Tag Archives: R. Franklin James

My Musing ~ The Bell Tolls by R. Franklin James

The Bell Tolls by R. Franklin James is the fifth book in the “Hollis Morgan” mystery series. Publisher: Camel Press, June 2017

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.

Hollis goes above and beyond her duties when she finds herself yet involved in another murder investigation. And this is where her skills of detection shines as she pursues a killer who wants to remain hidden.

I love the writing style and the ease in how this multi-plot drama moves the story forward where every scene is an important element in the telling of this tale. The author did a great job in staging this mystery where the suspect list was small, but it was the clues that helped narrow down the field and boy, what an industrious group of suspects. The narrative was done with great aplomb and kept me engaged in all that was happening with this great cast of characters who played pivotal roles that led to the apprehension of the killer, which was a nice little twist. The subplot is what really drove this story for me, especially the heartbreak that Hollis faced and helping her estranged mother. After it was all said and done, the author pulled a good one with a surprising twist that I did not see coming and I can’t wait to how this will play out. This was the best book in the series thus far and I look forward to the next book in this entertaining series.

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A day in the life of Hollis Morgan by R. Franklin James

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!

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My Musing ~ The Trade List by R. Franklin James

The Trade List by R. Franklin James is the fourth book in the “Hollis Morgan” mystery series. Publisher: Camel Press, June 2016

The Trade ListHollis Morgan has come a long way since serving time for her ex-husband’s white-collar crimes. After receiving a state pardon, she is now a probate attorney at the Bay Area firm where she began as a paralegal. In a case close to home, her manager, George Ravel, inherits a fortune from his newly found birth mother, but her dead husband’s heirs are overcome with greed, not grief. They are determined to discredit her will and deny her natural son even one cent of the millions they believe should belong to their father’s estate.

George asks Hollis to handle the case, but her attention is divided. A dead woman has been discovered with Hollis’s business card—one that dates back to Hollis’s years on parole. The police don’t believe Hollis’s claim that she never met Olivia Shur. As it turns out, she did know the woman, only under another name. At the time of her death, Olivia Shur possessed a list that could end the careers and lives of several public officials and prominent businessmen. Copies of the list exist. Someone believes Hollis has one of them and will go to any extreme to obtain it.

To protect her friends and stay alive, Hollis turns to her ex-con buddies from the Fallen Angels Book Club. In this case, there are too many people on both sides of the law who are determined to see her stopped.

When Hollis receives a message from a past acquaintance, little does she know the hornet’s nest that would open for both her professional and personal life. Who should she trust? When the chips are down, Hollis is a survivor with a little help from her friends.

I love it when a story captivates and has me completely engrossed in all that are bound by the pages of a book. What a way to start with a tease here and there and then bam, the plot thickens into a fast-paced and action-packed drama that quickly became a page turner. I liked the tone of the narrative and how each scene blends from one chapter to the other taking me deeper into all the facets in the storytelling. With skilled resources, the author does a great job of taking me along on this ride with enough suspense and intrigue to keep me moving forwards as I had to know what was happening in the mysteries that were unfolding before my eyes. I like Hollis and what she has accomplished in her life and it’s always interesting to see how she handles her role when her personal life invades her professional life. I enjoyed the latest in the series and I hope there are more adventures yet to come in this engagingly appealing series.

It’s All In A Day With Hollis Morgan by R. Franklin James

The Trade ListWaking up to the clang of the BART light rail train, took me back years ago when the sound of the bell was meant to wake me up and signal the start of another day in prison.

But that’s been awhile, and since then I’ve turned my life around, and except for a random memory, I could almost forget the year and a half I spent in California’s forced accommodations. However, nothing could make me forget the betrayal of my now ex-husband, who set me up to take the fall for his criminality. He swore that I would get off, because I’d never had a run in with the law, but we weren’t counting on a tough-on-crime judge who gave me three years for insurance fraud.

My immediate family would be considered dysfunctional on a good day, but the day I looked into my father’s eyes as they took me away, was the worst of my life. The fact that my mother ignored me and kept muttering :”. . .this is so embarrassing. . . to my sister and brother hurt me but then I’d never been able to count on her support.

So I served my time and got off in eighteen months for good behavior. I got out physically, but I still carried my cell with me. It has taken years for me to compartmentalize those months and put them behind me—not far behind, because I never want to completely forget how I lost myself.

It took some doing but I received a judicial pardon, graduated from law school, passed the California bar and now I’m working as a probate attorney for a small but respected law firm in the Bay Area.

Enough reminiscing.

Before I go out the door, I give a kiss on the forehead to my sleeping significant other, John Faber, without whom I’d be even more ensconced in the shell I started building for myself. He keeps me—hopeful.

Which reminds me, I’m going to be late for my meeting with George.

George Ravel is my managing attorney, not my boss but a mentor type I can bounce things off of, except that day before yesterday he surprises me with the fact that his newly discovered birth mother (I didn’t even know he was adopted) left him a fortune and he wants me to process the will.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’ll have to tell him that not only did he inherit millions from his birth mother, he also inherited a bounty of the most obnoxious, greedy and desperate step-relations I have ever come across. They are determined to contest the will and do whatever they can to invalidate his share.

But it’s not in my nature to pass on a wrong that I can make right. This morning I plan to tell him that I’ve discovered a few key pieces of information that completely changes the outlook—and not all for the good.

This brings me to another case that’s making me crazy, yesterday I was contacted by the county sheriff. Evidently my business card was discovered on the car seat of a woman who was murdered. I didn’t recognize her name or description, but trying telling that to law enforcement when you’re an ex-con.

Supposedly, she’s known to have an incriminating list of names that many will pay—and kill, to keep from seeing the light of day. It’s just my luck that everyone thinks that she gave me a copy of the list—except she didn’t.

And that’s just today.


The Trade List is the fourth book in the Hollis Morgan mystery series, published by Camel Press, June 2016.

Hollis Morgan has come a long way since serving time for her ex-husband’s white-collar crimes. After receiving a state pardon, she is now a probate attorney at the Bay Area firm where she began as a paralegal. In a case close to home, her manager, George Ravel, inherits a fortune from his newly found birth mother, but her dead husband’s heirs are overcome with greed, not grief. They are determined to discredit her will and deny her natural son even one cent of the millions they believe should belong to their father’s estate.

George asks Hollis to handle the case, but her attention is divided. A dead woman has been discovered with Hollis’s business card–one that dates back to Hollis’s years on parole. The police don’t believe Hollis’s claim that she never met Olivia Shur. As it turns out, she did know the woman, only under another name. At the time of her death, Olivia Shur possessed a list that could end the careers and lives of several public officials and prominent businessmen. Copies of the list exist. Someone believes Hollis has one of them and will go to any extreme to obtain it.

To protect her friends and stay alive, Hollis turns to her ex-con buddies from the Fallen Angels Book Club. In this case, there are too many people on both sides of the law who are determined to see her stopped.

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About the author
R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and flourished in a career of public policy and political advocacy. In 2013 the first book in her fan starred Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was released, and followed by Sticks & Stones, in 2014. The third book in the series: The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club came out in 2015. Book four, The Trade List, is scheduled for release in June 2016. James resides in northern California.

For more information please visit: www.rfranklinjames.com.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of The Trade List. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end June 7, 2016 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

All comments are welcomed.

Meeting Hollis Morgan by R. Franklin James

The Return of the Fallen Book ClubI’m called Hollis Morgan, I used the word “called” because due to life circumstances I ditched my first name, moved my middle name up front, and retook my maiden name after dropping my married one.

I am not your usual protagonist. I was born and raised in California (that’s not the unusual part). The middle child with an older sister and a younger brother (that’s not the unusual part either), like some families, mine is more dysfunctional than most. I’ve been told I’m an attractive woman with thick auburn hair and brown eyes, although at five foot three, I refuse to wear stilettos to compensate. When you catch up to my story I’m just finishing my fifth year off of parole (now, that’s the unusual part).

Yep, I’m an ex-con. I spent 18 months of a three year sentence in a California prison for insurance fraud. I was studying in law school when my then husband set me up to take the fall for his criminal activities. His logic was that as a first time offender, I would never do time—tell it to the judge that sentenced me.

I was doubly dumped upon when my family, a conservative self-conscious bunch, literally turned their back on me when I left the courtroom to start my sentence. That wasn’t a real surprise, I knew they would never forgive me for embarrassing them, I knew they believed I was innocent but bringing them notoriety was unforgivable. My family resembled strangers who were stuck on the same piece of real estate. We never went on vacations because that would require a certain amount of closeness. Emotions were frowned upon and conversation discouraged. Not bringing attention to oneself was mandatory.

From the frying pan, into the fire is how I would describe my marriage. I married my college sweetheart. The first year of our marriage was heaven, the second year was like purgatory and the third year was hell. I divorced him from prison and I swore to myself that when I got out I would get my life back. And I stuck to my word, once on parole, I buried my trust muscles deep in my heart and set out to get a judicial pardon, finish law school, take the bar and get my life back on track. I found work as a paralegal, which for the time being, was as close to the law as I could get.

In the meantime my parole officer, Jeffrey Wallace, introduced me to the Fallen Angels Book Club. The Fallen Angels were former white-collar crime parolees of Jeffrey’s who were trying to re-integrate themselves back into society. Most had changed their names, all had maintained the paranoia and lack of trust that comes from having your life turned upside down, and all of us loved books.

I admit I’m more paranoid than the others. I have a special talent, I can spot a liar within seconds and as a result I’m an excellent prevaricator. I enjoy the book club because I can be myself and talk about my favorite pastime, reading a good book. But my resolve was broken when one of the Club members was murdered like an antagonist in one of our monthly selections. It doesn’t take the police long to identify our Club as their viable pool of ex-con suspects. The police are even more convinced when a second member is murdered, similar to another book club selection. Why would a member do such a stupid, obvious crime?

I feel as if I’m starting to drown, in addition to being a suspect and losing my freedom, it appears my eagerness to solve the killings may have put me in line as the next murder victim.


You can read more about Hollis in The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club, the third book in the “Hollis Morgan” mystery series, published by Camel Press. The first two books in the series are The Fallen Angels Book Club and Sticks & Stones.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on May 8 for the chance to win a copy of The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.

Meet the author
R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley where she cultivated a different type of writing—legislation and public policy. After a career of political advocacy she focused on her first love, writing, and in 2013 her debut novel, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was published by Camel Press, Seattle, WA.  James is married with two sons and resides in northern California. Visit her website for more information.

My Musing ~ The Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club by R. Franklin James

The Return of the Fallen Book ClubThe Return of the Fallen Angels Book Club by R. Franklin James is the third book in the “Hollis Morgan” mystery series. Publisher: Camel Press, May 2015

Hollis Morgan is a survivor. She married young to flee an unloving family and ended up in prison, paying the price for her charming husband’s embezzlement. After finally obtaining a California judicial pardon, Hollis has climbed the ladder from paralegal to probate attorney at a respected law firm in the Bay Area. Unfortunately her first two cases are trials by fire. One involves a vicious family dispute over a disinheritance of family members who seem ready to stop at nothing to get their share. The other is the murder of her former parole officer, Jeffrey Wallace, whose will and family trust she is retained to file with the court. Too many people have motives and family mourners are few, so she resists processing the estate.

Without Jeffrey, Hollis’ successful reentry into society would never have been possible. It was he who introduced her to the Fallen Angels–his other white-collar ex-parolees seeking a second chance. The book club they formed was a comfort and a distraction, until two murders forced them back under the scrutiny of the law. The group disbanded during the ensuing investigation. Now, realizing their debt to Jeffrey, they come together once more, determined to uncover the truth.

Although Hollis has met a great guy–a police detective who knows about her past yet accepts her unconditionally–she is afraid to trust again. Naturally he doesn’t want to see her put her life in danger for the sake of a case, but he also knows she won’t stop until Jeffrey’s murderer is discovered. As both cases heat up, Hollis finds that probate law can bring out the worst in people and sometimes expose a killer.

This was very enjoyable. I like the way the story flowed easing me into a drama that quickly accelerated as time was running out and the need to know what was behind the murder was top of mind. I like the premise of an attorney and friends who are white collar ex-cons getting together to help the police solve their friend’s murder and of course there’s more going on that is uncovered as the story progresses. The author’s use of the plot twists that appeared gave me pause and made the telling of this story much more rewarding, especially the widow’s reason for why she did what she did. I like the way the author portrays Hollis a strong and determined protagonist; guarded yet shows a vulnerable side which keeps her grounded. This fast-paced, action-filled drama propels you to the end in this exciting mystery that leaves you wanting more. This was a great read and I hope there are more exciting challenges to come with Hollis and her friends.