Here's an endorsement for a book in which a 50-something woman takes vigilante action, beats up and tortures men – avoiding the nasty civil rights humbuggery that sworn law officers have to follow – and generally runs amok in Missouri. Okay, so I'm glad no one does this for real, but it makes a spitfire read.
Stella Hardesty, whom even the vilest of Southern bad guys calls "Miz Hardesty," was accused of killing her abusive husband. Acquitted, Stella feels it is her mission to help other women in abusive relationships. Most of the time this involves tackling (literally) the sonofagun and beating him until he cries. Sometimes it involves blackmail. Whatever it takes.
Alienated from her own daughter, Stella takes her latest client under her wing. Chrissy is a young woman whose abusive relationship Stella helped "mediate." Now Chrissy's young son is missing, and Stella agrees to help find him. Unfortunately, it soon becomes obvious that there are some scary mobster guys involved, and they are not interested in politely calling Stella "Miz Hardesty."
Sophie Littlefield beats up on Stella a little too much. Stella's face has a lot of "zipperwork" to patch up the results of her violent encounters, and she should buy stock in Johnson&Johnson. She's overweight but muscled, is still gunshy (an unfortunate term here) when it comes to relationships, and isn't a beauty even on a good day. She drags a lot of baggage with her, but most of the time Littlefield lightens the load with humor. As for Stella's vigilante actions … harebrained at best. Potential romantic interest Sheriff Goat Jones remarkably, wink-wink, looks the other way. Still, an entertaining first effort with characters you will want to revisit.
This was an Edgar Award finalist for Best First Novel.