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Call From the Jailhouse

Rick Novak’s third novel, Call From the Jailhouse, a 5-star review from the San Francisco Book Review, is now available on Amazon:


Call From the Jailhouse

By Rick Novak
Extasy Books,  331 pages, Format: eBook and paperback

Star Rating: 5 / 5

Author Rick Novak, MD, does an exquisite job of crafting a scenario in which a man is accused of murdering his lover and her husband and brings it all the way into a full jury trial. Call From the Jailhouse introduces readers to top defense attorney Cicely Vella. Cicely is a savage in the courtroom and is able to present to the jury all the reasons why they should acquit. Cicely’s marriage to an anesthesiologist named Sam Vella ended in divorce almost a year and a half ago, although there were certainly times when she missed him. When Sam calls Cicely from the county jail and tells her he is being accused of murder, Cicely knows she must defend him. Although their marriage didn’t work out, Cicely knows Sam didn’t kill anyone.

I loved the way the book was crafted. It starts with the phone call and then goes back in time six months to tell the readers about how Sam meets his married lover, Scarlett. The story is carefully told, with no important detail left out. As a San Francisco Bay Area native, I loved that I knew where so many of the referenced places were, including the Pacific Athletic Club (now The Bay Club), the Stanford Dish, and Kings Mountain Road. I admit that I looked up the Mahogany, where Sam meets Scarlett, and as I guessed, there was no such place listed. It seemed like it could have been modeled after the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park.

Call From the Jailhouse moves at the perfect pace. As Sam and Scarlett’s secret relationship starts to bloom, Sam finds himself falling in love with her even though she treats him like she owns him. So, how does Sam find himself accused of murder?

The last half of the book is dedicated to Cicely defending Sam in court. All evidence seems to lead to Sam, even though most of it is circumstantial. They say, write what you know, so Novak’s extensive knowledge in the medical field allows him to cleverly insert medical references, such as a medicine used to paralyze patients to allow doctors to insert a breathing tube. It’s details such as this that give the readers a full understanding of the events that take place in the book.

The court case is my favorite part of the book. This is also where there is a huge twist in the plot that gets uncovered. Cicely is a fantastic attorney who has integrity, grit, and grace all rolled into one small Black woman. Sam is a romantic at heart who finds himself in a black widow’s web. Call From the Jailhouse has fabulous characters, beautiful backdrops, and a plot that will pull you closer with every page.

Reviewed by Kristi Elizabeth

OUR STAR RATING SYSTEM  5 stars: Reviewer considers the book to be something that everyone should read. Reviewer would definitely read it again.




Chapter One: The Call

Cicely Vella’s receptionist announced, “Ms. Vella, your ex-husband is on line one. He says he’s in jail. He wants to talk to you.”

There are mileposts in life—moments that alter the future in earthshattering ways. The sudden change can be terrific or tragic. Cicely used to think her defining moment was the end of her marriage, but instead her defining moment occurred when she picked up line one and said, “Sam, what’s going on?”

His voice came through pressured and loud, so robust she had to hold the phone six inches away from her ear. “There’s been some kind of mistake,” he said. “The police arrested me. I’m in trouble.”

Cicely was shocked. Sam had never called her since their divorce, and she’d never heard this tone in his voice. He’d always been cool, calm, and controlled, even in the most stressful times. Cicely couldn’t hide her alarm. “Arrested you for what?”


Cicely almost dropped the phone. “Murder? You’ve got to be kidding. Where are you right now?”

“The San Mateo County Jail. I need a defense attorney. I need you. Please help me.”

Cicely pictured Sam Vella sitting alone in a jail cell, and her response surprised her. She leapt out of her chair, ready to go to him. “I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she said. “And don’t answer any questions from anyone until I arrive. Got that?”

“I won’t. And thank you so much for doing this for me.”

“I haven’t done anything yet.” Cicely hung up the phone, feeling the room spinning around her. This wasn’t possible. Sam was a smart guy—an altruistic medical doctor who simply couldn’t kill anyone. He’d been a flawed husband, a man who never quite got used to his overachieving wife’s career eclipsing his, but he wasn’t wired to commit violent crime. Cicely grabbed her purse and car keys and headed for the door. A petite Black woman, Cicely wore a gray wool pantsuit and a Brooks Brothers white cotton shirt. Her androgynous attire was her statement that, in the male-dominated world of litigating attorneys, she had the power to match up with her masculine opponents. Her business—the world of defendants and their alleged misdeeds—was a grim reality of treachery, deceit, ruses, and lies. Cicely didn’t see her vocation as a quest for truth, but rather a competition in search of victory. It was her job to conjure deception. Her joy came from constructing any reasonable alternative to the allegations of the prosecution. Every new case was a puzzle with a yet undiscovered solution. Finding that solution was the most enjoyable pastime Cicely had ever discovered. The money was good, but she knew in her heart she might even have done it for free.

It was that fun.

As Cicely exited through the waiting room, her receptionist said, “I overheard your conversation with Sam. Are you going to defend him?”

“Hell, yes. What kind of defense attorney would I be if my ex-husband spent the rest of his life rotting in prison as a convicted murderer?”

“You’ll be center stage if you defend him.”

“I’ll be center stage whether I’m his lawyer or not. We share a last name. We share a past. I’m going to the jail. I don’t know when I’ll be back.” Cicely’s thoughts were in turmoil. Her divorce was fresh—only one year old. After five workaholic years as man and wife, she and Sam painted themselves into two distant corners—a sad California career-trumps-love divorce. She’d pulled the plug on their marriage and concentrated on climbing to the pinnacle of the legal world. Cicely had only seen Sam twice since the divorce, and each time she felt the same two opposing emotions―a strong attraction to his physical presence, and sadness that the man who had once been her best friend was a stranger to her now.

Cicely knew the drive from her office to the jail very well. She met most of her clients for the first time within those very walls. Minutes later she sat face-to-face with Sam in a windowless white-walled room. He wore an orange jumpsuit with the number 71427 scrolled across his chest. His hair was parted in the middle, lanky and wet, as if he’d just stepped out of a storm, and his gaze never left Cicely. Her heart raced to be sitting so close to him again. He looked as vulnerable as a lost puppy and as breathtaking as any man she had ever set eyes on. Cicely skipped any pleasantries and started with the obvious question, “Who are you accused of killing, Sam?”

He shook his head and dropped his stare toward the table separating them. Then his eyes flicked upward for a second, partially hidden below thick hooded brows, and he said, “It was this woman I was dating. They claim I killed her. And they claim I killed her husband, too.”

“Two murders? Good God.” Cicely exhaled mightily. “Tell me what happened, starting when you first met this-this woman.” Cicely balanced her pen over an 8.5 X 14-inch yellow legal pad and prepared to chronicle Sam’s story.

“Her name was Scarlett,” Sam said. “It all started one rainy January night last winter…” 



Call From the Jailhouse

Call From the JailhouseCall From the Jailhouse


Rick Novak’s first novel, THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN

Rick Novak’s second novel, DOCTOR VITA

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