The Plot Thickens
Reardon's novels are like highway accidents that way--if you gawk, you might be drawn into a nightmare. Not for the squeamish, Billy Dead opens with the news that the adult narrator's older brother has been brutally murdered; he suspects their younger sister of the crime. Within the first two chapters, unsparing flashbacks describe scenes of incest and horrid retribution. Reardon's website summarizes the plot of 2002's Blameless this way: "Lack of accountability leads to a dead child, adultery, alcoholism, nervous breakdowns, and insomnia." The theme of her 2004 novel The Mercy Killers is suicide. She advertises it as "Death, drugs, war, child abuse, and plenty of laughs." All three books feature violence against children.
Following news of her arrest, friends wrote letters of support to public defender Lloyd Powell, whose office was appointed to represent her. (Though her books were well reviewed, at the time of her arrest she was earning less than $30,000 a year and had just $2,000 in the bank, according to court records). The most revealing letter was from Julie Hamberg, Reardon's close friend since they were sixth graders in Milan. "Lisa is a big writer, interested in overarching, vital life questions," wrote Hamberg, until recently the artistic director of the Southern Repertory Premiere Professional Theater in New Orleans. "Her nuanced writing is indicative of one who has turned a troubled upbringing into art that always allows us to truly comprehend the pain of others."