Joyce Saricks's Readers' Advisory Service in the Public Library has got me thinking that a book is either plot-oriented or character-oriented. I can't quite wrap my head around this either-or thing, so let's go with more of a Kinsey-like scale of 1-6, less or more character-oriented.
I'm about halfway through Sophie Littlefield's debut mystery, A Bad Day for Sorry (out Aug. 4). I would give this a 5 for being relatively character-centered but still with a plot that keeps readers going. After a paragraph about protagonist Stella Hardesty "whuppin' ass," the second part of the book's prologue goes like this: "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."
Stella Hardesty killed her abusive husband and went on to run a sideline working for hire as a very convincing warning to other abusive men. Littlefield writes in third-person, but Stella's vocabulary and voice are clear in the writing style. The secondary characters are well-painted and layered, too, from Stella's busty blond client who ain't the brightest crayon, to the attractive, older, and of-debatable-trustworthiness cop Stella calls in at times, to the punk kid next door who seems to be Stella's only friend.
I'm not sure if Stella is meant to be identified with. The book's cover might attract a younger audience than Stella's age (50). It's what prompted me, at 25, to pick it up. Plus she doesn't have an enviable life or a common one. We're definitely drawn into her life, though, and all the action is experienced through her lens.
A Bad Day for Sorry is a good pick for readers who like character-centered crime novels that aren't cozy (e.g., full of knitting patterns, food recipes, quaint scenes of English towns) but aren't too violent or sexy, either. If I know mysteries, Stella may just turn into a series character, too.