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Try Dying
by James Scott Bell

Reviewed by C.J. Darlington

"...a no-nonsense crime novel ... Try Dying is a dynamic start to a new series, filled with colorful characters and elaborate plots."

Ty Buchanan’s beloved fiancé has just died in a freak Hollywood style accident, instantly spinning his world off its axis. Maybe someday he’ll recover. Maybe someday he’ll make sense of his emotions and get on with his life without Jacquelyn. Only someday doesn’t come, and Ty watches himself become a man he never dreamed he’d be. An attorney sworn to uphold the law, he’s soon breaking it to find out the truth about Jacquelyn’s death. Was it really accidental?

In the vein of Brandt Dodson’s Colton Parker series, Try Dying is a no-nonsense crime novel with a legal bent rather than a private investigator or cop angle. Cinematic in feel due to Bell’s expert use of snappy dialogue, there’s also a nice peppering of movie references, no doubt coming straight from Bell’s own love of classic films. Even Ty Buchanan is a namesake derived from characters in two movies, Tyler Durden in “Fight Club” (1999) and Tom Buchanan in “Buchanan Rides Alone” (1958).

In a recent interview Bell reveals: “I haven’t been happy about some of the trends in contemporary, secular suspense. And I think the audience out there is getting tired of the gratuitous elements. I believe you can write page-turning suspense without that, like some of the great crime novels of the 40s and 50s. I wanted to offer that, because I see the need for it.”

That’s one of the great things about Try Dying. Life is painted in all its edgy glory, and the underbelly of LA is as much a character as Ty. Yet through it all Bell manages to show us this world without rolling us through the gutter. He’s accomplished exactly what he set out to accomplish—to craft an action-laced thriller devoid of smut. Many an author has decided you can’t portray life as it is without swearing, gore, and sex, but Jim proves you can. A very small quibble is I was a little confused a few times by the novel’s extensive cast.

Even though Try Dying isn’t Christian fiction per se, Jim freely portrays Biblical principles, such as forgiveness in a priest’s heart even though he’s paid a stiff price for a molestation he didn’t commit. In some ways I found the Christian take-away value more poignant than you find in much of today’s “Christian fiction”. It’s clear the priest and a basketball playing nun have a real relationship with Jesus, and they become Ty’s confidants. Hopefully they’ll be involved in the next Ty Buchanan novel, Try Darkness, and continue to shine light into Ty’s world.

Truth is truth, and Bell makes sure to weave it through all of his books. Ty’s journey is a harrowing one, filled with enough beatings, explosions, and bad guys to rival the best crime fiction has to offer, but morality isn’t left in the dust. Try Dying is a dynamic start to a new series, filled with colorful characters and elaborate plots.

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.

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