coldheart

Karen Pullen returns with the second in her Stella Lavender Mysteries, Cold Heart. With her debut, Cold Feet, readers were introduced to the NC State Bureau of Investigations agent, who’s been doing undercover drug work. But Stella keeps hoping for something more. Always on the lookout for a homicide, she quickly becomes involved in an investigation after giving a ride to a hitchhiker.

The teen needs to get to her babysitting job, but once inside the wealthy neighborhood where her employer lives, Stella and the girl find the father in the family lying dead in the backyard. The toddler in question is missing. Stella gets herself assigned to the case and finds it particularly unusual.

Family photos have gone missing. It appears the victim was unconscious for a period of time before being killed. Why does he have a new huge deposit in his bank account? With the toddler’s mother pregnant and due to deliver soon, the child’s disappearance takes on a new urgency, even as Stella strives to find the father’s killer.

Stella’s backstory includes being raised by her very modern grandmother after her own mother went missing when Stella was a baby. This underlines much of her drive and motivation, and it comes into play in this case in an unusual manner.

Pullen creates her North Carolina setting and her characters well. A strong entry in a compelling series.

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