cover image No Legal Grounds

No Legal Grounds

James Scott Bell, . . Zondervan, $13.99 (339pp) ISBN 978-0-310-26902-1

Bell, a former trial lawyer and Christy Award–winner (Final Witness ), offers a disappointing faith suspense story that illustrates this genre's recent preoccupation with sexual violence against women. Attorney Sam Trask has his hands full with his rebellious 17-year-old daughter, Heather, the lead singer of Screech Monk. Nicky Oberlin, a shadowy figure from Sam's college past, shows up unexpectedly, and for reasons that are inexplicable until the closing pages, stalks Sam and his family. More troubles pile up: a dog is poisoned, credit cards are mysteriously maxed out, Sam's law practice suffers, a rattlesnake attacks and a child from out of wedlock is revealed (a stock plot element in Christian fiction). One of the nastiest turns in the novel involves the sociopathic Nicky's kidnapping and sexual victimization of Sam's daughter ("I may have to spank little Heather") and the suggestion that Sam must have sex with a prostitute to get his daughter back. One scene has Sam beating Nicky with the skull of Nicky's dead father. Awkward prose is scattered throughout (e.g., "the lights of the city illuminating the night sky like forbidden candy"), and Bell relies upon heavy back-to-back dialogue to move the plot along. Readers will want to skip this one. (Apr. 13)