The Fallen Angels Book Club, by R. Franklin James: A Meeting of Criminal Minds

fallen_angelsThe Fallen Angels Book Club ($14.95, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-917-6) is a mystery/suspense novel by new author R. Franklin James about a woman whose book club—supposedly composed entirely of white-collar criminals—may harbor a bona fide murderer.

The Fallen Angels Book Club is the first book in an exciting new mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Hollis Morgan.

** Click the cover image to order online **

** Also available in Kindle, Nook, and other eBook formats on Smashwords **

“Twists and turns keep this debut novel exciting to the surprising end.”

—Michele Drier, author of Edited for Death and The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles.

“R. Franklin James’ new book has everything a reader could ask for in a good mystery: intriguing plot, fascinating characters, and a few shockers thrown in along the way.”

—Shirley Kennedy, romance novelist

“The Fallen Angels Book Club by author R. Franklin James is an enjoyable first book in the new series featuring Hollis Morgan. Hollis is a good heroine as she is smart, determined and resourceful.”

—Barbara Cothern, Portland Book Review

5 Stars: “This mystery kept my attention from beginning to end. Although I had my suspicions of one character, the solution to the mystery surprised me. And that, my friends, is the mark of a good mystery.”  Read more ….

–Self-Taught Cook Blog

“Reading is murder in this must-read suspense novel filled with surprising twists and turns.”

—Cathi Stoler, author of mystery thriller, Telling Lies

“A fast paced plot with many twists coupled with a smart and determined protagonist make this a most enjoyable read.”

—Kathleen Delaney, author of the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries

“A smooth running story where slowly pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Being a book lover I liked the setting she created with the book club …. The author manages to reel the reader in with her delightful storytelling and likable characters. It’s a great first book that lovers of the old-fashioned detective genre surely will appreciate!”  Read more ….

—Fenny, Hotchpotch Blog

“A satisfying, clean mystery with several twists that kept me guessing, and also left me anxious for the next book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series.”  Read more ….

—W.V. Stitcher

“This first book written by Ms. James is a winner for anyone who enjoys a clean mystery which will keep you guessing until the end about ‘whodunit.’”  Read more ….

—My Home of Books Blog

“A fast paced mystery that keeps the reader wanting more. I loved a good mystery and this is one of the better ones I have read in awhile. A fun story for sure!!!”  Read more ….

—Kathleen Kelly, Celtic Lady’s Reviews

“The story line was interesting, as were the characters. The book flows steady without any dull gaps. I really liked the authors way of writing…. If you love a good murder mystery, you should get a copy of this book.”  Read more ….

—Vicki, I’d Rather Be at the Beach Blog

“Kept me guessing from the beginning. A must-read for all mystery fans.”  Read more ….

—Susan Peck, My Cozie Corner

“Hollis is a character you sorta warm up to, you have to get past her cool exterior and suddenly you realize you REALLY like her and care what happens to her. I ended up finishing the book in one sitting! Although the book is set in the Bay Area outside San Francisco, the author serves up the area as a backdrop, but then concentrates on the characters. The place never intrudes on the story line, like it can in some books. The author does an excellent job of building up the different characters, so that you feel like you know them all. I was happy with the ending (and no I’m not giving it away!) and I’m thrilled there is already another Hollis book in the making!”  Read more ….

—Bless Their Hearts Mom Blog

“The book moves along at a fast pace and Hollis finds herself wrapped up in a couple of different mysteries.  I started to have my suspicions about people, but hadn’t quite wrapped it all up when the author started to spill the beans about how everything fit together.  I was quite surprised by some of the things I found out in the end,  about someone who was close to Hollis.  It was a nice surprise.”  Read more ….

–Kristi Herbrand, Books and Needlepoint Blogspot

“This debut novel set in the San Francisco Bay area is a first-person account told by amateur sleuth, Hollis Morgan. This is a very intriguing murder mystery with a startling cast of characters. This book allows the reader to take part in the investigation; I felt my suspicions sift as each new clue was revealed. This is a remarkable well-rounded mystery and I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone who enjoys crime fiction.”

—Heather Coulter, Books, Books, and more Books

“A very fast and enjoyable read and a real page turner. I was constantly wanting to know what was going to happen next and it managed to keep me guessing a lot of the time as well … If you love a mystery novel that doesn’t bog you down with unnecessary details but still has enough of a background and storyline to keep everything flowing, then I highly recommend giving this one a try.”  Read more …

–Beagle Book Space

“This book is full of murder, mystery and of course mayhem.  Thoroughly entertaining and a fast read, I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Excellent debut novel Ms. James!”  Read more …

–Tammy & Michelle, Nook Users’ Book Club

“This is R. Franklin James’ debut novel, a fact which I find hard to believe. She has created a character I love in Hollis Morgan, and a great plot …. I’m going to follow the series and R. Franklin James. I’ve found a winner.”  Read more ….

–Views from the Countryside Blog

“Highly inventive … a wonderful thriller. The tension mounts as Hollis becomes the target of the killer putting her life in great peril.  The Fallen Angels Book Club is loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next.  When you finish this book you will heave a hugely satisfying sigh because you have enjoyed yourself immensely.  Ms. Franklin James has provided us with a great new character in Hollis Morgan.  I am already looking forward to the next book in this series from this very talented author.”  Read more …

–Vic’s Media Room

“The author … does a excellent job of creating a story line that’s both realistic and suspenseful. There was never a dull moment. I really look forward to reading more from this author.”  Read more …

–Heather, Saving for 6 Blogspot

“A delightful read. It certainly contained mystery, murder and mayhem …. Like any good mystery, there was a mystery within a mystery and I found [Hollis’] exchanges with the older folks at the center refreshing and decidedly touching ….  The reader could feel Hollis’s fear with each event and her determination to clear her name.  Very well written and very well thought out! Well done Ms James, well done!”  Read more …

–Beth Art From the Heart Blog

The Fallen Angels Book Club has only two requirements: the members must love books and have a white-collar criminal record. Hollis Morgan fits the bill. Left holding the bag in an insurance fraud scheme concocted by her now ex-husband, she served her time and is trying to rebuild her life. All she wants is for the court to pardon her conviction so she can return to law school.

After one of her fellow members is murdered in a scenario straight out of a club selection, Hollis is once again the subject of police scrutiny. Refusing to get stuck with another bad rap, she sets out to investigate her fellow club members. Is one of them really blackmailing the others? As a second member dies in yet another book-inspired murder, Hollis realizes that time is running out. Everything rides on her finding the killer—not just her career aspirations. She must identify the killer before she herself becomes the next victim. Everyone is convinced she knows more than she lets on. But what is it, exactly, that is she supposed to know?

Says James, “My inspiration for the Hollis Morgan character originated with an online writing class. My fellow class members came from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds and they included one sociopath. Only we didn’t know that until members started receiving email threats. Our instructor dropped him (or her) from the list, but I couldn’t shake the idea of a group of people coming together to share their art, only to be stalked or hounded by a greedy opportunist. I gave my group a secret—their criminal past—and the Fallen Angels were born.

R. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco East Bay Area and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She and her husband currently live in northern California. The Fallen Angels Book Club is her first novel and the first book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery series. Click here to find R. Franklin on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

I looked through the peephole and froze.

“Who is it?” I said, hoping to buy myself a couple of seconds.

“Ms. Morgan? It’s Detective Faber. I’m with Detective Lincoln. Can we speak to you for a few minutes?” His voice sounded loud and clear, even through the door.

Taking a deep breath, I let them in. “Why have you come back?”

They looked around with curiosity as if they’d never been here before. I guided them once more into the living room. I didn’t sit because I didn’t want them to. We all stood around the coffee table.

Faber took out that thin black notebook of his and flipped open a page. “Ms. Morgan, do you know a Rebecca Lynley?”

They had me. I knew my voice would have a tremble. “I think you already know the answer to that. Yes, I legally changed my name. Hollis is my middle name and Morgan is my maiden name.”

Rebecca Hollis Morgan Lynley was my unlucky name. It was the name that brought shame to me, my family and my friends. It was the name I was known by when I served time in prison. It was the name I acquired when I married that jerk. Rebecca Hollis Morgan Lynley. It was a name I never wanted to hear again, but here it was, turning up like a bad penny. For one insane moment, I wondered what was behind that bad penny saying. I knew how that penny felt.

Lincoln said, “I see. Well, we talked to your former parole officer and he spoke highly of you. Does your employer know of your record?”

Ah, a man after my own way of thinking. Straight to the point of pain. My heart raced. “The ones who need to know do. Why? Is there a reason you’re asking?”

Lincoln seemed to come to life. “I wondered if you checked the felon box on your job application.” His expression told me that he expected I had lied.

So that was it; he liked pulling wings off butterflies. He wanted me to squirm.

“Detectives, is there a reason why you’re here? I admitted I changed my name. I don’t know any more about Rory’s death now than I did when you were last here.”

“Mrs. Lynley—”

“Morgan,” I insisted.

Faber gave me a condescending smile. “Okay, Ms. Morgan, we followed up on that book tip you gave us, linking it to the mode of Norris’ death. It was right on. Then we took things a little further, did a little research on the other members of the book club. You know what we discovered? A club of ex-felons.”

At that I had to sit. They followed suit.

My thoughts raced. “I know there’s a temptation to conclude that we’re plotting the downfall of the Western world, but all that we have in common—well, not all, I guess—is that we love books.”

“That so?” Faber’s lips were pursed just shy of a smirk. “Yet I would imagine all of you must live in fear of having your prison backgrounds exposed. A blackmailer would think he hit the lotto.”

Lincoln leaned over and picked a foil-wrapped chocolate out of the glass candy dish on the table. I tried to remember how long the candy had been there. One of the prison staff had given me a small box as a good luck gift. Could people die from eating candy three years past the “best by” date? He popped it in without noticing the thin whitish coating and grabbed for another.

I stared at the chocolates. “We don’t pry into each others’ pasts. That’s one of our rules. We only get together to share our opinions about books.”

Lincoln gave me a hard look. “We visited Mr. Norris’ apartment. We found canceled checks and bank statements that raise the possibility he might have been a blackmailer.” Lincoln chewed. “Was he blackmailing you?”

“Rory, a blackmailer?” I couldn’t stop my voice from trembling. “No. No. I’m not being blackmailed.”

“You didn’t know Norris was a blackmailer?” Faber asked.

“No,” I answered weakly. “I only knew him through the book club.”

“Yeah, so you said.” Faber flipped back a couple of pages in his notebook. “Mrs. Lynley—excuse me, Ms. Morgan—would you be surprised to know your husband’s name was in an address book we found in Mr. Norris’ apartment?”

The air fled my lungs as if I’d been punched. On top of that I thought my hearing must be impaired. “I’m sorry. Did you say Bill’s name was in Rory’s address book?”

“That’s right. How did they know each other?” Faber asked.

“Bill and Rory knew each other?” The words left my lips but sounded far away.

Faber leaned over to my side of the table. “Do you know where your husband is?”

Ex-husband. I haven’t seen him since my trial.”

Only a half-lie.

To my relief, Lincoln pushed the candy dish away. “You haven’t had any contact with William Lynley since your conviction?”

I chose my words carefully. “We haven’t spoken since I was sentenced.”

Let’s try to maintain some integrity here.

I couldn’t tell if they believed me. They asked a few more questions about the club and then left with the promise to get back to me if they thought of anything else. Based on my last law enforcement encounter, I had a feeling their next step would be to obtain a search warrant.

I tossed the salad down the disposal and went out on the deck with my wine. I’d lost my appetite. The opposite of love isn’t hatred, it’s indifference. I was working on it, not every day, but as often as my sanity allowed. I was glad to feel almost nothing.

Nighttime was always the worst for me. Insomnia had become my companion. At night, I’d close my eyes, and the noises and smells from prison would assail me. A few months ago there was a special on TV about women in prison. I couldn’t watch it. Even though my cell was behind a door and not bars, I heard my fellow inmates crying and praying. It went on for hours on end. I could neither cry nor pray now.

I had to get a pardon. I’d do whatever it took. Rory’s unsolved murder could threaten my future dreams. I had to have another chance.

I had to.

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