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' fiance 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.
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 Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was published by Camel Press. The Bell Tolls is the fifth book in the series. James resides in Northern California. For more information please visit rfranklinjames.com.
Read an Excerpt
Hollis lay on the bed folding John’s socks into efficient rolls that would fit neatly in his softcover suitcase. He was chatting away about “the team” and how they felt more like brothers.
“Do you have a team sister?” she teased.
John looked up toward the ceiling. “Now that you mention it”
She tossed a sock at him. He caught it midair and sat down next to her.
“Okay, let’s talk. You’ve been um … preoccupied since you got home. It’s not just the call from your family, is it? There’s more to it.”
“How can you say that? I’ve been talking all evening. Besides, this thing with going to see Mother, well, I admit it has me on guard.” She sighed, then told him about Bell and the safe full of file folders. She added, “And then with you leaving, I”
He placed a finger over her lips. “Don’t.”
Hollis nodded. “Sorry.” She patted his hand, and then brought it to her lips. “I’m used to you being here or at least knowing where you are. This time … this time, you’ll just be out there.”
“You’re not worried, are you?”
“Who me, worry?”
They exchanged long looks and then kissed deeply. After a moment, they pulled away and Hollis pointed to his suitcase.
“Come on, we need to finish this,” she said.
He stood and bowed then returned to his packing, placing a bulky sweater in the bag. “If I understand what you’ve been saying, thanks to Bell you have a new job assignment as a high-paid delivery girl. Is it true you’re giving out free pizzas?”
“Very funny.” Hollis shook her head in frustration. “I’m beginning to think that Matthias Bell deliberately set me up.”
She told him about her conversation with Cantone.
“It sounds like blackmail to me,” she said, tossing a folded t-shirt in his bag. “But when I briefed Gordon, he nonchalantly told me it wasn’t my concern if Bell was a blackmailer.”
John shrugged. “Let’s say he was a blackmailer. Could it be that you’re too sensitive to the fact that Bell was a crook, and now that he’s dead, can’t be punished? On the other hand, he wasn’t all bad; he decided to release his victims.”
“That’s just it, John.” She deftly squeezed his favorite pair of Dockers into the suitcase. “Bell was a jerk. I can’t see him fearing the afterlife enough to give his victims back their lives.”