Sticks & Stones is the second book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series by R. Franklin James. When I received the book from the author with a request to read and review her work, I didn’t know anything about it – or that it was part of a series. However once reading the book I realized that it can just as well stand on its own, so if you haven’t read the first book, The Fallen Angels Book Club, you won’t have a problem reading Sticks & Stones.
Sure, it does have a few references to past happenings, but nearly not as much as to impact the enjoyment of the book when it’s the first time you pick up something written by this author.
The story follows Hollis Morgan, a former convict who has been pardoned for something that she did years ago (and you can read more about that story in the author’s first mystery novel). She is right now a paralegal at a prestigious law firm, who simply tries to do her best and forget about her past. She is quite good at research and a true assed to the company with her skills, that’s why her boss is not the happiest when Holly wants to pass the Bar exam to become a full fledged lawyer.
One night Catherine, one of her best friends and a former colleague who is now a freelancer for a known tabloid comes to her house with a strange and urgent request for help with researching a case she’s been working on. She’s been accused of libel by the well known and respected philanthropist Dorian Fields. who works with charity organizations all over the place, and whom everyone seems to love and respect.
Hollis, still tired from work and nervous about her exams, doesn’t agree right away to help Catherine, however agrees to give her an answer the next day. But sadly this will never happen as Catherine is found the next day dead in her car in the garage, of an apparent suicide.
However things are just too weird and the timing just too tight to really be a suicide, Holly thinks, and soon decides to pursue Catherine’s work, do the research and clear her name post-mortem. And if she can catch the killer in the process, even better.
From here on the plot thickens and things are not really as they seem – and not even as Catherine believed them to be before she died. Hollis has to unravel the mystery and go after a cunning killer who doesn’t stop with Catherine, even if her own life is now in danger because she now knows too much.
Sticks & Stones is a great read, a fun legal mystery about a great researcher who really knows her stuff. Holly is in fact more than a researcher, she’s really quite the detective too. She has this feeling that things are not right, even when the police takes things at face value, and her relentless pushing and probing, researching and asking questions from the most unusual sources bring her more than once in lethal danger.
I enjoyed reading the book, the plot moved at a fast pace, and Hollis was a great character that is easy to like. There was even a light romance, which did not overpower the plot. It was more part of getting to know Hollis at her core. The only thing I”m really still curious about is why she doesn’t like having people over to her house, but I guess that question was answered in the first novel in the series.
There are in fact two stories going parallel in the book, with Hollis also needing to settle estate of Margaret Koch, a deceased rich client, and it’s her great research set of skills that makes her the best candidate in finding out whether Margaret had any heirs that the estate could go to.
I enjoyed this side story and reading the private letters along with Hollis, which enabled her (and me) to learn more about Margaret, a fascinating and tormented woman.
Overall it was an enjoyable book to read and I might just get the first one in the series as well, so I can learn more about Hollis, her past and her book club friends, which I hear are returning in a third novel in the series sometimes soon.