Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: A Bad Day for Pretty

A Bad Day for Pretty
by Sophie Littlefield
Minotaur Books, An Imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group
ISBN 978-0-312-55975-5
292 pages,
$24.99 US

Reviewed by Patricia Stoltey

When Stella Hardesty had taken all the abuse she could handle from her no-good husband, she took him out with a wrench. It was self defense, plain and simple, and Stella was acquitted. Nowadays she owns Hardesty Sewing Machine Repair & Sales and runs a little vigilante attitude adjustment service on the side. Word gets around, whispered from woman to woman. When a wife or girlfriend needs protection from the jerk she hooked up with in a moment of stupidity, she’s likely to hire badass Stella to pay the jerk a not-so-friendly visit.

Since her marriage was abruptly terminated, Stella has kept a tight rein on her emotions and a lock on her heart. But wouldn’t you know it? She’s gone all mushy-kneed over Sheriff Goat Jones. He cooks, cleans, would never hurt a woman, and he has helped Stella clean up her not-so-law-abiding messes a time or two.

In A Bad Day for Pretty, the second Stella Hardesty mystery, bad weather is whipping through the Missouri countryside where big city living happens way off in Kansas City and tornadoes bring an assortment of unpleasant surprises, the first being Goat’s not-quite-ex-wife, Brandy Truax, who shows up when Stella and Goat are having their first romantic dinner at Goat’s home.

Stella beats a fast retreat, convinced that she’s been fooled by a man once again when she should have known better. The next morning, an old client calls concerning her formerly pain-killer-addicted and religious-cult-following husband Neb, who’s now in trouble. That tornado blew over the snack shack at the demolition derby track at the fairgrounds, and a section of the foundation was destroyed, revealing a body. Neb, who has been on a straight and narrow path for some time, is the main suspect.

With the help of her assorted, somewhat quirky friends and her grown daughter, Noelle, Stella sets out to prove Neb’s innocence. Life is complicated by Goat and Brandy’s marital mess, and a growing suspicion that Stella would have to find the real killer before she could convince anyone that Neb wasn’t a murderer.

One of the things I like most about Littlefield’s novels is main character Stella’s unique and distinctive voice. We frequently read that good writing uses a minimum of adjectives and adverbs, but if we were to edit out the frequent hyphenated strings of descriptive prose, Stella wouldn’t be Stella, and these books wouldn’t be as much fun. This character describes her world and the people in it as she sees them. Goat’s almost-ex-wife has “bloodred-tipped fingers” and a “complicated platinum-blonde updo.” Some marriages are “never-quite-split” ones. Stella’s clients have husbands or boyfriends who are “no-good, wife-smacking, covenant-breaking mates.” And her friend’s little boy, Tucker, is a “towheaded sideways-grinning new-tooth-drooling brat” that Stella loves with all her heart.

The plot of A Bad Day for Pretty is solid, with enough twists and turns to keep a mystery reader interested. The logic is good, the resolution satisfying, and the characters interesting and likable. For an extra dose of good reading, I recommend starting this series with the first book, A Bad Day for Sorry.

The Blood-Red Pencil has two copies of A Bad Day for Pretty to give away. To enter your name in our drawing, please leave a comment on today's post.


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclaimer: Copies of A Bad Day for Pretty were provided free to The Blood-Red Pencil for the purpose of reviewing the novel. No monetary payment was involved.


Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

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  1. Great review, Patricia! I'll have to check out the first book, too.

  2. I like the premise and Stella certainly sounds like an unforgettable character!

  3. I'd love to read it! Excellent review, Patricia.

  4. That was a nice overall review of the book. I enjoyed reading it. The other book reviews of this book also recommend reading it. The reviews are always good, I would love to win this book and read it.

  5. Throw me into the hat. I'm still trying to get a copy of a Bad Day for Sorry. They are always OUT.

  6. Great review Patricia! This looks like an great read with a lot of life, left in her character.

  7. Great review that makes me want to run out and buy this book as well as the first one! I loved the qualifications for the descriptive terms in the characters' speech. To be authentic in dialogue, an author must feel free to break literary rules. Not everyone has perfect English dialect and to assume so would detract from many interesting characters. Authenticity rules!

  8. Great review, and ditto Susan's comment. Win or no, I'll definitely give this one a read.

  9. Thanks for introducing me to a new title and a new (for me) series.

  10. I'd love to read this! Thanks for the review.

  11. One thing I didn't mention in my review is that Sophie Littlefield's first book, "A Bad Day for Sorry," has received several award nominations. From the Macmillan/St. Martin's website: "It was an Edgar Finalist for Best First Novel and is shortlisted for an Anthony, Barry, and Macavity Award. It won an RT Book Award for Best First Mystery and has been named to lists of the year's best mystery debuts by the Chicago Sun-Times and South Florida Sun-Sentinel."

  12. I really enjoyed A Bad Day For Sorry and would love to read this one too. Thanks for offering a giveaway.

  13. This sounds like a good, enticing, contemporary mystery by a generous author. Thanks for sharing this supportive review.

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

  14. Good review Pat. It's tempting me to rethink my recent decision to not buy another book for six months. LOL

  15. Not buy a book for six months? Maryann, bite your tongue. My husband might hear you. :)

  16. Hi gang at The Blood-Red Pencil, just wanted to say I have an award for you on my blog. Enjoy reading all of the post.

    BTW, love the review too.

    Thoughts in Progress

  17. Do you know, I haven't read a mystery in ages, but you've made me want to go out and read both A Bad Day for Pretty and A Bad Day for Sorry. I love the sound of Stella's voice.

    Thanks for the great review!

  18. We'll close off the entries for this giveaway at midnight tonight, U. S. Mountain Time, and I'll announce the winners tomorrow using my super-scientific "draw a number out of a box" technique. Good luck, everyone!

  19. Patricia, I only said that because I have a STACK of books that I have purchased recently, as well as several that were sent to me for review. I really owe it to the people who sent their books for review to get to those before I buy another book. LOL

  20. Announcing the winners of the two copies of "A Bad Day for Pretty"...

    1. Guinevere (blogs: "La Dolce Vita, La Vita Dura" and "This is Not My Day Job: Adventures of an Errant Writer").

    2. kcoombs1

    You two lucky booklovers need to send me an e-mail at patriciastoltey (at) by June 27th with your mailing address. If not claimed by June 27th, I'll draw a new winner.

    Many thanks to everyone who left a comment.

  21. One of our winners never checked in with her name and address, so I've drawn a new winner for the second copy of "A Bad Day for Pretty."


    Our winner is...Carrie Clevenger

    As soon as Carrie sends me her mailing address, the book will be on its way.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.