Sticks and Stones: A Hollis Morgan Mystery by R. Franklin James

Sticks and Stones: A Hollis Morgan Mystery by R. Franklin James
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (266 Pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

“Sticks and Stones can break my bones ….” Despite what the old children’s rhyme says, words can cause grievous harm. A lesson ex-con Hollis Morgan, a casualty of her deceased ex-husband’s white collar crimes, knows all too well. Now that she has received an official pardon, she is free to pursue her dreams of moving up in the world from paralegal to attorney.

While awaiting the results of the bar exam, she hopes to clear the name of a friend accused of libel by philanthropist Dorian Fields, a man whose charitable giving looks a lot like money-laundering. Only problem: the evidence has disappeared and her friend Catherine is found dead. Although initially thought a suicide, Hollis’ friend was murdered. Catherine was writing an article about Fields for a tabloid. Hollis and attorney Mark Haddan convince the magazine to let them carry on with the libel defense, but they have fewer than 60 days to prove Catherine’s exposé was well-founded. In the meantime Hollis has other distractions; she is also helping to settle the estate of Margaret Koch, a rich client of the law firm whose impetuous actions as revealed in her letters still embitter the lives of those she left behind. And then there are the two men vying for her attention—one a police detective, the other a private eye.

Normally Hollis trusts her built-in lie detector, but in this case, too many people are lying for too many reasons. One of them is not only a liar, but a killer.

Hollis Morgan, a paralegal who has just taken the bar exam, receives a late night call from her good friend, Cathy Briscoe, begging for help. Cathy has been accused of libel and needs Hollis to help her gather more evidence. Hollis tells her friend that she needs to think about it as she is too tired to make a decent decision. Cathy is disappointed but Hollis promises that they will meet in the morning. Unfortunately, that is too late for Cathy, who is found dead the next day of an apparent suicide. It doesn’t take long for the police to realize that in fact, Cathy was murdered, but Hollis is filled with remorse that she didn’t tell Cathy right away that she would help. Hollis is now determined to clear her friend’s name even while she is swamped with work at her job.

This is a fast paced mystery with lots going on. I liked Hollis a lot, and I thought her character was very well developed. She ends up having to juggle two mysteries. Not only is she trying to clear her friend’s name, but her boss has her working on a probate case. I enjoyed watching Hollis in action and seeing how she would get ideas for one case from the other, working hard to solve both.

Hollis is helped in her efforts to clear Cathy’s name by Mark Haddan, an attorney who was also a friend to Cathy. Since Hollis hasn’t found out yet whether or not she has passed the bar exam, she needs a qualified lawyer, and Mark does respect Hollis, but I found his character to be a bit flat. I honestly wasn’t sure which side of things he was on.

I really liked the human touches that are brought into the story. Hollis finds a box of letters written to the dead woman in her probate case and I learned a lot about Hollis from the way in which she reacted to the letters. She goes way beyond what was required for her job to see that the outcome of the case is what it should be.

Hollis also comes in contact with a young man named Vince, “a revering addict on the other side of withdrawals.” Hollis buys him lunch several times and when he asks her why she is being so nice, she answers, “Because I could.”

Readers are sure to be captured by this plot-twisting, exciting mystery. It is a real page turner and I certainly am going to keep reading this series.


  1. amy bowens says:

    This book sounds very interesting! Going to add it to my tbr. Thanks for sharing!

Speak Your Mind