Lily Bard works as a cleaning lady in the small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas. Her hobby, perhaps passion, is martial arts and body building. As a result of unspecified difficulties in a former life, she keeps her sanity through maintaining a strong body.
In this, her second outing, she agrees to open the gym one morning for the manager who is battling the flu. At the gym she discovers the body of a fellow body builder – squashed by a set of weights. It looks to Lily like murder because Del, the victim, would not have been training without someone to help him if he had trouble with the weights. His death follows on the heels of two others.. The first was a gangland-style beating death of a young Black man. The second was the shooting death of a fifty-year-old prosperous white farmer.
Lily does not intentionally set out to solve or even help solve any of these murders, but, in her position as a cleaning woman, she overhears conversations and finds information in her clients' houses. This information is of interest to the police, and shows possible links between the crimes. A mysterious stranger appears on the scene whom Lily recognizes from her life prior to coming to Shakespeare. In establishing a relationship with this fellow, Lily gets drawn into the investigation of these deaths.
Charlaine Harris, perhaps better known for her series starring Aurora Teagarden, has begun another series featuring Lily Bard, a cleaning lady with a taste for martial arts and body building. Such an individual while being decidedly out of the ordinary, does provide the author with resources to get around the problems an amateur sleuth encounters. Cleaning houses provides a built in opportunity to snoop. Even without actively prying into her clients affairs, she can logically come upon useful information.
Being a female jock provides the heroine with the means to hold her own in physically demanding confrontations. A few times however, the author taxed my ability to believe. I don't think most people would hold extremely private conversations within hearing distance of the cleaning lady.
The final scenes in the book border on the melodramatic. Even though the heroine is in excellent physical condition, and has a couple of allies to help her (one female, one male) in the confrontation with the bad guys Lily and her friends seem super human.
While I have no personal knowledge of present day race relations in small southern towns, the views the author presents seem reasonable to me. As a result of adding this dimension to the book, the story became more than just a standard mystery. It includes a picture of life in such a town, how people view each other and interact with each other and makes quite an interesting tale apart in addition to the mystery.