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Try Darkness
by James Scott Bell

Reviewed by C.J. Darlington

"Nary a wasted word and packed with action, Try Darkness is even better than Try Dying."

Ever since his first novel came out in 1995, James Scott Bell’s been an author to watch. The Darwin Conspiracy, a sometimes tongue-in-cheek look at the evolution debate, put him on our radar. Two years later his legal thriller Circumstantial Evidence debuted, and since then Jim hasn’t strayed too far from his suspense groove. In fact, when you pick up a Bell novel you can count on his trademark tag-line “The Suspense Never Rests” to be true.

That’s certainly the case for his new Ty Buchanan crime/mystery series. In Try Dying (Book 1), Ty’s character was established. He’s a fighter, an attorney you don’t want to push too hard. Yet we always suspected he had a softer side. Now in Try Darkness (Book 2), a little girl’s mother is murdered and Ty becomes her impromptu guardian. Fatherly instincts Ty didn’t even know he had bubble to the surface. He’ll do anything to defend the young life under his care. Why was her mother murdered? What connection does the crime have with charges the mother was about to bring to the motel ready to evict them? As usual, there’s much more going on than first meets the eye, and it’s up to Ty to unravel the mystery and keep himself and his friends alive in the process.

Ty’s character has developed, and he now gives legal advice to the poor and downtrodden. The pursuit of justice for his clients keeps him going and awake at night. He already lost everything in Try Dying, and he’s still living at the St. Monica’s community. So he has nothing to lose and little fear, a dangerous combination for his opponents. Not that he doesn’t have his vulnerabilities—the wind’s knocked out of him more than once. But like the crime fiction heroes of yesteryear, Ty Buchanan always clambers back on his feet. Even in the bleakest moments he’ll press on—sometimes bleeding, sometimes barely able to see straight.

Every hero needs a confidant, and Ty’s basketball wielding friend Sister Mary fills more pages here than in the first book. We’re delving deeper into her character as she grapples with the struggle between her faith as a nun and the rules and regulations of the Benedictine community. Father Bob makes appearances as well, always available to offer wisdom and a caring ear to Ty.

Fans of Bell’s previous inspirational novels won’t be disappointed. In some ways the faith elements are even more prominent in this series, since the St. Monica’s setting naturally sparks some spiritual conversations. But hard-boiled crime fiction lovers need not fear being preached at or hammered over the head with a “message”. The story always takes center stage.

James Scott Bell’s goal for this series was to write books in the vein of the great crime fiction stories of the 40's and 50's like The Big Sleep & The Maltese Falcon. And for those weary of the gratuitous violence, sex, and language found in much of today’s crime novels the Ty Buchanan series will be a breath of fresh air. Yes, bad stuff happens, but we aren’t forced to watch it unfold in technicolor.

The scenes zoom. The plot zips. The dialogue zings. And the spiritual thread challenges us to re-think our worldview. It’s almost like watching a movie unfold across the pages. As always, Jim is a wizard of surprises. Just when we think we might have things figured out he throws in a spiral we never saw coming. Nary a wasted word and packed with action, Try Darkness is even better than Try Dying.

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C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.