A Higher Justice

Written by James Scott Bell
Review by Viviane Crystal

Kit Shannon, a Los Angeles lawyer, challenges the politicians and corporate tycoons vying for monopoly of the electric trolley system that was to transform California in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The accidental death of a young widow’s only son elicits Kit’s investigative instincts to discover what will truly bring higher justice to both the innocent and guilty. Kit confronts Stanton Eames, owner of the Los Angeles Electric Trolley Line, about his company’s responsibility to compensate for the death of young Sammy Franklin and not to hire young, orphan boys to deliver beer. Orphanages of that time were financially dependent on large companies for survival; both simple requests evolve into a life-threatening response.

Bell clearly knows how to intricately craft a riveting, investigative mystery. Kit’s formidable trial skills, pitted against the public prosecutor’s competitive proficiency, accurately reflect the progress of legal precedence in its early American history and add to the excitement of the conflicts being judged. A fine literary touch is added by the interest and journalistic coverage of the then highly popular writer, Jack London. Threading through Kit’s journey is a deep faith derived from her association with the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Conflicting between traditional faith and that accommodating itself to the lapses of a rapidly changing and progressive world, this movement later took on a negative connotation. Kit’s behavior exemplifies the earlier positive, inspiring belief in practice that permeates every facet of this superb novel.