year-old DeShawn, an African-American genius whom, at his relatively young age, has already attended Harvard, Yale, and Howard Universities, passed the bar exam, and become a lawyer.
An unbelievable premise? Perhaps if written by an author of lesser talent than Ken Sagoes; but Sagoes's skillful narrative makes DeShawn's character a highly plausible one. We never doubt for a minute that, yes, this has happened.
While we'll offer no spoilers in this review (the novel is of too high a quality to mar the reader's enjoyment of discovering key plot points for him- or herself), we will share that DeShawn's first case as a lawyer involves him defending his own father of murder; and it is through this defense that the author makes the character of DeShawn (whose name is a combination of his mother, Debra, and his father, Shawn) so credible; at fourteen years old, he shows all the insecurities, mistakes, and combativeness one would expect from any teenager, even if that teenager is a trial lawyer defending his dad.
Many of us first met author Ken Sagoes as "Roland Kincaid," in the classic horror films, A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts III and IV, as he battled everyone's worst nightmare, Freddy Krueger.
But the nightmare of what a young black man in The McHenry Trial faces, having to fight off the stereotypes that society has imposed upon him, is far more horrific than anything Sagoes's character had to endure in Nightmare....
The McHenry Trial portrays real life, yet Sagoes gives these victims of societal stereotyping a voice, a chance, a dream of hope, to reject these stereotypes once and for all.
The tension that Sagoes creates is palpable; at times, it's downright thrilling. Will DeShawn win his case? Or will it be enough for DeShawn to have given it his best shot, against seemingly unbeatable odds, and simply claim a moral victory against the whitewash of the jury system? Or, as Sagoes so cleverly plants doubt in our minds - is DeShawn's dad even innocent at all? Or has DeShawn been so blinded by his desire to be accepted as a successful black man, that he overlooked some key defenses in the trial?
I have mentioned on more one occasion that The McHenry Trial presents many of the prejudices faced by the African-American community.
However, Sagoes, a strong civil-rights advocate in his won right, presents a fair, realistic view of that community - not all whites, of course, are hated by blacks; nor are all blacks hated by whites.
Sagoes's introduction of white Detective Crawford illustrates that point.
Another reason The McHenry Trial stands out from other novels is in its climax; it doesn't take the easy way and tie things up nicely in a bow.
We learn new things within the climax about certain characters; please don't make the mistake of thinking you'll know how the story ends. If the reader will have learned anything after reading this book, it's
Don't Judge !
The McHenry Trial is, unquestionably, a five-star book.