Hegland (Introduction to the Study and Practice of Law in a Nutshell, 2014, etc.), a professor emeritus of law at the University of Arizona, has penned numerous academic books about the law, but this is his first effort at fiction. Hewing closely to his area of expertise, he’s made the protagonist a law professor as well, and his jocular narrative dwells less on the human element than on complex legal nuances. The unnamed protagonist, variously referred to as “Dad,” “Pops” and even “Dearie,” is the proud father of two daughters: Gina, a cop, and Jamie, a defense lawyer. Jamie picks up a new case outside her wheelhouse—a wrongful death suit—and solicits her father’s help in litigating it. The case itself is fraught with difficulties: A 13 year-old girl’s mother is killed by a defective furnace, and the daughter is later raped while under the care of Child Protective Services. Can she sue CPS for exposing her to sexual assault? Is the manufacturer of the furnace legally liable for her mother’s death? Can they hold the appliance store that sold her the furnace accountable? The narrator considers these and many other legal and philosophical questions, such as whether cops can lie to suspects in order to extract confessions from them. (At one point, the book even asks if Pringles count as potato chips under the law.) Hegland’s tone is often wry and ironic, more self-deprecating than didactic: “We take a job, Orwell wrote, put on a professional mask, and soon our face grows to fit it. He should have added, and probably did, maybe it was implicit, that we should ask ourselves if we like that face.” That said, the prose’s glibness sometimes conflicts with the darkness of the primary case. However, the novel manages to be consistently edifying and entertaining overall.
A crisp, intellectually enlightening legal novel.