Near the start of Pullen’s muddled sequel to 2013’s Cold Feet, Stella Lavender, a special agent at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, stops her car to pick up a hitchhiker, Nikki Truly, who looks about 16. After giving Nikki a lecture on the dangers of rape, Stella drives her to Silver Hills, a high-end gated golf community, where Nikki lives and is due to babysit for some neighbors. When they arrive at the home of Kent Mercer, Stella finds Kent lying dead on the deck in a pool of blood; his toddler daughter is missing. Stella turns out to be intimately involved with everyone connected to the case. The night before, acting as an undercover agent, she bought $1,200 worth of oxys from Kent, who was the manager of Clemmie’s, a restaurant owned by former NFL star Lincoln Teller, whom Stella once helped out. Too many coincidences mar this sophomore effort, though Stella, who operates on her own a lot, stretching and breaking rules in the process, is a sympathetic enough lead to sustain a series. (Jan.)
A North Carolina cop lands her dream job with the Homicide Division only to risk becoming a victim herself.State Bureau of Investigation Agent Stella Lavender hates her job in Narcotics till a chance meeting with hitchhiker Nikki Truly, late for a babysitting job, leads to the discovery of a body and a chance to move to Homicide. Nikki is supposed to babysit Paige, the young daughter of Kent and the very pregnant Temple Mercer, but Kent never arrived to pick her up from school. It's Stella who finds his bloody body when she delivers Nikki to her job, and she recognizes him as the Clemmie's restaurant manager who only the night before had sold her illegal drugs. In the meantime, toddler Paige isn't in the house and nobody knows where she is. Stella's already concerned about her grandmother Fern, a free-spirited artist whose house is falling down. Years of giving art lessons have put Fern in touch with many people, and Stella feels certain that she's hiding knowledge of Paige's whereabouts. Fixing up the house gets a lot easier when Fern discloses a treasure trove of expensive paintings in the attic, but getting Fern to come clean is not so easy. The case turns even darker when well-loved former football star Lincoln Teller, the owner of Clemmie's, is badly hurt in a questionable car accident and then nearly dies of an overdose in the hospital, and Stella's beloved psychiatrist, Dr. Emilie Soto , who also treated Temple, is shot and nearly killed while talking to Stella. Who was the shooter really after? Stella must figure out which of the suspects tangled in love affairs, drug dealing, and money problems is the murderer before she's killed herself just as life is looking up for her and Fern. A complex case with a surfeit of red herrings that still marks a distinct improvement over Pullen's uninspiring debut (Cold Feet, 2013).