Book Review: "Try Darkness" by James Scott Bell

Ty Buchanan is living on the peaceful grounds of St. Monica's, far away from the glamorous life he led as a rising trial lawyer for a big L.A. firm. Recovering from the death of his fiancée and a false accusation of murder, Buchanan has found his previous ambitions unrewarding. Now he prefers offering legal services to the poor and the under-represented, from his "office" at local coffee bar The Freudian Sip. A mysterious woman with a six year old daughter comes to him for help. She's being illegally evicted from a downtown transient hotel, an interest represented by his old law firm and former best friend, Al Bradshaw. Buchanan won't back down. He's going to fight for the woman's rights.

But then she ends up dead, and the case moves from the courtroom to the streets. Determined to find the killer and protect the little girl, who has no last name and no other family, Buchanan finds he must depend on skills he never needed in the employ of a civil law firm.

I'm usually not really a fan of lawyer stories. This is mainly because the lawyers are usually portrayed as either smarmy characters who are extremely smug and only out for the money or they end up being the typical saves the day lawyer who is too good to be true. Ty Buchanan is none of these and is probably the most unique, laid back and eccentric guy to have anything to do with the law field. I felt like the story was very realistic. It wasn't written with false perceptions or trying to butter things up to make everyone happy. Bell tells Ty's story how it really is and shows all the darkness that's in the world. Also even though this is the second book in the series and the reader could benefit from reading the first book in the series, I feel that it could be read as a standalone. The mystery stands out and is quite powerful. I'm pretty much a sucker for little kids in stories that need help and I'm glad Ty was too.

As in the first book, I felt the storyline to be gritty and written in a film noir-ish way. California, which is normally seen as glitzy and glamorous in other books, takes on a darker, more underground, less colorful atmosphere. What I like best about Ty is that he's quite cynical and a bit sarcastic. He's not the charming fellow women fall in love with yet he has a way with people that gets them to trust him. He's unconventional, witty and questions a lot of things which I really liked because he doesn't act like he knows everything.

The only thing I'm not really a fan of with this series is the really short chapters. I mean they are extremely short, sometimes there will even be 3 chapters on just one page and there are 191 chapters! I just feel like it breaks up the story too much when every time there's a rhythm in the story going, there's a chapter break which disrupts the flow.

Other than this I really enjoyed reading about Ty's adventures again. I love his chemistry with both Sister Mary and Father Bob who are two of the most unlikely accomplices a detective could have. They add both insight and humor to Ty's personality. I really enjoyed how this book is able to be gritty and edgy without resorting to using sex or rough language. This is by no means saying the book is clean and safe. It chooses to show the world as it really is and not through rose colored glasses but it does it by not being coarse or preachy at the same time. It's a balance that works really well and I think pays off. I've enjoyed all of James Scott Bell's books in the past and this is another one to add to the list. This is another book to give to male readers as it is the type of book that I believe a lot of guys would enjoy.

Try Darkness by James Scott Bell is published by Center Street (2008)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. 191 chapters!? Wow! I've got another book - Try Fear, I think - by the same author that I'm anxious to try.


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