I didn't think it was possible that Sophie Littlefield's Stella Hardesty crime novels could get better after A Bad Day for Sorry, but A Bad Day for Scandal, the third in the series, is my favorite one yet. Stella, the woman who delivers "her own brand of renegade justice," has grown more comfortable and confident with her role. It's fun to watch her blossom at the age of fifty. Those of us over fifty know Stella has it right. Life can be pretty good at this age.
But, before she can get on with her life, and her romance with Sheriff Goat Jones, Stella has to cope with her past. Priscilla Porter, a snob no one in town liked, called, offering to pay Stella to do a job for her. When Stella couldn't resist the large sum of money offered, she found a body in the trunk of Priss' Mercedes. Why would Priss think Stella would know how to dispose of a body? And, then Priss had the nerve to threaten Stella with photographs of one of Stella's attempts to straighten out an abusive man. Stella has too much gumption to be blackmailed. But, she still ends up as a suspect when Priss and her brother go missing. Now, Stella has to keep her secrets from Goat Jones while she digs into Priss' past.
Sophie Littlefield has created some of the most interesting, lovable characters in crime fiction, beginning with Stella. Stella's grown in the course of this series. She tells her friend, Chrissy Shaw, "Nowadays I think plain old happy's a good goal. Happy and not getting beat on by anyone." And, Stella makes it clear that a woman doesn't lose her sex drive just because she's over forty. Chrissy has grown from an abused woman to Stella's partner in crime, a woman who discovered she isn't stupid. She's a whiz at computers, a hacker, and a "tech goddess." One of my favorite characters is the young teen boy down the street. Stella has taken Todd under her wing. Her friendship with Todd was the first indication that Stella had a kind heart, and as Todd has grown, his need for an adult in his life has grown. He's street-smart, but still young in the ways of the world.
Stella's wisdom is not only on target, it's funny. Take the Green Hat Ladies, women who wear John Deere caps instead of red or purple hats because they were free from the rep. "The ladies had about three hundred years of residence in Sawyer County, along with it knowledge of the undersides and underbellies of most of the local families. Stella had often reflected that if the nation's top law enforcement agencies would each get themselves a flock of old biddies, they'd be able to crack every stubborn gang stronghold and drug epidemic and crime wave in the country. But it had been her experience that the wisdom of mature ladies was often tragically undervalued."
So, here's a salute to Sophie Littlefield and Stella Hardesty. They're champions of the underdog, whether they're mature ladies who are overlooked or forgotten, abused women, or teenage boys. Sophie wraps her characters in warm, funny crime novels with heart. A Bad Day for Scandal is Sophie and Stella at their best.
Sophie Littlefield's website is http://www.sophielittlefield.com/
A Bad Day for Scandal by Sophie Littlefield. St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312648374 (hardcover), 320p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me an Advanced Reading Copy, hoping I would review it.