Sunday, August 30, 2009

Two Nice Reviews

It's been a great day. Lazy morning, coffee and church, took Junior to a bad movie full of gratuitous violence, burgers on the grill tonight, planning to start a book that someone special sent me in manuscript form, AND I got 2 great reviews today.

First, Hallie Ephron of the Boston Globe had this to say:

The sleuth who takes the law into her own hands in Sophie Littlefield’s debut novel, “A Bad Day for Sorry,’’ is Stella Hardesty. Having dispatched her own abusive husband with the business end of a wrench, Stella takes tough and ornery to new levels. She has developed a “justice-delivering career,’’ her business driven through word of mouth from satisfied customers. She rides through the rural Missouri countryside in her husband’s beloved Jeep (“a sweet little green Liberty with chrome aluminum wheels and a sunroof’’) to strains of Emmy Lou Harris, stalking recalcitrant abusers and monitoring her “parolees.’’

Stella takes her Johnny Walker straight up, and she’d rather not have to use the yoke and spreader bar with restraint cuffs, or the electric shock baton, or that little Raven .25 “she took off a cheating son-of-a-bitch in Kansas City,’’ but some spousal abusers just won’t stay “whupped.’’ Still, her average quarry is an angel compared with the crew she tangles with when Chrissy Shaw hires her to find her reprobate husband who absconded with her 2-year-old son. Roy Dean Shaw’s new associates don’t mind using any weapon in their considerable arsenal.

By the end, Chrissy has become sidekick to Stella’s Dirty-Harry-in-a-housecoat. Not all the guys are jerks, and Stella gets a welcome assist from Sheriff “Goat’’ Jones, an easygoing hunk with an appreciation for an older woman who isn’t and never was a beauty queen.

An abundance of violence is leavened with humor and heart in this debut novel in what I hope is the start of a new series.

...and then, Jay Strafford of the Richmond Times Dispatch said this:

Try to picture a more pacific view of small-town Americana than this: a 50-year-old widow who runs a sewing-machine shop in Missouri.

But Stella Hardesty will make you change your mind. Sure, she knows about sewing, but she also knows how to bring a cheating, abusive man to his knees -- or to the hospital.

Such is the premise of Sophie Littlefield's first mystery, A Bad Day for Sorry (288 pages, Minotaur Books, $24.95), and it's markedly original. In this initial outing, Stella, who runs a vigilante service for abused women (she was one, herself) is approached by Chrissy Shaw, who tells her that her no-account husband, Roy Dean Shaw, has taken off with Tucker, Chrissy's toddler son from a previous relationship. As Stella sets out to retrieve Tucker and bring Roy Dean down a notch or four, she finds her own life in peril.

Littlefield uses words, not drawings, but this is as graphic a crime novel as you'll find this side of the thriller subgenre. The story's compelling, the dialogue perfect -- and Stella is one of the most memorable characters of this summer or any other.

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