Candle Reid's life is falling apart. He's a lawyer whose competence is compromised by alcoholism. His wife kicks him out, and then his law partner dies.  Can things get any worse?  Dewey Coltraine's life is just beginning, or so he thinks. He has just married the prettiest girl in town, and he has a new job. But when he's arrested for killing one of Harpers' Joy's most influential men, will Candle Reid be able to save him?
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An unknown author, Bert Goolsby, should be anything but. When I began this book, I had no idea what to expect. The back jacket claimed it was “John Grisham meets Andy Griffith a legal thriller packed with humor, heart, and a healthy dose of Southern charm.” I concur, it was a sit-on-the-edge of your chair legal thriller packed with the humor, heart, and Southern Charm as it claimed, but comparing him to John Grisham or Andy Griffith didn’t do him justice. Bert Goolsby has an unique writing style he can claim to be his own with just as much interest as either John Grisham or Andy Griffith can give to their readers.

The setting: a small Southern town in the county of Semmes called Harpers’ Joy in the year of 1946. Candle Reid, a lawyer is watching his life spiraling down into a bottomless pit. His wife of 10 years has filed legal separation claiming alcoholism as her reason. Requesting the house, their car, and a living allowance to be paid by Candle, the judge anxiously agrees, not wanting to be late for his golf date. Candle, not even being allowed to speak on his own behalf, finds himself escorted by a deputy sheriff to his home for a few personal items. Walking out the door, he hears his young daughters pleading with their mother to allow them to live with their father and knows his life is falling apart at the seams. If this is not enough for one man to handle, soon after his law partner dies of complications from a stroke.

On the other hand, we have newlyweds, Dewey and Nellie Coltraine, feeling as though they have the world ahead of them. At least they did until Dewey’s arrested for the murder of an influential but hated man of Harpers’ Joy. The victim’s father pressures the local judge to make sure Dewey’s guilty plea sticks with an appeal impossible. The Judge appoints Candle Reid, convinced of Candle’s inability for a strong defense, and finds inaccuracy in this assessment.

Bert Goolsby‘s characters and settings are life-like, and his knowledge into the law adds to its credibility. I highly recommend this spell binding book whether you are into mysteries or not. It is a mesmerizing read that will keep your attention clued from start to finish.

Skye Lindborg