See, now all that there’s going to be a change of direction round here angst from yesterday is starting to make sense isn’t it?

I’ve just finished reading A Bad Day for Sorry: A Crime Novel by (first-time novelist!) Sophie Littlefield, and I loved it: and I’m someone who doesn’t normally read crime novels. In fact, after I’d finished reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy during my recuperation from surgery last year, I thought I’d never pick up another crime novel again. As far as I was concerned, Larsson was it, and no one, ever, was going to be able to top his accomplishment. (Note to Melanie Newman – I couldn’t disagree with your F Word review more, Larsson is so a feminist ally!)

And to be honest, Sorry doesn’t top Larsson’s work, but only because Sophie Littlefield’s writing style and approach are so completely different it’s actually impossible to make a comparison between the two: so I won’t attempt to. Suffice to say that having avoided reading crime novels for what seems like aeons, I’ve now realised just how diverse a category it is. I’m really looking forward to reading some more.

But anyway, back to the book.

A Bad Day for Sorry is set in rural Missouri and has as its main protagonist a 50+ year old woman, Stella Hardesty. Now a few years prior to the story’s beginning, Hardesty had finished off her abusive husband with a wrench and managed to get off with it in court, and as the story unfolds we learn that she has now made it her life’s work to help other women deal with their own abusive husbands and boyfriends.

So as a sideline to her day job of running a perfectly respectable sewing shop in her hometown, Stella Hardesty works outside of the law “convincing” some men of the error of their ways. As the blurb on the jacket says: “some men need more convincing than others, but it’s usually nothing a little light bondage or old-fashioned whuppin’ can’t fix.”

And if that all sounds a bit dark to you, trust me, it’s not: it’s bloody funny.

Here’s the prologue for a taster:

Whuppin’ ass wasn’t so hard, Stella Hardesty thought as she took aim with the little Raven .25 she took off a cheating son-of-a-bitch in Kansas City last month.

What was hard was making sure it stayed whupped

Especially on a day when it hit a hundred degrees before noon. And you were having hot flashes. And today’s quote on your Calendar for Women Who Do Too Much read “Find serenity in unexpected places.”

“Fuck serenity,” Stella said. And she shot the trailer.

When I first saw the book advertised (on a publisher’s blog, via Twitter) I found it really hard to imagine how domestic abuse and vigilante justice could be portrayed in any kind of  light-hearted way, in fact that was what intrigued me enough to buy the book in the first place. And I’m relieved to say that that’s not how Littlefield tackles the more serious issues: she manages instead to get the balance just right, between the humour on the one hand, and an obvious contempt for male abuse on the other.

Stella Hardesty meanwhile is a great heroine: she’s feisty, compassionate, and above all she’s absolutely bloody fearless and determined. And I love her and want to be her. Well okay, without the violence and the sewing obviously (but let’s be honest, being Stella is a far more realistic aspiration for me than my previous one of wanting to be Lisbeth Salander!)

Here’s an extract from an interview with Sophie Littlefield, where she explains her inspiration for Stella:

“I was smack in the middle of my forties and having a bad week. Arriving at middle age in America, for a woman, is both liberating and irritating. I had a great time magnifying the everyday annoyances – failing vision, creeping waistline, parenting adult kids, youth-obsessed media – and setting them up against the bigger ones, like the expectations that mature women should keep their mouths shut and stay out of the way.”

Yep, tell me about it Sophie…..

I’m delighted to see that A Bad Day for Sorry is the first of a series, so this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of Stella Hardesty. A Bad Day for Pretty is due out later in the year, and it seems there are even more Stella books in the pipeline. I’ve already pre-ordered the next one, and I suspect once you’re read A Bad Day for Sorry you’ll be doing the same.

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