“Cold Heart,” is the second in Karen Pullen’s traditional mystery series about the North Carolina SBI investigator, Stella Lavender. Instead of working undercover on tacky drug buys and dealer shutdowns, Stella wants to work fulltime at her dream job – in Homicide. But the boss hasn’t wanted to listen. He likes that she doesn’t look like a cop and that the guys in the back alleys won’t have a clue of her true identity until the cuffs are slapped on.
A couple days after working another annoying drug bust, Stella picks up a hitchhiker, a babysitter stranded without a ride, and takes her to the babysitting assignment. Thing is, the father is dead and the baby is missing. That drug bust? It overlaps the homicide. Life gets complicated very quickly.
Stella's own free- spirited grandmother, Fern, is an entertaining contrast to Stella’s more serious character, and plays a role in the case of the missing child. The search for the toddler gets knotty, and Stella gets shot – three times in one week. Like I said, complicated.
“Cold Heart” touches on the accepted procedure that is followed for evidence collection in NC, but knowing the rules and actually following them? Stella would be in lots of trouble if Command knew what she was really doing.
Make no mistake, Stella Lavender is bright, and edgy, and well-qualified for the job. Pullen has developed her assertiveness in natural ways in this second book. She is more comfortable with making decisions, and is good at whatever she’s assigned to do – and a bit better with the common-sense part of the work than her male counterparts. With some luck in tough situations, and creative problem solving, she gets results.
“Cold Heart” addresses questionable parenting and lifestyle choices, drugs, and the unexpected reveal that sometimes, nosy neighbors don’t always share what they see. There are plenty of suspects in this twisty family murder mystery. Not many of them like each other, but it's family in the South, so there is always lots of covering up, denial, and looking the other way. Nobody wants to give up a relative, even if that relative is up to no good. Facing grandma’s stink eye at every family dinner is worse than the wrath of law enforcement.
There are three guys in Stella's life – too bad that two of them are otherwise encumbered with spouses. That doesn’t prevent her from getting weak-kneed. Pullen provides us with smart dialogue in “Cold Heart,” a multi-faceted plot, a well-written cast of characters, and a leading gal we hope will be around for a long series.
Contains adult situations and occasional adult language.
Please visit www.karenpullen.com for information about North Carolinian, Karen Pullen, her recent release of short stories, “Restless Dreams,” and her other work.