Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Book Review: 'Sticks and Stones' by R. Franklin James


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.

Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short ReviewsIt has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.