‘Molly: House on Fire’ by R.E. Bradshaw
In Molly: House on Fire, a once-and-casual character in other R.E. Bradshaw books gets her own starring role. High profile defense attorney Molly Kincaid is smart and successful. Opponents fear her, and rightly so. However, her past catches up with her and she must make some difficult choices when she reluctantly returns to the town in which she grew up—and has tried her best to forget.
Molly has come back to Waitesville, North Carolina, at the request of a dying man—the only man who befriended her and her abused, drug-addicted mother when Molly was a child. Joe, a retired policeman, was responsible for helping Molly’s mother on numerous occasions. Joe’s request to have Molly defend his grandson, Joey, comes as surprise. Joey is charged with his own mother’s murder, and Molly’s investigation to clear the young man sets in motion a series of events that exposes deep, dark secrets in the southern town of her birth.
As Molly untangles the web of deceit, she finds issues and suspects so entangled and intertwined that she must decide whether or not to bring any of them to light, possibly to the detriment of her own career. Some of the riddles yet to be unraveled in Waitesville hit very close to home—Molly’s home—and may include the circumstances of Molly’s birth-mother’s death, Molly’s family heritage, and something regarding a legend of Civil War gold, something of which Molly may have intimate knowledge. When Molly and friends, old and new, ban together to help Joey, the past and present collide and Molly herself may end up being both victim and accused.
In addition to the things going in the criminal case, Molly is also faced with her own internal crisis. The brief personal glimpses we’ve gotten of Molly Kincaid in past novels have been of a “love-‘em-and-leave-‘em” personality, a bit of rogue with a trail of disappointed lovers. However, Molly now finds herself struggling with feelings for Leslie Walker that she’s not been accustomed to in the past. Leslie is a psychologist who has tried to help Joey find his way in a world that he sometimes finds very foreign and difficult to understand. She becomes enveloped in the mystery, not only because of her relationship with Joey, but also because of her growing attraction to Molly, and the feeling is mutual. Molly is drawn to Leslie in spite of herself and faces a choice: either maintain past patterns that leave her alone and lonely or take a chance on real love and happiness.
In the midst of all the turmoil surrounding this story, the character of grandson Joey has a unique voice as a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. Joey’s characteristics and personality are well researched and portrayed. Although Asperger’s is a serious issue and seems to make the accusations against him even more troublesome, Joey’s personality and speech patterns sometimes give an otherwise tense drama a bit of comic relief.
Bradshaw loves to bring characters from one novel into another. They appear unexpectedly like people that inhabit the artwork of a Harry Potter movie moving from one picture to another. Sometimes the star in one story only has a walk-on part in another. At other times, a character from one story may be crucial to the story line about another. In all cases, it’s exciting to recognize a character like this. It’s like seeing an old friend. In Molly: House on Fire, Molly’s relationship with an ex-girlfriend named Stephanie is referenced as Molly ponders and compares that relationship against the impact that Leslie seems to be having on her. We know Stephanie well from Bradshaw’s Before It Stains. Then, too, Molly’s friend Rainey Bell, of the Rainey Bell Mysteries, has an important part to play in this novel with her investigative experience and FBI profiler background. This clever way of inserting characters from one book into another is appealing, leaving the reader feeling as if she has encountered someone she already knows. It is a charming plot feature that Bradshaw employs well, and in this case, it helps us know Molly a little better as she struggles with her private, dispassionate self and battles with the possibility that the crack in her emotional wall may be the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
All Bradshaw’s stories are set in North Carolina, a place she apparently knows well and loves. Her more recent tales include improved editing, which allows the reader a more free flowing reading experience. As a relative newcomer, this self-published author deserves consideration. Molly: House on Fire makes a great addition to any reader’s library.
Molly: House on Fire
By R.E. Bradshaw
REB Books/Amazon Digital Services
Paperback, 0983572089, 467 pp