Consequential Damages, by Joseph Hayes

Eight stars

Returning to discover more by Joseph Hayes, I tripped upon this legal thriller that pulled me in from the opening pages. Exploring personal growth and the rigours of a courtroom drama, Hayes offers the reader something that will resonate long after they finish the final page. Jake McShane is a hard working law student at Stanford, striving to make the most of his education. When the tension all but eats him alive, it is a chance encounter with a medical student that shows him that there is a little more to life than meets the eye. After graduating, Jake finds himself returning to his native Chicago to practice, seeing some of the old drama he left behind when he moved West, but also finding it refreshing to be back where it all began. When his friend and former employer is sued for sexual harassment, Jake must watch from the sidelines as things go horribly wrong. Prosecuting the case is a former law school classmate, Rick Black, whose ruthless ways leave Jake feeling highly agitated. After a few years have passed, both Jake and Black find themselves on opposite sides of a large class-action lawsuit. With fierce determination, both sides push to win at all costs, though only one will stay within the lines of what is legal and ethical. Seeking retribution for the past, Jake must decide how to tackle Rick Black’s antics both inside and out of the courtroom. It will be up to the jury to decide which man has done all he can for the client. Hayes does a masterful job pulling the reader into the middle of the stellar thriller. Not to be missed by those who enjoy the law’s murkier side, or readers who may have read some of Hayes’ other work.

Truth be told, I was mesmerized by Hayes novel all about a wall on the US-Mexico border and could not fathom that he could write another piece with just as much impact. I was wrong, as this is another piece that inches the story along while getting the reader to commit from the start. Jake McShane is quite the character, totally focussed on his studies in the opening portion of the book, so much so that life is passing him by. After seeing the forest for the trees and marrying the one woman who could jolt him out of wasting his life, Jake finds himself back in Chicago where he seeks to remember life before law school. The backstory and character development come together nicely here, intertwining together and providing the reader with something relatable throughout the novel. Others grace the pages and find ways to advance a wonderfully balanced plot, tapping into the law and life on the streets of Chicago, without straying too far from the central tenets of the book. Interesting in its structure, Hayes (again) develops the young version of his central character over the first third of the book, peppering the narrative with the struggles of youth that might not seem relevant, but becomes essential to understanding the entire piece. From there, Jake moves into the world of the law, not what is found in textbooks, but on the streets and in the courtroom. There is little time to falter, as the law never sleeps and is always evolving, no matter who is at the helm. Hayes helps the reader discover this while developing a strong story. Mixing the short, teaser chapters with longer and more developed ones, the story progresses at breakneck speed before culminating in a major discovery that will solidify the entire legal battle. One can only hope there is more to come, for Joseph Hayes is a man with talent that readers will not want to dismiss.

Kudos, Mr. Hayes, for such a refreshing look at the law and the individual. I am glad that I stumbled upon your work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: