Cold Heart, the second book in my Stella Lavender series, will be released by Five Star Cengage on January 18.

CLICK HERE to read Chapter One of Cold Heart.

coldheartfrontEveryone’s favorite North Carolina mystery writer, Margaret Maron, has read Cold Heart, and says: “Fans of the regional mystery, rejoice! SBI Special Agent Stella Lavender is back, and the murder that sets off the action is even more engrossing than her first. I loved getting to see more of Stella’s sexy grandmother and the people who populate Essex County.”

COLD HEART, a traditional mystery.  Motivated by her mother’s long-ago unsolved abduction, Stella Lavender has joined the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation only to be severely challenged by her first assignment: undercover drug agent. Stella works nights, buying drugs from paranoid drug dealers, gathering evidence to send them to prison or turn them into informants. She’s great at the job because, as her boss says, “you don’t look like a cop.” But the physical danger and the necessary betrayals are getting to her. When she sees a chance to work homicide, she’ll always take it.

One afternoon Stella gives a hitchhiking teenager a ride to her babysitting job in a wealthy neighborhood. Horror awaits them—the father lies dead in a pool of blood, and his toddler is missing. Stella joins the murder investigation as the puzzle quickly grows. Most importantly, where is the toddler? A dizzying array of plausible suspects provides more questions than answers.

At the same time, Stella’s personal life offers plenty of distractions. Her grandmother Fern, a free-spirited artist with male admirers wrapped around every one of her paint-stained fingers, needs Stella’s help with expensive house repairs. And Stella’s attraction to three very different men means her romantic life is, well, complicated.

Cold Heart draws the reader into a darkly delightful page-turner as Stella rummages through every strata of society in her relentless and sometimes unconventional pursuit of a cold-hearted murderer who won’t stop at just one victim.


Publisher’s Weekly “Stella Lavender [is] the appealing 26-year-old heroine of Pullen’s absorbing first mystery … Readers will hope to see a lot more of Stella in future installments.”

BookList “The fast pace; multiple plot strands, which work together nicely; and the well-drawn characters, including strong-willed, intelligent Stella, distinguish this promising new series.”

Library Journal Review “Pullen’s debut introduces an engaging new detective meeting the challenge of her first homicide . . . I can’t wait to head back to North Carolina and meet up with Stella and Fern again.”

comments from writers we admire

North Carolina’s shining galaxy of mystery writers now has another star!” —Molly Weston, Mystery Writers of America Raven Award Winner

Cold Feet is a cool murder mystery from a hot new author I warmed up to immediately. Original characters, sharp dialogue, and clever plot very well-written.” —Chris Roerden, author of the Agatha-award winning Don’t Murder Your Mystery

“Stella Lavender, an SBI undercover narcotics agent, really wants to work homicide. Her boss should listen because she has both the smarts and the nerves. Karen Pullen combines good suspense with such nice touches of humor that this strong debut promises to turn into a habit-forming series.” —Margaret Maron, award-winning author of the best-selling Deborah Knott series

“A superb novel, a real page turner, among the best.” —Ruth Ann Hixson, veteran BookPleasures reviewer.”


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January 18 COLD HEART Release Date

February 4, 2:00 p.m. COLD HEART Book Launch Party at McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro NC

February 18, 11 a.m. Reading at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh NC

March 7, 6:30 p.m. Reading at Chatham Community Library, Pittsboro NC


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Karen Pullen, author of Cold Feet

Welcome! Here you'll find my blog, a brief bio, and links to stories published online. You can subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media. I welcome comments and emails.Photo by Jessica Key.