This is the fifth and last book of Harris’s series taking place in Shakespeare, Arkansas and featuring Lily Bard.
Four years previously, Lily was the victim of a vicious knifing and gang rape attack. Now she is married, but she still hasn’t come to grips with the fear and pain. Her husband Jack suggests she see a rape counselor, and she reluctantly joins a group in town led by Tamsin Lynd.
It soon turns out that Lynd herself is being victimized by a dangerous stalker, and when the bodies start piling up, the past traumas of all of the women in the group bubble to the surface.
Discussion: This book, in the guise of a cozy mystery, is actually an excellent exploration of the problems of women and violence. In the rape counseling group, the women discuss all the pertinent issues that commonly are debated, such as who is to blame:
“The problem of responsibility was a knotty one. Women dress provocatively to attract sexual attention and admiration, because that’s gratifying. I believed that very few women would wear a push-up bra, a low-cut blouse, high heels, tight skirts, if they were going to stay home working on the computer, for example. But sexual attention does not equate with rape. I knew of no woman who would walk out the door for an evening of barhopping with the idea that maybe she would enjoy being forced at knifepoint to give a blow job to a stranger. And very few women walked alone at night hoping a man would offer them a choice between sex and strangulation.”
Two of the women in the group had actually killed their assailants. One had no regrets whatsoever, and one wondered whether God would have preferred that she die herself rather than commit murder.
They discuss how women can overcome violence and keep themselves safe. Not all the women in the group agree on all issues, enabling Harris to present multiple viewpoints.
Still, this isn’t just a dark story. Harris comes through with her typical brand of understated humor:
Tamsin: “Okay, while I was in there, I dropped everything. I spilled all my papers from my notebook and knocked my pop over.”
Lily: “After a brief vision of Tamsin pushing down an old man with white hair, I realized she meant she’d spilled a soft drink. Maybe it was a northern or Midwestern thing?
Evaluation: Have I said lately how much I love Charlaine Harris? Her books are quick reads, but always worth the time, in my opinion.
Published by Minotaur Books, 2001