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A Bad Day for Scandal by Sophie Littlefield
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312648374
Date: 21 June 2011 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

PI Stella Hardesty lives in the cozy, backwoods community of Prosper, Missouri; her specialty is curing men who are abusing their spouses or girlfriends. She employs unethical methods such as interrogating, beating, and if the situation warrants, killing. The wealthy, snobbish Priss Porter beseeches Stella to help her dispose of a corpse lying in her car trunk. When Stella refuses, Priss threatens to blackmail her with photographs taken of her menacing Ferg Rohossen with a claw hammer. Stella continues to stand her ground. Soon afterwards, Priss and her brother Liman disappear. Stella and her partner Chrissy Shaw investigate the disappearances and uncover a scandalous male prostitution ring that leads to more mayhem and murder.

Males will find themselves drowning in feminism when they read Sophie Littlefield's quirky, estrogen-driven A Bad Day for Scandal. In fact, all males, when they encounter its bawdy, trailer-trash heroine, Stella Hardesty, better wear protective hard cups. This widowed, middle-aged PI must have a crotch fetish; if she isn't goggling, grabbing, or squeezing a man's crotch, then she's pointing a gun at it. Seriously, she must believe all men live their lives below their belts. Stella is a champion of all women who've been abused by men. She's a cartoon-like character through which numerous women (and some men) can live out their fantasy of getting vengeance against that hated spouse, partner, lover, etc., who physically or emotionally abused them. After all, haven't we all dreamed about taking a baseball bat, frying pan, or wrench and bashing in the brains of that hated someone who betrayed us?

Initially, I didn't know what to think of A Bad Day for Scandal with its vulgar language, sexual innuendos and morally ambiguous characters. It has the small town setting, the requisite adorable children and pets, double entendres and off-screen killings that are common in humorous, light-hearted cozies. However, Stella, with her cruelly unique brand of vigilante justice and her sadomasochistic methods of interrogating (torturing) a suspect, is the type of anti-hero to be found in hard boiled noir intended more for a male-dominated audience. Her and her assistant Chrissy definitely use shocking, vulgar language, especially the gratuitous use of the four-letter "f" word, which is unbefitting of a proper lady.

Ever since such groundbreaking television series as Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives and Cougar Town, feminism has taken a new turn. Not only do women want the same rights as men such as the right to vote, the right to go to war, and the right to equal wages, but women want the right to become badasses. They want to be female chauvinistic pigs. They want the right to break rules, take the law into their own hands and never be punished. Stella Hardesty reminds me of the brash, sexy Stella Johnson (portrayed by gorgeous Barbara Eden) of the hit film Harper Valley PTA. Stella Johnson resorted to mildly violent, hilarious hijinks in order to expose the hypocrites on the Harper Valley PTA; however, she didn't kill anyone.

On a lighter note, A Bad Day for Scandal does contain a lot of romance, albeit a good majority of it involves lesbianism. Stella tries extremely hard to be understanding and nonjudgmental when her daughter Noelle introduces her to her girlfriend Joy. She seems to be more upbeat about it than Cher was upon first learning that her daughter Chastity was a lesbian. As for herself, Stella, whose mind seems to be preoccupied with sex, finds herself caught between two suitors, Sheriff Goat Jones and bar owner BJ Brodersen. (I can't imagine having romantic thoughts about a man named "Goat"; I keep imagining a hairy, bearded man with flies swarming around his smelly body.) Goat, a man of the law, has a tendency to look the other way and pretend that Stella isn't a lawbreaker.

I can suffer through any mystery as long as it contains an intriguing, unsolved murder. The unidentified corpse in Priss's trunk got my attention. Later, I kept wondering what happened to Priss and her brother Liman. The killer's identity was truly kept a secret until nearly the end and I was genuinely surprised. I did laugh several times though much of the humor was trite and of a sexual nature. Nevertheless, having grown up in a small town at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, I can relate to Chrissy's extended family consisting of many cousins and their children. Some of the redneck humor could be interpreted as endearing. Numerous members of my family, including myself, are considered rednecks. A good quality about rednecks is that they don't mind when people make fun of them. Jeff Foxworthy, a self-proclaimed redneck, has made a fortune telling redneck jokes.

Manhaters and fans of Lorena Bobbitt will definitely want to read A Bad Day for Scandal. Also, women who are tired of a justice system that continually fails them may want to check out this novel.

Fans of genuinely hilarious cozies involving strong, independent females in the role of investigator are urged to read the following: Parnell Hall's The KenKen Killings, Laura DiSilverio's Swift Justice: A Mystery and Joelle Charbonneau's Skating Around the Law. Fans of professional female investigators in hardboiled crime dramas should read the following: Kathryn R. Wall's Jericho Cay, Wessel Ebersohn's The October Killings and Todd Ritter's Death Notice. All of these novels are published by Minotaur.

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