Shakespeare's Christmas (Lily Bard Series #3)

( 162 )


Lily Bard heads home for the holidays.

Lily heads to her hometown of Bartley for her estranged sister's Christmas Eve wedding. But there is something in the air besides holiday cheer-there's murder. And Lily must work fast to clean up the messy case before her sister promises to love, honor, and obey a killer.

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Shakespeare's Christmas (Lily Bard Series #3)

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Lily Bard heads home for the holidays.

Lily heads to her hometown of Bartley for her estranged sister's Christmas Eve wedding. But there is something in the air besides holiday cheer-there's murder. And Lily must work fast to clean up the messy case before her sister promises to love, honor, and obey a killer.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fresher, more unusual, than any other mystery I've read lately."
The Washington Post Book World

"This one works on every level. The writing and plotting are first-rate."
The Washington Times

"A seamless story...In her Lily Bard novels, Charlaine Harris blends a noirish atmosphere with a traditional mystery."
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Harris, author of the Aurora Teagarden cozies, adds a touch of grit to her books featuring briskly efficient, 31-year-old Arkansas cleaning lady Lily Bard. Lily hides a traumatic past under a prickly exterior, but, in the series' third book (after Shakespeare's Champion, 1997), this karate expert lowers her defenses just long enough to reconcile with her family and help solve a series of grisly murders. Returning to her home town of Bartley (a stone's throw from her residence in Shakespeare, Ark.) for her sister Varena's wedding, Lily is plunged headlong into an eight-year-old kidnapping investigation after her lover and confidant, Jack Leeds, a PI with a questionable past, arrives to follow up an anonymous tip that the kidnapper and the missing girl are both in Bartley. When the town's beloved family practitioner, his nurse and a young mother are bludgeoned to death, suspicion falls on Varena's fiance--a widower who just happens to have an eight-year-old daughter. The investigation intensifies, and Lily uses her family connections and her impeccable cleaning skills to ferret out some crucial information. Harris tells a forceful story with a complex, flawed heroine who is wary of emotional attachments. The denizens of Bartley--the shrewd sheriff; old high-school classmates with long memories; Lily's loving but overprotective parents--form a memorable gallery of secondary characters. Harris's blend of cozy style with more hard-boiled elements isn't always smooth, but it's interesting to see her working toward a deeper complexity. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Returning home for her sister's Christmas wedding, Lily Bard--cleaning woman, karate expert, and amateur sleuth--finds more than just mistletoe: two murders and a four-year-old unsolved kidnapping. [See review on p. 128.--Ed.]
Kirkus Reviews
But it's neither Shakespeare nor Christmas, actually, since Lily Bard, the most formidable cleaning woman in Shakespeare, Ark., leaves her adopted hometown in the opening chapter to return to her family's queasy bosom in Bartley for her sister Varena's wedding, a Christmas Eve affair that's bound to upstage the usual round of holiday festivities. What it doesn't upstage is a long-unsolved kidnaping—-the snatching of newborn Summer Dawn Macklesby from her family's porch eight years before, a crime that springs to alarming life again courtesy of an anonymously donated newspaper clipping announcing that Summer Dawn is one of the three eight-year-olds pictured. The candidates: Varena's next-door neighbor Eve Osborn, her minister's daughter Krista O'Shea, and Anna Kingery, daughter of Varena's intended. Lily, who's herself the survivor of a brutal abduction and would rather be working than socializing anyway, isn't about to back down from this challenge, particularly after she and Varena stumble on the bodies of Dr. Dave LeMay and his nurse Binnie Armstrong—-a powerful reminder that the Macklesby kidnaping has yet to be laid to rest. The detection is routine (Lily snoops around as she cleans the suspects' houses), and bucolic Bartley is no Shakespeare. Only Lily herself, in full attack mode, carries the day. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425224977
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/4/2008
  • Series: Lily Bard Series, #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 146,683
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is the author of two other books in the Lily Bard mystery series, Shakespeare's Landlord and Shakespeare's Champion. She is also the author of five books featuring amateur sleuth Aurora Teagarden. In between writing, chatting with her fans on the Internet, and taking care of three young children, she studies karate. She lives with her family in Magnolia, Arkansas.
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    1. Hometown:
      Southern Arkansas
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 25, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tunica, Mississippi
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English and Communication Arts, Rhodes, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

My situation was as surreal as one of those slo-mo nightmares Hollywood uses to pad B movies.

I was sitting in the bed of a moving Dodge Ram pickup. I was enthroned on a wobbly plastic lawn chair, thinly disguised by a red plush couch throw edged with fringe. A crowd lined both sides of the street, waving and yelling. From time to time, I dipped my hand into the white plastic bucket settled on my lap, coming up with a fistful of candy to pitch to the spectators.

Though I was clothed, which I understand is not the case in many dreams, clothes were hardly typical. I was wearing a red Santa hat with a big white ball on the end, bright new green sweats, and I had a disgusting artificial holly corsage pinned to my chest. I was trying to smile.

Spotting a familiar face in the crowd, a face pasted with an unconcealed smirk, I pitched the next peppermint with deliberate accuracy. It smacked my neighbor, Carlton Cockroft, right in the middle of the chest, wiping off that smirk for at least a second.

The pickup paused, continuing a familiar and irritating pattern that had begun minutes after the parade had started lurching down Main Street. One of the bands ahead of us had stopped to blare out a Christmas song, and I had to smile and wave at the same damn people over and over until the song was finished.

My face hurt.

At least in the green sweats, with a layer of thermal underwear underneath, I was fairly warm, which was more than I could say for the girls who had enthusiastically agreed to ride on the Body Time float directly ahead. They also were wearing Santa hats, but below the hats they wore only scanty exercise outfits, since at their age making an impact was more important than staying comfortable and healthy.

"How you doing back there?" Raphael Roundtree called, leaning out of the pickup window to give me an inquiring glance.

I glared back at him. Raphael was wearing a coat, scarf, and gloves, and the heat in the cab of the truck was turned on full blast. His round brown face looked plain old smug.

"Just fine," I said ferociously.

"Lily, Lily, Lily," he said, shaking his head. "Slap that smile back on, girl. You're gonna scare customers away, rather than pick some up."

I cast my gaze to heaven to indicate I was asking for patience. But instead of a clear gray sky, I found myself staring at tacky fake greenery strung across the street. Everywhere I looked, the trappings of the season had taken over. Shakespeare doesn't have a lot of money for Christmas decorations, so I'd seen the same ones every holiday in the four-plus years I'd spent in this little Arkansas town. Every alternate streetlight had a big candle suspended on a curved "candleholder." The other streelights sported bells.

The town's seasonal centerpiece (since the manger scene had to be removed) was a huge Christmas tree on the courthouse lawn; the churches sponsored a big public party to decorate it. In consequence, it looked very homey rather than elegant—typical of Shakespeare, come to think of it. Once we passed the courthouse, the parade would be nearly over.

There was a little tree in the pickup bed with me, but it was artificial. I'd decorated it with gold stiffened ribbon, gold ornaments, and gold and white artificial flowers. A discreet sign attached to it read, TREE DECORATING DONE BY APPOINTMENT. BUSINESSES AND HOMES. This new service I was providing was definitely designed for people who'd opted for elegance.

The banners on the sides of the pickup read, SHAKESPEARE'S CLEANING AND ERRANDS, followed by my phone number. Since Carlton, my accountant, had advised it so strongly, I had finally made myself a business. Carlton further advised me to begin to establish a public presence, very much against my own inclinations.

So here I was in the damn Christmas parade.

"Smile!" called Janet Shook, who was marching in place right behind the pickup. She made a face at me, then turned to the forty or so kids following her and said, "Okay, kids! Let's Shakespearecise!" The children, amazingly, did not throw up, maybe because none of them was over ten. They all attended the town-sponsored "Safe After School" program that employed Janet, and they seemed happy to obey her. They all began to do jumping jacks.

I envied them. Despite my insulation, sitting still was taking its toll. Though Shakespeare has very mild winters as a rule, today was the coldest temperature for Christmas parade day in seven years, the local radio station had informed us.

Janet's kids looked red-cheeked and sparkly eyed, and so did Janet. The jumping jacks had turned into a kind of dance. At least, I guessed it was. I am not exactly tuned in to popular culture.

I was still stretching my lips up to smile at the surrounding faces, but it was a real strain. Relief overwhelmed me as the truck began moving again. I started tossing candy and waving.

This was hell. But unlike hell, it was finite. Eventually, the candy bucket was empty and the parade had reached its endpoint, the parking lot of Superette Grocery. Raphael and his oldest son helped me take the tree back to the travel agent's office for whom I'd decorated it, and they carted the plastic chair back to their own backyard. I'd thanked Raphael and paid him for his gas and time, though he'd protested.

"It was worth it just to see you smile that long. Your face is gonna be sore tomorrow," Raphael said gleefully.

What became of the red plush throw I don't know and don't want to know.

Jack was not exactly sympathetic when he called me from Little Rock that night. In fact, he laughed.
"Did anyone film this parade?" he asked, gasping with the end convulsions of his mirth.

"I hope not."

"Come on, Lily, loosen up," he said. I could still hear the humor in his voice. "What are you doing this holiday?"

This seemed like a touchy question to me. Jack Leeds and I had been seeing each other for about seven weeks. We were too new to take it for granted that we'd be spending Christmas together, and too unsure to have had any frank discussion about making arrangements.

"I have to go home," I said flatly. "To Bartley."

A long silence.

"How do you feel about that?" Jack asked cautiously.

I steeled myself to be honest. Frank. Open. "I have to go to my sister Varena's wedding. I'm a bridesmaid."

Now he didn't laugh.

"How long has it been since you saw your folks?" he asked.

It was strange that I didn't know the answer. "I guess maybe . . . six months? Eight? I met them in Little Rock one day . . . around Easter. It's years since I've seen Varena."

"And you don't want to go now?"

"No," I said, relieved to be able to speak the truth. When I'd been arranging my week off work, after my employers got over the shock of my asking, they'd been almost universally delighted to hear that I was going to my sister's wedding. They couldn't tell me fast enough that it was fine for me to miss a week. They'd asked about my sister's age (twenty-eight, younger than me by three years), her fiancé (a pharmacist, widowed, with a little daughter), and what I was going to wear in the wedding. (I didn't know. I'd sent Varena some money and my size when she said she'd settled on bridesmaids' dresses, but I hadn't seen her selection.)

"So when can I see you?" Jack asked.

I felt a warm trickle of relief. I was never sure what was going to happen next with us. It seemed possible to me that someday Jack wouldn't call at all.

"I'll be in Bartley all the week before Christmas," I said. "I was planning on getting back to my house by Christmas Day."

"Miss having Christmas at home?" I could feel Jack's surprise echoing over the telephone line.

"I will be home—here—for Christmas," I said sharply. "What about you?"

"I don't have any plans. My brother and his wife asked me, but they didn't sound real sincere, if you know what I mean." Jack's parents had both died within the past four years.

"You want to come here?" My face tensed with anxiety as I waited to hear his answer.

"Sure," he said, and his voice was so gentle I knew he could tell how much it had cost me to ask. "Will you put up mistletoe? Everywhere?"

"Maybe," I said, trying not to sound as relieved as I was, or as happy as I felt. I bit my lip, suppressing a lot of things. "Do you want have a real Christmas dinner?"

"Turkey?" he said hopefully. "Cornbread dressing?"

"I can do that."

"Cranberry sauce?"

"English peas?"

"Spinach Madeleine," I countered.

"Sounds good. What can I bring?"

"Wine." I seldom drank alcohol, but I thought with Jack around a drink or two might be all right.

"OK. If you think of anything else, give me a call. I've got some work to finish up here within the next week, then I have a meeting about a job I might take on. So I may not get down there until Christmas."

"Actually, I have a lot to do right now, too. Everyone's trying to get extra cleaning done, giving Christmas parties, putting up trees in their offices."

It was just over three weeks until Christmas. That was a long time to spend without seeing Jack. Even though I knew I was going to be working hard the entire period, since I counted going home to the wedding as a sort of subcategory of work, I felt a sharp pang at the thought of three weeks' separation.

"That seems like a long time," he said suddenly.


Having admitted that, both of us backed hastily away.

"Well, I'll be calling you," Jack said briskly.

He'd be sprawled on the couch in his apartment in Little Rock as he talked on the phone. His thick dark hair would be pulled back in a ponytail. The cold weather would have made the scar on his face stand out, thin and white, a little puckered where it began at the hairline close to his right eye. If Jack had met with a client today, he'd be wearing nice slacks and a sports coat, wing tips, a dress shirt, and a tie. If he'd been working surveillance, or doing the computer work that increasingly formed the bulk of a private detective's routine, he'd be in jeans and a sweater.

"What are you wearing?" I asked suddenly.

"I thought I was supposed to ask you that." He sounded amused, again.

I kept a stubborn silence.

"Oh, OK. I'm wearing—you want me to start with the bottom or the top?—Reeboks, white athletic socks, navy blue sweatpants, Jockeys, and a Marvel Gym T-shirt. I just got home from working out."

"Dress up at Christmas."

"A suit?"

"Oh, maybe you don't have to go that far. But nice."

"OK," he said cautiously.

Christmas this year was on a Friday. I had only two Saturday clients at the moment, and neither of them would be open the day after Christmas. Maybe I could get them done on Christmas morning, before Jack got here.

"Bring clothes for two days," I said. "We can have Friday afternoon and Saturday and Sunday." I suddenly realized I'd assumed, and I took a sharp breath. "That is, if you can stay that long. If you want to."

"Oh, yes," he said. His voice sounded rougher, darker. "Yes, I want to."

"Are you smiling?"

"You could say so," he affirmed. "All over."

I smiled a little myself. "OK, see you then."

"Where'd you say your family was? Bartley, right? I was talking to a friend of mine about that a couple of nights ago."

It felt strange to know he had talked about me. "Yes, Bartley. It's in the Delta, a little north and a lot east of Little Rock."

"Hmmm. It'll be OK, seeing your family. You can tell me all about it."

"OK." That did sound good, realizing I could talk about it afterward, that I wouldn't come home to silence and emptiness, drag through days and days rehashing the tensions in my family.

Instead of saying this to Jack, I said, "Good-bye."

I heard him respond as I laid the receiver down. We always had a hard time ending conversations.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 162 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 164 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Shakespeare's Christmas by Charlaine Harris

    I've enjoyed every one of Charlaine Harris' 'Shakespeare' mysteries. These are much darker than her other series with the exception of the 'Harper Connelly' series. If you're expecting anything like her 'Dead' series...don't. But if you like a gritty mystery with a kick-ass heroine with a dark'd be doing yourself a favor to try this series out. These were originally written in the 90s, but have been reprinted in the last couple of years.<BR/><BR/>Lily has to return to her hometown after all this time. Her sister is getting married and Lily will be one of the attendants. Lily isn't doing too badly back home. But then two people are murdered, her detective boyfriend shows up looking into an old missing baby case, and there's another murder. All Lily really wanted was a quiet Christmas!<BR/><BR/>Like I said, I've read the whole Shakespeare series and only wish there were more.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Christmas with Lily

    Wonderful addition to the series. Harris continues to develop the characters and add more flavor to the life of Lily Bard. Definite good read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2008

    outstanding series

    The Lily Bard series is excellent. I have reread it at least 3 times and reccommend it to friends, who also love it. The writing is clear and the characters are real and compelling.Ms. Harris, Please write more!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2014

    Great book; but you should read the "Shakespeare" series in order to appreciate.

    Anyone purchasing Charlaine Harris new "Midnight Crossing" should read her Shakespeare series and her Aurora Teagarden series first.

    It isn't necessary, but there are crossover characters from both of these "human" murder series into this "other" book.

    Both series are really good books. Too bad the "Lily Bard" series wasn't continued. They were like eating chocolate. I couldn't read them fast enough. I WANT MORE....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2013

    A good read

    Well-drawn characters and interesting plot.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    Shakespeare's Christmas

    Not my favorite in the Shakespeare series, but I still liked it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2014

    Not great

    Lily Bard becomes more unpleasantly self-righteous with every book. Way past time for her to stop thinking her preferences should ruke other, more normal, people.

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  • Posted July 8, 2014



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  • Posted June 6, 2013

    Great plot

    Charlaine Harris continues her Lily Bard series with a book that shows the main character's growth and love interest.

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  • Posted December 28, 2012

    Great Story fun read...but

    I really enjoy the Lily Bard Series but then you pay $7 + for the
    ebook and it has about 160 pages and the first 12 are reviews. Well
    I was disappointed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 27, 2012

    Higly Recommended

    Fans of Charline Harris will enjoy this series that includes no paranormal charaters and provides a deep insight into the struggle of someone trying to rebuild a life after a life shattering event.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 8, 2011

    great book

    I loved this series. Just a very quick read.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another winner for Harris!

    THis is the third book in the Lily Bard Mystery series. Definately another winnder for Harris! Lily, the main character is so strong and easy to relate to in the book. The mystery will keep you on the edge of your seat and great for rainy days, sitting on the beach or overall just relaxing!

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  • Posted January 20, 2010

    Another hit for Harris!

    Harris really knows how to make you want to fight for her characters. Lily, main character, is so easy to relate to! She is strong and fragile... Great for Harris!!

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  • Posted July 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    This book will make you think about everything at the best time of the year.

    Lily goes back home. You will find out why Lily hates to go back home and the reasons that make her go home. She has to help her sister and her boyfriend but for different reason each. Like other Lily books this one is a quick read and it brings back what christmas is all about ok not everything that christmas is about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2011

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    Posted June 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2009

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