WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
I am extremely conflicted over this book.
These books were actually better written than the Aurora Tea Garden books. Lily Bard makes for a far more interesting protagonist, though I don't like her very much at all. Which I suspect is probably what Harris intended, but if that were so, I think Harris has failed her. Throughout the series, Lily only seems to undergo superficial growth.
Delving in to the world of rape and sexual assault is fraught with difficulties and controversy, so it's no surprise that there are certain undertones and voices in this collection of novels I find really hard to swallow.
The books could be quite triggering for anyone who has ever been assaulted. But not only do I find the rape culture elements distasteful, I find the racial issues really off putting. It's as though Harris has grabbed two really huge taboos, thrown them into her books and just let them simmer. There seems to be no real resolution of any kind. By the end of the series, her characters are still firmly rooted in their victim blaming, slut shaming, racist little mind sets.
Which makes me wonder if I should revisit the Aurora Tea Garden books to see what fun stereotypes I missed. (I didn't exactly give those books much thought. They were easily digested. Contained no surprises plot wise. which makes me wonder if I really read them, instead of treating them like holiday candy type reading, what would I uncover?)
Her plots seem a little more believable in this series. Lily Bard is a more probable person to be involved in murder mysteries than Aurora Tea Garden was. Although, again, Shakespeare seems to have a homicidal hub conveniently located next door to our protagonist. Lily is a strange woman. As one would be having survived what she had. And though I am sure her encounter with The Bad Thing was Harris's way of making her hard and cold and giving her a legitimate reason to be, truthfully I thought she just made Lily a humourless cliché.
The constant slut shaming of one character really began to piss me off to the extent that I almost put the book down refusing to finish it. Harris's characters, even those that were themselves victims, bought into the victim blaming culture. Had Harris done this as an attempt to challenge that culture, I may have been more forgiving, but she didn't. Not one of the characters ever really grew beyond blaming other victims for what happened to them. (Even though she does include a scene where a social worker has the women chant that we never blame the victim. Through out the whole series, the victims do wear, at the very least, partial blame.)
The other axe to grind is the both overt and subtle racism. In one book, the topic is addressed directly with racially motived murders. And whilst in this particular story, the message is that killing people because they are black is wrong, there is still this awful subtle undertone I can't quite stomach. In later books, Lily expresses extra fear around black neighbourhoods. She seems less trusting of black characters, for no other reason than that they are black. Had she been attacked by black men, I could have understood this. But Lily never saw her attackers on account of the blind fold. So the only conclusion one can come to is that Lily has Nice White Lady syndrome.
If you can stomach or ignore the more distasteful elements of the Lily Bard Mysteries, then you will probably enjoy the books. Harris's writing is not bad. There's no real surprises in plot. But I don't think that's the point of this style of mystery. (If you want intelligent writing, read some one else) Although I am not entirely sure what the point is other than to entertain, I personally, am not entertained by Lily Bard.