‘Try Darkness,’ by James Scott Bell

We drank. Whatever it was, it had a gentle kick, like an eight-year-old girl soccer player.

When I reviewed Try Dying, the first novel in James Scott Bell’s Ty Buchanan trilogy of legal thrillers, I said I found it a little pallid compared to his Mike Romeo books. That was a hasty judgment. This series, I now realize, is wonderful in its own way.

Ty Buchanan, as you may recall, was a high-powered lawyer with a big Los Angeles firm. His life got turned upside down when his fiancée was killed and he himself was arrested and charged with murder. He managed to prove his innocence and identify the real killers with the help of unlikely allies – a priest and a nun, from a nearby Catholic retreat center.

Try Darkness finds Ty living a strange, transitional new life, inhabiting a little trailer at the retreat center. He’s given up his old job, and for the time being is providing legal help to the poor, operating from a table at a coffee shop. Father Bob and Sister Mary Veritas are still his best friends – except that his feelings for Sister Mary are causing both of them considerable discomfort.

Father Bob brings Ty a potential client, a woman who’s living with her daughter, Kylie, at a transient hotel. The hotel makes it a practice to evict all tenants after 28 days, which prevents being reclassified as a residential hotel, making them subject to housing regulations. The practice is illegal, but the law is rarely enforced. Ty agrees to help her sue them.

But suddenly she’s found murdered, leaving little Kylie behind. Ty, leery of handing her over to Child Protective Services, takes her to the retreat center, where the nuns welcome her immediately (except for Sister Hildegarde, the unsympathetic mother superior, whom Ty, Father Bob and Sister Mary attempt to keep in the dark as much as possible).

Ty’s investigation – as you’d expect – will bring him up against powerful and dangerous people.

What was particularly fine about Try Darkness was that it had a lot of heart. Ty is working his way through grief, and his relations with Kylie – and with Sister Mary – are opening his mind and heart to a whole new way of life.

Highly recommended. The books should be read in order. No objectionable language.

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