself quite dull and slow. Maybe that had something to do with the fact it was an eight years old but I never felt involved or enjoyed it like I usually do.

      This is quite a unique situation for me as I rate Charlaine Harris as a very good author. While her early series didn't particularly impress me, I loved the Sookie Stackhouse stories that have been a real international best-seller for her and even successfully transferred to television in the 'True Blood' series. With this story being the third of five within the Lily Bard series and was first published in 1998. Yet I have read two others within this particular series and found them enjoyable, maybe I was having a bad day when I read it. Although I think it has more to do with the fact I have recently read several long twisting mysteries and this by contrast seemed to lack depth and detail.

      However that is the odd thing having read a few long complex stories I fancied something shorter but still something I thought I would enjoy so I selected this one. All these stories in this series involve the same Shakespeare in the title, with this being the lead characters adopted home, but maybe with her spending most of the book away from the place it was probably not the most appropriate one. And while there were plenty of references to the Christmas time of year it was more about Lilly's younger sister getting married.

      Yet before I purchased the book I had high hopes for it especially after reading the interesting summary of the story on the rear of it. Admittedly it was only two paragraphs long but for me it captured a flavour of Lilly's concerns about returning to her former home. Added to which it talked about the double murder that she practically witnessed on the Doctors surgery it had all the hall marks of what I thought would be an exciting read.

      When I started reading the story I found it very slow and it was not helped by the long chapters. And while I was very interested to see how Lilly got on when she returned to see her parents and her sister, I was disappointed that there was no new revelation about her past. I don't mean that in a nasty way at all I just hoped there would be something that brought them all together. But that never happened and Lilly was still the loner and felt somehow she did not belong with them any longer.

      Indeed the story had meandered along until at last a quarter of the way through something exciting happened. I kept thinking his would be the spark that ignited the story but instead Lilly went back in the main to helping with her sister's wedding preparations. And while the story was very easy to read and the pages did fly past I still did not feel challenged by the story. That is not to say that I knew or thought I knew the answer to the mystery because I did not. I just felt there was not enough detail or depth behind the story for me to want to try and solve it.

      In truth had it not been for the wonderful character of Lilly Bard I may well have just given this one up as a bad lot. I think she is a great character because she is so different from most amateur sleuths. Firstly is she horrendous past that she some how survived, but also because she has a different attitude and is down to earth with her capabilities. I really enjoy learning more about her in every book I read and I think to give the author due credit she understands and is able to put Lilly's thoughts across to the reader really well. As a result she is a compelling character and one you cannot fail to like and admire as she often seems so vulnerable.

      It was just a shame she was not supported better by the array of support characters who were frankly disappointing. I think part of the problem was the lack of depth the author had put upon them. As a result I struggled to remember who was who and what bearing they had on the story. And while you could add this created more suspense around them I would argue it was hard to feel any suspense for a character you knew hardly anything about. So for me one of the biggest problems and I have thought this previously even with the Sookie Stackhouse stories is the author does not spend long enough setting the scene, helping the reader learn about the characters.

      Despite all this the story did burst into life in the last twenty pages or so, so at least it had an exciting ending. Although I felt at that stage anyone could have been the guilty party as there seemed to little in the way of evidence against the guilty party. At least it left me with a warm feeling because it was action packed. And while it all happened quickly I would have also liked some kind of epilogue as it felt like nothing had changed for Lilly with her family and the big day of the wedding was hardly mentioned.

      I think if this was the first I had read in this series I wouldn't have read any others in the series. For me the story needed to be longer to do justice to it, it needed more depth and the characters definitely with the exception of Lilly Bard needed more personality. Maybe this book is more suitable as a light read as it is not too difficult to follow and I can imagine it being popular at holiday times as it will not tax the reader unduly.

      ==Conclusion:==

      I do not feel overall this is a piece of fiction that I can recommend. For me it was a poor crime thriller because it lacked the necessary depth within it. And while the original concept of the heroine returning home to her past was a good one, I do not think the author did it justice. On the positive side Lilly Bard is an amazing lead character and one I love to read and learn all about, I just felt the story was too weak even for her to work her magic on and make fascinating.

      ==Other Information:==

      Paperback edition:

      Pages: 224
      Price 5.59
      Publisher: Gollywog
      ISBN-10: 0575105291
      ISBN-13: 978-0575105294
      Year first published: 1998

      Thanks for reading my review.

      This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.

      © CPTDANIELS March 2013.

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