My name is Hollis Morgan, and I’ve visited Dru Ann before.
The last time she heard from me I was trying to get my act together as a senior attorney with a focus on probate law. In theory, probate should be a pretty tame legal area, but I guess not the way I practice it. It would appear that I haven’t gotten the hang of how to avoid dangerous situations and murder cases.
For example, today I wake up ready to go to work at this great law firm in Oakland, California. It’s small, and the oldest firm in the East Bay. It took a chance and hired me when I was on parole, and I’ve been loyal to it ever since.
John Faber, my live-in “live-in”, is packing to go on an undercover mission with his fellow agents from Homeland Security. He loves his new job, and I love him too much to let him see me worry. So, I don’t. This time, he leaves me with a check-in system of throw-away cell phones to let me know he’s okay— without the bad guys tracking him.
I send him off with a kiss, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this assignment.
At the office, my secretary greets me with the file for a new client. I take it happily. It’s still hard for me to realize that just eight years ago I was serving time in a state prison for insurance fraud, a setup by my guilty ex-husband. Even though it was a crime I didn’t commit, I couldn’t prove it. Eventually, I got out early for good behavior, and received a judicial pardon which allowed me to finish law school and take the California Bar.
From then to now, I relied on my friends from the Fallen Angles Book Club. Membership requirements are simple: white collar ex-felons who love to read. We are definitely a niche group. The club has come through for me many times, and I like to think that I’ve helped one or two members—particularly when we were suspects in a murder.
That’s why I love the law.
Take my latest case. I never liked Mattias Bell. He was mean, cheap, narrow-minded and filthy rich. He was also my client. When he died, he made me executor of his estate and gave me a strange directive, one I never would have thought came from him. I found it telling that his staff had little liking for him, and his closest relatives didn’t want to change their vacation plans to attend his funeral. The other beneficiaries of Bell’s estate seemed unusually satisfied, almost joyous about his death. And, while I don’t want to question their reactions, something is not right and I’m going to find out what.
It’s not even lunchtime and my assistant brings in a message from another client, Kiki Turner. If she sounds like a strip dancer, it’s because she is, or was, before she married the twenty-third richest man in California. Kiki wants her rights explained. Mr. Turner has died and she is sole beneficiary of his estate. She wants to formalize her own estate and give all her money to her granddaughter, skipping her daughter and her controlling son-in-law. It’s pretty straightforward but Kiki isn’t telling the whole truth and lies on both sides are flying fast and furious.
Well, it’s almost time to go home when I get a call from my older sister. She wants me to come home. Home, in this case, is to my parents’ house in Palo Alto. On the face, this isn’t a big deal, except I haven’t seen my family since I left them behind in the courtroom at my sentencing. My father had tears in his eyes and my mother gave me a look of such disappointment and disgust, it was easily the worst day of my life.
She said she never wanted to see me again. She’s been true to her word these past eight years.
But now I’m called home. Why?
It’s just another day in my life – and it’s only Monday.
You can read more about Hollis in The Bell Tolls, the fifth book in the “Hollis Morgan” mystery series.
Hollis Morgan has survived imprisonment, received a pardon, and persevered to finally become a probate attorney. Tough as she is, her newest case will further test her mettle. She discovers her client, Matthias Bell, is a deceased blackmailer whose last wish was to return the damaging documents letting his victims off the hook. It falls to Hollis to give them the good news. But it becomes apparent that Bell was murdered, and the victims of “Bell’s tolls” are now suspects. Hollis’ white-collar criminal past has left her with keen survival instincts. A gifted liar, she knows a liar when she sees one. A lot of people in this case are lying, and one is a killer.
On top of that, she’s also representing a dying stripper, a wealthy widow whose estranged daughter spurns her attempts at reconciliation, but whose husband sees the potential inheritance as mending all wounds.
Clients aside, Hollis is defensive and wary. Her mother, who hasn’t spoken to her for years, needs a kidney, and Hollis is a match, but neither are ready to put away the past. With Hollis’ fiancé and emotional support off on an undercover mission for Homeland Security, she must count on her own survival instincts. She is swept along on an emotional roller coaster as her absent love and her family’s coldness take their own toll. Work is her salvation. The specter of a killer keeps her focused. Hollis has always had to rely on her wits, but now she finds that others who don’t have her well-being in mind are relying on them as well.
Book 5 in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series, which began with The Fallen Angels Book Club.
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About the author
R. Franklin James, a University of California/Berkeley grad, followed a career of political advocacy with writing mysteries. In 2013 her debut novel, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was published by Camel Press. This was her first book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery Series followed by Sticks & Stones, The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club, and book four, The Trade List. Her fifth book, The Bell Tolls was released June 1, 2017. James resides in northern California. She can be reached on Facebook and Twitter. Her website is: www.rfranklinjames.com.
All comments are welcomed.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a copy of The Bell Tolls. The giveaway ends June 3, 2017. Good luck everyone!