William Deverell brings Arthur Beauchamp back for a third novel in the series. Putting a new spin on more Canadian legal drama, Deverell keeps the reader hooked into this whodunit until after the final gavel resonates in the courtroom. Again happy with his retirement (and going so far as to pledge to ‘retire from unretiring’), Arthur Beauchamp is happy to enjoy life on Garibaldi Island. However, Margaret has her eyes set on a new prize, the nomination for the Green Party in the upcoming federal by-election. Working diligently to woo potential party members, Margaret is happy to shuffle her opinionated legal scholar of a husband off to the other side of the island. Beauchamp, on the other hand, wants away from anything legal or political, though does agree to tend to some minor matters when legal proceedings reach the recreation centre one sunny afternoon. While there, Beauchamp is pestered by Cudworth Brown, island poet and somewhat of a smarmy man who shared a tree perch with Margaret a few years before to protest some environmental issues. It would appear that Brown is being accused of tossing a judge off his own balcony and leaving him for dead, before driving off and passing out behind the wheel. This is but the latest in a series of judicial deaths, none of which has been adequately explained. To make matters worse, Brown’s current counsel, Brian Pomeroy, has been slow to build his case in the real world, while penning his own quasi-fictional novel about the entire event. When Pomeroy succumbs to a life of cocaine-induced delusions, Beauchamp reluctantly agrees to take the case, though the deck seems stacked against him, with a judge who is strongly pro-Crown and a second chair, Wentworth Chance, whose legal experience has been notably as a researcher and life-long fan of Arthur R. Beauchamp, Q.C. With a Crown attorney happy to defer to Beauchamp, the case progresses, though the salacious one-nighter between Brown and the victim’s wife is denied by no one, only fuelling the motive to kill this less than pleasant judge. Can Beauchamp find an out and point the finger before the jury brings back a verdict? While he worries about this, Beauchamp must also wonder if Margaret will pave the way for her own successes and end up in Ottawa representing the constituency. Deverell spins a wonderfully complex tale and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat until the final page, even then wondering what has just happened. Brilliantly executed for those who love legal thrillers.
Deverell continues to impress with this series and shows the complexities that can befall a well-crafted legal thriller, given the time investment. Arthur Beauchamp remains a wonderful character whose blunt nature works well while surrounded with a number of interesting characters. His see-saw battle with trying to leave the legal profession is done in such a way that the reader cannot help but chuckle, more because it is seen to be a part of his ever-aging DNA than anything else. Cudworth Brown and Wentworth Chance keep the story intriguing for diametrically opposite reasons, which allows the reader to see a wonderful contrast. Margaret remains the busybody, though her plunge into federal politics should prove interesting down the road, should Deverell take the reader into that precariously balanced relationship with her across the country. The story was on-point, though I will say that the first third of the novel alternated between the ‘novel’ that Brian Pomeroy was writing about the murders and actual events, leaving the reader to parse through both to determine which is which. Making matters worse, the novel uses the same characters and similar conversations to fuel itself, forcing the reader to reach for a beverage, if only to offer a mental reset. Legal matters flow with ease and the reader is again taken into the courtroom and all that is Arthur Beauchamp in the mastery of legal matters. Deverell is a master at laying out the courtroom and the banter between all its actors, if only to add another complexity to this already heavy piece. Still, it is well worth the journey through all aspects of the piece and anyone with a penchant for legal and courtroom matters will not be disappointed they invested some time.
Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for educating and entertaining on all this legal, particularly homicide. Your twists and turns throughout the narrative are wonderfully executed and kept me guessing.