Minerva Koenig's sequel to Nine Days, South of Nowhere, is out, to which I say, hooray! Julie Kalas is renovating a house while recovering from stab wounds inflicted by the woman she bought the house from when she discovers a mummified corpse in the heating chase. Must be time for a very long vacation in, say, Mexico. Lucky for Julie, there's a good paycheck if she heads down there with a P.I. acquaintance to investigate a shady plastic surgeon. Things first seem incredibly simple, and then get downright byzantine, with Buddhist innkeepers, vigilante O'odham women, smuggling goods and people, and the unsolved murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. Meanwhile, Julie is suffering the effects of PTSD and gets told that she doesn't know who she is, a disturbing thought for one almost forty. Like the previous book, this is compelling, atmospheric reading (Koenig reliably finds creative ways to describe the hot and dry environment.) centered around a complex and engaging character. There are plenty of twists and turns and one is hungry for the next book in the series.
The Stella Hardesty novels by Sophie Littlefield feature another feisty heroine, albeit one about ten years older. Stella runs her sewing machine business Monday through Friday, and spends her off hours meting out justice on behalf of battered women. Of course, this hobby would not meet the approval of the local sheriff, who Sophie has her eye on, and much comedy is produced by her efforts to hide her extracurricular activities from him. These books are fast paced and intricately plotted, and as can be imagined in an area filled with men dumb enough to argue with the business end of Stella's shotgun, violent. Still, the dark humor shines through, and Stella always gets her man.
Before she became known for the beasties who bump in the night, Charlaine Harris wrote her Shakespeare series. While having nothing directly to do with the poet and playwright, it is the name of the town where violent-crime victim Lily Bard decides to make her home. Working as a cleaning woman in this small Arkansas community, Lily uncovers all kinds of dirty laundry, some of which people will kill to keep hidden. This is a rather noir take on the cozy, and more plot-driven than the other two series. Still, Lily is likably flawed and the writing is engaging and suspenseful.
Got other tales of feisty small-town women? Let us know in the comments below!