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A Bad Day for Sorry (Stella Hardesty) Hardcover – August 4, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Littlefield's amusing, sassy debut introduces Stella Hardesty, a widow and survivor of domestic violence, who owns a sewing shop in a sleepy Missouri town. On the side, Stella solves problems and metes out justice on behalf of battered women, like Chrissy Shaw, whose abusive bully of an ex-husband, Roy Dean Shaw, Stella keeps tabs on. After Roy Dean absconds with Chrissy's baby, Stella learns he's involved with local mobsters in a stolen auto parts ring. Chrissy sheds her victimhood to team up with Stella and do battle. After girding up their weaponry, the unlikely crime-fighting duo trick their way into the home of Roy Dean's mob boss, who they suspect has Chrissy's son. Stella discovers that no amount of preparation and righteous anger can prevail over pure evil, at least not without loads of trouble. Spunky, unapologetically middle-aged and a tad cantankerous, Stella barges bravely and often unwisely into danger. (Aug.)
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“A Bad Day for Sorry is another of the year’s best debuts, a standout mystery distinguished by its charming protagonist and her compelling voice. We don’t get many characters like Stella in mystery fiction, but we should. She’s fresh and sassy and an awful lot of fun to read about.”--David J. Montgomery, Chicago Sun-Times
“In her debut novel, Sophie Littlefield shows considerable skills for delving into the depths of her characters and complex plotting as she disarms the reader.….Littlefield keeps the plot churning with realistic action that doesn't let up. She also allows the moral ambiguity of vigilante justice to enhance this story….Littlefield's exciting debut should be the start of an even more exciting series.”—South Florida Sun Sentinel
“Ass-whuppin’ 50-year-old Stella is nothing if not inventive….Littlefield puts a new spin on middle-age sleuths in this rollicking, rip-roaring debut.”--Booklist
"Expect the unexpected with Stella Hardesty, who's quite the intriguing character....From Stella's opening remark...the reader can't help but be drawn into her world and wonder where it all will lead."--Romantic Times BOOKreviews (4 Stars)
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 p (Jay Strafford Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Vigilante justice is getting a workout in crime fiction.
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 an (Hallie Ephron Boston Globe)
The Story She owns a sewing shop, but what fiftysomething badass Stella Hardesty really does is dispense justice to abusive husbands and boyfriends, having discovered that 'whuppin' ass wasn't so hard.' TV Pitch Put Cagney or Lacey in rural Missouri. Lowdown Crime fiction hasn't seen a character as scrappy, mean, and incredibly appealing as Stella in a long time. A- (Entertainment Weekly)
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Just before her fiftieth birthday, Stella couldn't take it anymore. When her abusive husband laid into her, she dispatched him with a wrench. Now a few years later, she's so busy helping other women deal with their own abusive husbands and handing out her own brand of justice, there's scarcely any time left for her to run her sewing shop.
Stella works outside the law, so she's free to do whatever it takes to convince these violent men to stop what they've been doing. All she has to do is keep her distance from Goat Jones, the handsome local sheriff. When young mother Chrissy Shaw asks for Stella's help with her abusive husband, Roy Dean, it looks like just another day in Stella's office. But when Chrissy's two-year-old son is taken from her, Stella finds that she's got a lot more to worry about than skinny old Roy Dean.
A Bad Day for Sorry has to have one of the most memorable prologues I've read in years. Stella is an original; she endured an abusive husband for years, and as a result she tends to view things differently from those of us who haven't. Her own homegrown brand of justice must appeal to any woman who's found our existing legal system less than ideal for dealing with a man who believes beating the crap out of a woman is a divine right.
Unfortunately for Stella, word of mouth has spread, and she's now got so much business that, not only is her real business-- the sewing shop-- suffering, she can't even have a day off:
"Stella picked off the sons-of-bitches one by one, leaving their women free to breathe easy, to live without dread as their constant companion. And now this sideline threatened to overtake her real job, the shop she'd inherited from Ollie, supplying the women of Prosper with sewing notions and keeping their sewing machines in good working order. Every time she thought she'd earned some time off, a new woman would show up, terrified or battered or both, but finally ready to make it stop. And Stella knew what kind of courage that took-- and she never turned a client away."
I liked the character of Stella and her voice, and although I did enjoy the book as a whole, I did have a couple of problems with it. For a woman in her mid-fifties, Stella has a tendency to behave as though she's ten feet tall and bullet-proof-- for example going alone to a deserted area after dark to meet someone when she knows something's not right. Chrissy Shaw, the young mother whose son is taken from her, begins her characterization as the complete blond bimbo-- totally cowed by an abusive husband, unable to think or talk above a slow stumble. Less than twenty-four hours after losing her son, Chrissy goes from Bimbo to Rambo in the blink of an eye. I just find it difficult to believe that someone who's been so completely under her husband's thumb could make such a stunning transformation that quickly.
But, as I said, I did enjoy this book. Stella is feisty and funny, and as long as she's not being beaten up on a regular basis, I can see myself reading this series for a long time to come. A word of caution, however: the language can be salty at times and there is violence. Both fell well within my parameters, but your mileage may vary.
Because Stella wasn't content to help only herself. In the two years since she was acquitted for murder, she's started a little side business. "...A little seed of an idea had begun to germinate in her mind, a growing conviction that no woman should have to put up with abuse by her husband or boyfriend, and--to Stella's surprise--that she just might have a calling to help put a stop to it. After all, she already had one notch in her belt, so to speak." Stella Hardesty is in the "justice business."
Now, I don't mean to make this warm Midwestern lady sound like Missouri's answer to Dirty Harry, but she does have quite a reputation in certain circles. Let's put it this way, it's probably best to stay on her good side. Once you're there, she's as loyal as they come. And she has a terrible time turning away anyone in need, even if it's the 13-year-old kid across the street.
Now, knowing that this novel was the first of a series built around this character, I wasn't really sure what I was expecting. Or maybe I was. I think I was expecting something a little more cartoonish. I mean, look at the character I just described. She seems a little larger than life. Here's where Sophie Littlefield's talent comes in, because the truth is that she's created a fully believable, fully realized woman in Stella Hardesty. She's not a caricature at all. We spend this novel inside her head, hear her most intimate thoughts, and empathize with her fears, desires, and trouble with cosmetics. Well, at least I did.
The plot of A Bad Day for Sorry eventually proves to be a compelling mystery. Chrissy Shaw is the damsel in distress. Her no-good husband is one of Stella's "parolees." But just when Stella thinks she's knocked some sense into the man, he goes and runs off with Chrissy's toddler. Or did he? And why take the little boy?
This isn't one of those mysteries that you'll be able to solve if you correctly decipher the clues. No, this is one of those stories that you just need to read to the end to see how it plays out. But it sure wasn't predictable. I read this book in about a day and a half. The plot kept me turning the pages, but it's the endearing characters I met along the way that made me pick up the sequel as soon as I put this one down. Let me tell you--that Stella, she grows on you. Besides, I have to see what's going to happen between her and the Sheriff...
This description makes it sound like a heavy black comedy, but it really is much lighter than that. It isn't a standard murder mystery, with clues and red herrings regarding a murder. But it is a tale with rollicking action, funny conversations, and well-drawn characters. And it's funny.
"A Bad Day for Sorry" was an Edgar nominee for Best First Novel in 2010. If you're not familiar with the Edgars, they are prestigious (in the writing community) awards passed out annually by the Mystery Writers of America. Considering how many mysteries are published each year, this nomination is a real coup.
Most recent customer reviews
I know these people, and would swear I even lived in this town at one point.