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Cold Feet (A Stella Lavender Mystery) Hardcover – January 16, 2013
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Stella Lavender of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is a guest at a wedding where the bride, Justine Bradley, is poisoned just before the ceremony is to begin. The local detective, Anselmo Morales, requests Stella’s help in the investigation. Hoping for a transfer to homicide, Stella is happy to get the experience but must also continue to work undercover as a drug buyer. When it’s learned Justine was born a boy and underwent a sex-change operation, numerous avenues of investigation are opened. Was the murderer the groom, his ultraconservative parents, or his jilted former girlfriend? The fast pace; multiple plot strands, which work together nicely; and the well-drawn characters, including strong-willed, intelligent Stella, distinguish this promising new series. --Sue OBrien
"The fast pace; multiple plot strands, which work together nicely, and the well-drawn characters, including strong-willed, intelligent Stella, distinguish this promising new series." Booklist
"Pullen's debut introduces an engaging new detective meeting the challenge of her first homicide. I can't wait to head back to North Carolina and meet up with Stella and Fern again." Library Journal
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Stella was reared by her grandmother, Fern, after her mother vanished after being snatched from her night job at the local Texaco when Stella was five. All through her youth Stella was obsessed with unsolved murders and mysteries and lured by her obsession into police work. Fern, a woman prone to romantic flights of fancy, runs a small farm and is often “dragged under an ugly gray quilt of sadness,” over the loss of her daughter.
Karen Pullen has artfully written her first novel after publishing short stories in “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine” and “Spinetingler.” She entices us into the dark world of undercover drug work and a puzzling murder mystery. Pullen has done excellent medical and crime sleuthing that makes her tale frighteningly real and believable. Her writing is crisp, clear and inviting. For example, she describes the stern, officious, unappealing best man at the wedding as “furry. He had black hair, a mustache, and a mat of hair covering his hands. Eyebrows crawled like caterpillars across his brow, tufts sprouted from his ears, and a few stray wisps grew on the bridge of his nose.”
I am eager to read the next Stella Lavender mystery.
The follow are examples of Karen's effective way with words. From Chapter 1: "Her sundress clung to her curves like green on grass." Here is an example of great parallel structure: "My inner princess…My inner cynic." Karen's skill with verbs: "Loblolly pines being strangle by kudzu." Karen's skill with simile: "Her hat on my mane would look like a lid on a volcano." Karen's skill at characterization: "His complexion was the deep red of high blood pressure and a wicked temper." "She was rectangular all over, with a Christopher Robin haircut, boxy shoulders, and a flat chest. Even her dark-rimmed glasses had ninety-degree angles." and "He wore earbuds and twitched to music only he could hear."
Readers will enjoy Chapter 2: "No to trying CPR: you don’t know what caused her death." The first police procedure protocol detail. Karen's great writing continues will past the first two chapters. Readers will smile at dry, witty sense of humor at the end of most chapters. Chapter 10 "leaving only a feeling of dreamy dread, like something bad was going to happen to me. I wasn’t psychic. As far as I knew." Karen's Chapter 11 "I decided to keep an on open mind. A hole in my head, as it were."
To balance my praise, my only suggestion for improvement in this suspense novel is the chapter titles that are simply day and time. I’m positive Ms. Pullen can write polished, witty, dry humor chapter titles; of course it is her prerogative of course to delight readers by focusing her wit and humor on the text itself. Again, I learned a great deal from Karen's first novel. Anyone who is writing should read it.