A Bad Day for Mercy: A Crime Novel Hardcover – Jun 19 2012
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“In Anthony Award–winner Littlefield's solid fourth crime novel featuring Stella Hardesty..., Littlefield makes sure her feisty heroine has plenty to do.” ―Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri. She is the winner of an Anthony Award and an RT Book Award for Best First Mystery. She is also an Edgar Award and Goodreads Choice finalist. The second book in the series, A Bad Day for Pretty, was named a New York Times Notable Book. Sophie lives near San Francisco, California.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
For better or worse, Stella is spared making a choice with whom to spend her approaching 51st birthday by a call from her little sister. Grace's step-son, Chip, seems to have gotten himself into trouble. In a departure from the series' typical damsel in distress storyline, Stella's off to save a man this time around. Family comes first, so she's off to Wisconsin to check on Chip. Wouldn't you know that when he fails to answer a late-night knock at the door, she breaks in to find him and his girl dismembering a corpse? And I think I'll let you discover the rest from there.
Littlefield's mysteries are always deftly plotted, but I'll be honest and admit this mystery wasn't the most compelling case in the series to date. (I still didn't know who-done-it; I never figure it out.) For me, this time, the mystery took a back seat to the simple pleasure of Stella being Stella. As I read, I found myself wondering, "Are these books getting funnier?" Possibly. Or perhaps I've just grown so fond of this character who is both larger-than-life and utterly believable at the same time. She's all warmth and yet incredibly harsh. She is like no other person or character I know, and I can hear her voice loud and clear. Well, I could always hear Stella's voice on the page, but now that I'm listening to the audiobooks read by Barbara Rosenblatt, the experience has gotten even better. What a fantastic performance she gives!
In taking Stella away from Prosper for the bulk of the book, Littlefield has removed her from the colorful cast of supporting characters who have been such an asset to the series. But thankfully, Ms. Littlefield finds a variety of clever ways to insert them into the story. As you're gathering from this review, for me the appeal of this series is all about the characters, but they could never spring to life the way they do without some darn fine writing on the part of Sophie Littlefield. The language is folksy and funny, and it never fails to paint a picture with words.
Each of these episodes in Stella's life leave me wondering what trouble she'll get up to next, and what it might be a bad day for. Just listen to me; I am well and truly smitten!
After reading Sophie Littlefield's "Bad Day" novels, I will never abuse a female for fear that someone like Stella Hardesty will give me an old-fashioned ass wupin'. Littlefield has ingeniously tapped into an unexplored genre of crime drama. Except for a few films, such as "The Innocent One," starring the iconic Jodie Foster, there are scarcely any forms of fiction depicting vigilante women. Many of us live vicariously through Stella because we have been abused and bullied at one time by a spouse, boss, peer, etc.; dispensing vigilante justice is something many of us can only fantasize about doing. Littlefield's latest mystery, "A Bad Day for Mercy," like those before it, is both humorous and violent, too violent and gory to be considered cozies, even though they have a bucolic, picturesque setting. Prosper, Missouri makes me homesick for my hometown of Maryville, Tennessee, home of the Rebels.
Two characters in "A Bad Day for Mercy" are given a lot of attention: fourteen-year-old Todd and seventeen-year-old Luka. Todd is Stella's neighbor's son who is a stowaway. Upon arriving in Smythe, Stella finds him hiding in the truck she borrowed from B. J. Brodersen. Luka is Natalya's son. Both boys have absentee fathers. Even the grown Chip is not close to his father Chess. Stella does her best to bring them all closer to their biological father or a father figure. She is constantly stressing the importance of family. She, herself, has grown closer to her daughter Noelle. Stella looks upon Todd as a member of her family; she is his surrogate mother when his biological one, Sherilee Groffe, is working. Stella has to rescue Todd from a bad situation.
The horror of growing old is also explored profusely in this novel. Stella is really not looking forward to her fifty-first birthday. In my opinion, the real reason she is training for the Bean Blossom Half Marathon is to stave off old age. She compares herself to her younger training partner, Camellia Edwards. She wears a lot of makeup and special slimming undergarments, Spanx, that make her look thinner. She can sympathize with the nerdy, middle-aged Benton Parch and Topher Manetta who patented their creation of ManTees, which are suppose to make men appear thinner and, therefore, attract younger women. Aging and losing one's older relatives depresses Stella but she counts her blessings. After all, she has two very eligible bachelors vying for her romantic attentions: Sheriff Goat Jones and bar owner B. J. Brodersen.
Stella often finds herself trying to justify her vigilante actions by comparing herself to our flawed justice system. Furthermore, she attempts to explain, and gives valid reasons why, women don't leave their abusive husbands. If they are like me, they're hoping an abusive situation will get better. Also, seeking legal help is expensive; I can almost buy a month's worth of gas for my eleven-year-old Saturn for what lawyers charge for one hour of their services. Littlefield's Stella does provide a harmless way for women to innocently vent their frustrations; I only hope they don't take the law into their own hands when dealing with abusive men.
I read "A Bad Day for Mercy" in a single day; I couldn't put it down. It is highly recommended for women (and some men) who enjoy unique mysteries that swerve toward the violent (and gory) side of the road; have a strong, feisty heroine who faces the same everyday routine (i.e., working, parenting, housekeeping, grocery shopping, etc.) that they do; and are permeated with witty, wise-cracking humor, tenderhearted romance and family togetherness. I was hooked when I began reading the award-winning series with the third installment, "A Bad Day for Scandal" (A Bad Day for Scandal: A Crime Novel). It will definitely be a bad day for me if Sophie Littlefield doesn't continue publishing more adventures of Stella Hardesty.
Joseph B. Hoyos
In this installment, Stella hits the road and the majority of the book takes place in central Wisconsin. Ms. Littlefield writes working class midwest culture and people so well. She nails it. She doesn't write it condescendingly and she doesn't write it as an outside observer looking inside. Ms. Littlefield captures working class midwest life perfectly, as a participant. She knows her characters and she writes them lovingly. Stella's characters say the best things, like this:
"I'd have sold my car, my plasma, my sp**m, whatever it took."
"Let's get one thing straight here right now Chip...I am not about to have an ex-con gambler who I have known since you had braces and that unfortunate mullet passing judgment on me."
"What are you doing here? Don't your hoodlum pals have a date to smoke crack behind the Arco or something?" "We dun smoked it ... and we also knocked over Dumphrey liquors and all got b**w jobs and burned us up a flag, so you can just hold on to your lecture Stella. Its too late for saving me.""
"I look out the window and there is the Sheriff's cruiser pulling up in the shop parking lot." Stella's heart did a little skip at the news. "Sheriff Jones?" "No! Sheriff Roscoe P. Coletrain from Hazard County. Who do you think Stella?"
"To Stella it beat a big box of candy and a truckload of roses. There was nothing that said I heart you like destroying evidence that could send a person to jail."
So Stella going on the road and doing her "work" in Wisconsin is just as fun as the stories that take place in Missouri. There is a little bit of romance in this book, some funny banter between Stella and Chrissie and Stella and Tucker. The characters continue to grow. Despite that this is the 4th book in the series, it is not getting old and continues to be fresh. I cannot wait for #5 in the Stella series. My blog recently interviewed Sophie Littlefield and I didn't ask her if she was going to be writing a new Stella Hardesty and when -- why didn't I ask her??? That just means I am going to have to invite her back for another interview. *grins*
Stella is the perfect heroine. She is seasoned and has had her hardships. She is not perfect, but flawed -- she likes her whiskey, she doesn't always want to work out and she can get to judging people. But in the end Stella is understanding of other people's position in life and she tries to help others. Like this one (and darn did Ms. Littlefield hit this observation right on the nose or what!?):
"You ever think how much shit we could keep out of the landfills if we just fixed it now and then and kept on using it. Like for instance, used to be mom's. It was built in 1969 and it works fine. But you go on over to the Hope Depot and they got them $4,000 ranges all lined up and none of them with no more than a year or two warranty. Then when they break, they tell you it is going to be cheaper to get a new one then to fix the one you have. Does that make sense to you?"
"Manufacture bags to haul groceries around in as if every household in America didn't already have half a dozen gym bags, and sewing totes and advertising freebies lying around."
If you haven't yet discovered the fun of the Stella Hardesty books I strong suggest you pick one up and read it!
Ever since I met the author at a local bookstore event, I've loved her books. I met her without having read any of her work, was charmed by her wit, humor, & I dare say, her sophistication. I bought her first Bad Day book for my mom & my husband bought a copy for himself. Well, Mom loved hers & I loved hubby's! I was hooked. I was frankly a bit surprised that a woman as sophisticated as Littlefield could write with such folksy adroitness. Her wit is down home & sly, modern & timeless. It's these contrasts that I love so much - they're like the warm hot fudge on cold ice cream - seeming opposites which go so well together. You don't have to be an abuse survivor or a woman to thoroughly enjoy the mid-life adventures main character Stella takes us on. Her cadre of compatriots - neighbor kids, young assistant, grown daughter, sexy middle-aged sheriff, abused spouse/clients all make you feel welcome by refusing to be one dimensional or totally predictable. Stella's totally relatable little vanities, worries, ability to multi-task, obfuscate & nurture are at times almost painfully familiar to me, but she always manages to deliver justice, whereas I fall short, so I'm always satisfied.
You can read about the plot in the synopsis, so let me just say 2 more things: Her Russian character's accent & manner of speaking are spot-on funny & Littlefield makes crime in both Wisconsin & Missouri seem mysterious & even exciting.