A Bad Day for Mercy Review
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In her first three crime novels, author Sophie Littlefield’s middle-aged tough-girl, Stella Hardesty, has taken on a variety of bad guys who have tried to do their share of damage in the small town of Prosper, Missouri. But her fourth mystery, A Bad Day for Mercy, takes the ornery sleuth somewhere she’s never been before: Wisconsin.

For Stella, there’s nothing more important than family—so when her younger sister, Gracellen, calls, worried about her stepson, Chip, Stella is quick to take action. It seems that Chip’s gambling debts have gotten out of control—and if he doesn’t pay up, he’ll be in serious trouble. So, as a favor to Gracellen, Stella borrows a truck and drives up to Wisconsin to see if she can help.

When Stella arrives in Wisconsin, though, she finds that the situation is even worse than expected. Her step-nephew and his girlfriend, Natalya, are in the process of dismembering the body of Natalya’s estranged husband. Chip swears that he’s turned his life around—and that the man was already dead when they found him on the front porch. But if Stella can’t find the real killer, Chip might take the fall.

Stella’s latest outing once again finds her searching for clues and tracking down all sorts of ne’er do wells. But A Bad Day for Mercy isn’t the usual Stella Hardesty novel. This time around, she’s pulled out of her comfort zone of Prosper—and away from its endearing small-town characters—and she ends up working on a case that has little to do with her usual “clients.” And, as a result, the story feels like it’s missing something. Stella doesn’t seem quite as bold—or as active—as she has been in earlier novels, and the characters don’t have the same Southern charm. It’s just not the same without Stella’s lovable assistant, Chrissy—and the romantic tension between Stella and Sheriff “Goat” Jones isn’t quite as steamy from a distance (even with new romantic interest BJ Brodersen added to the mix.)

Of course, the highlight of the book is still Stella herself—a feisty, fiftyish, small-town gal who uses her history as an abused wife and her proficiency with a number of tools and weapons to take a stand for women who can’t stand up for themselves. She’s tough as nails and to-the-point, and she won’t take any crap from anybody. Her strong personality makes her a great main character—one that readers are eager to follow through each new adventure.

Still, with its distant locale and its new cast of characters, A Bad Day for Mercy doesn’t have the same charm as earlier books in the series. So if you haven’t met Stella Hardesty yet—and I highly recommend it—you should probably start elsewhere.

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