The Tolling of Mercedes Bell

a novel

Recently widowed and adapting to the challenges of single motherhood, Mercedes Bell is a paralegal at Crenshaw, Slayne & McDonough when she meets Jack Soutane, a dashing San Francisco lawyer who has recently begun leasing office space from the firm. It’s the 1980s. While crack cocaine, homelessness and AIDS explode on the scene, Jack’s law practice booms—and the Crenshaw firm eagerly shares his bounty.

When calamity strikes, Mercedes finds herself in a race to survive and to protect her daughter. In order to do so, she must make sense of wildly inconsistent information—and face the truths that emerge.

Compelling and full of suspense, The Tolling of Mercedes Bell is a story about honesty in the face of deception, courage in the pursuit of happiness, and the unexpected places to which that quest may lead.

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Praise for The Tolling of Mercedes Bell

“The flow of the story, from page to page, chapter to chapter, is superb. …The title, itself, is a clever play on words…The book will satisfy anyone who enjoys mystery and intrigue, with light romance thrown in for color…Flashbacks are used well…I would jump tall buildings in a single bound to find another book by this author!…It will be an understatement to say I like the book. This one has ‘winner’ all over it!”
Judge, 29th Annual IBPA Benjamin Franklin Book Awards (2017)
“Author Jennifer Dwight takes us on a journey exploring honesty, lies, courage and the power of secrets when they cause complete and utter destruction of someone’s life. Full of surprises with impressive twists, having an insider’s knowledge of the world of law makes it even better. Much like the 80’s, this is a plot showing the world’s subtle indifferences to some of the largest problems, at the time, that the globe had ever seen.”
Mary Lignor, Suspense Magazine
“This suspenseful novel is about truth and courage and the quest for happiness with all the surprising places that quest might lead.”
“When widowed paralegal Mercedes Bell falls under the seductive spell of a new lawyer at her firm, she not only risks her heart but also unknowingly risks the life of her daughter. This dramatic and intoxicating novel about how far a mother will go to protect her child will completely seize heartbeats until the last page is read.”
Kimberly Nelson, Working Mother Magazine
“If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller to get your heart pumping this summer, The Tolling of Mercedes Bell will give you complete life.”
Editor, Brit+Co
“Debut novelist and real-life paralegal Jennifer Dwight tells an intricate and haunting tale that is sure to give you Sleeping with the Enemy vibes. In 1980s San Francisco, widowed paralegal Mercedes Bell finds herself charmed by the ever dashing lawyer, Jack Soutane. Taken by his spell, Mercedes realizes not everything is as it seems and soon finds herself fighting to protect her daughter and herself from the truth beneath Jack’s lies.”
Book Reviews, Buzfeed Community
“In the style and spirit of P.D. James, author Jennifer Dwight captures the tough terrain of a psychological thriller….This award winning novel lays the groundwork for its shocking, blood-curdling climax with a careful, meticulously crafted build-up of subtle clues….This is a wonderful page-turner, with a number of unpredictable subplots. Highly recommended.”
Diana Y. Paul, Joseph's Reviews Blog
Jennifer Dwight crafts a hauntingly realistic story in her debut novel. Dwight tightly weaves nuances of the 1980s in her suspenseful romantic plot…[and] does an excellent job of slowly mixing deception and ambiguity within her well-developed characters through the use of dialogue. [I]t is first and foremost a story of survival and courage.”—a reprint of the San Francisco Book Review’s 5 Star Review
Reviewer's Bookwatch, Reviewer's Choice, Midwest Book Reviews
The Tolling of Mercedes Bell, set in San Francisco amid the excess of the eighties, is the suspenseful story of a single mother caught up in a love turned lethal. Jennifer Dwight’s skillfully crafted characters and descriptions linger long after the last page, but the novel’s revelation is that our greatest flaw may not be how we deceive others, but how we deceive ourselves—and risk paying the ultimate price.
Kristen Harnisch, award-winning author of The Vintner's Daughter and The California Wife
Jennifer Dwight delivers a powerful novel about love, courage and the power of secrets to wreak havoc on people’s lives. The Tolling of Mercedes Bell is full of surprises, with dramatic twists and turns, seasoned with a bit of magic realism and an insider’s knowledge of the legal world. It is a snapshot of the 80s, filled with a nuanced picture of a complicated decade. An exploration of childhood trauma, redemption and forgiveness, this well-crafted book is both entertaining and suspenseful.
Teresa Dovalpage, Ph.D., Professor of English and Spanish, University of New Mexico, and author of eight novels, including A Girl Like Che Guevara, Haunted Ladies of Havana, Death of a Murcian in Havana, and Habanera, A Portrait of a Cuban Family
“Very well written and highly professionally presented with great-looking interior and chapter heads and such — it’s a page-turner, and technically quite well done.”
Judge, 29th Annual IBPA Benjamin Franklin Book Awards (2017)
“…this scandalous and adrenaline-inducing book from a San Francisco-based author is impossible to resist.”
“Jennifer Dwight crafts a hauntingly realistic story in her debut novel…. [She] does an excellent job of slowly mixing deception and ambiguity within her well-developed characters through the use of dialogue….Although Dwight’s third person narrative incorporates a balanced combination of history and various themes within romantic environs, it is truly first and foremost a story of survival and courage. Dwight keeps her plot constantly flowing by building tension within evasive and unanticipated scenes….The Tolling of Mercedes Bell is an unforgettable page-turner—a must read by all!”
“ Jennifer Dwight’s first novel, “The Tolling of Mercedes Bell,” will captivate readers from the first page and hold them until the very last. Her ability to capture and portray vivid characters and deliver intense action will result in readers not being able to put the book down.
…The author has thoroughly researched the 80s in its culture of the homeless, crack epidemic, and AIDS outbreak. She weaved this information into a story that is full of chaos, romance, death, and hope. Her characters are very well developed and readers will be shocked at the length some will go to in order to obtain fame and fortune without regard to others.
Carol Hoyer, Reader Views Awards
“This tale that spans 10 years is crafted to fit the locale, the San Francisco Bay Area, the era, the 1980s to the 90s, and the human foibles of a rich array of characters carefully structured and revealed by author Jennifer Dwight…The biggest shift from the minor key of the musical score, yes this is movie material, comes when Mercedes has realized her goal of steady employment at a law firm…; however, what follows is eye opening to say the least! Highly recommended.”
Joseph Arellano, Portland Book Review
“…Thank you, Dwight, for bringing an issue into the light in all its horror and consequences. I had a difficult time writing this review because I loved it and was unsettled by the plot at the same time. This is a book that will be talked about and is one that will haunt you. Read it and recommend it to your friends, you will have a lot to discuss when done.”
“If you’re a How to Get Away with Murder fan, you’re going to want some serious thrillers to get your heart racing this summer.”
Emma Oulton, Bustle
…Mercedes Bell, a recently widowed mother… is down to her last out when fortune steps in… But, as is often the case, if things seem too good to be true, they often are. …The reader eagerly sticks with Dwight, knowing something is going to go wrong and trying to find out just what that something will be.…Bell is set in the San Francisco Bay Area where Dwight spent a great deal of her life. It is her fourth book but first novel. Here’s hoping she can keep it up. Highly recommended.
Dave Moyer, Joseph's Reviews, Author of Life and Life Only: A Novel
The Tolling of Mercedes Bell is Jennifer Dwight’s masterful suspense novel about gripping intrigues spawned in a fictional California law firm in the 1980s. The true-to-life details of this finely wrought tale arise from Dwight’s inside knowledge of law firms, and draw the reader into paralegal Mercedes Bell’s struggle for survival at the hands of a gifted con-artist and attorney, Jack Soutane. This compelling work is a must-read for anyone who has worked in the law or who wants an unforgettable taste of the San Francisco Bay Area during a troubled time. The characters and message of the book will remain long after the last page is read.
Chere Estrin, author of Paralegal Career Guide, The Successful Paralegal Job Search Guide, Everything You Need to Know About Marketing Your Paralegal Program, and Hot Jobs & Amazing Careers: Smart Moves for Paralegals; President and Co-founder of The Organization of Legal Professionals