Trial of Passion (Arthur Beauchamp #1), by William Deverell

Seven stars

New to the world of William Deverell, I could not think of a more interesting series to read than that of Arthur Beauchamp. Pair a legal/courtroom drama with a Canadian setting and I was curious from the get-go. Arthur Beauchamp has made a name for himself in the Vancouver legal community as a razor-sharp defence attorney. However, with brambles in both his public and private lives, Beauchamp has decided to settle in Garibaldi, off the mainland of British Columbia. In an attempt to hit his own personal reset button, Beauchamp must acclimate to the more rural lifestyle that presents itself, while still answering questions about this drastic change from family and some friends. Slow to accept the small-town feel, Beauchamp remains steadfast in his desire to remain out of the legal fray, even when a significant case makes headlines and his name is bandied about to defend Professor Jonathan O’Donnell, current Dean of Law at UBC. During an affair with one of his students, Kimberley Martin, O’Donnell is said to have confined and raped her, though the entire ordeal is clouded in an alcoholic haze. As the preliminary hearing progresses in the narrative, Beauchamp is involved in his own legal matter in Garibaldi, with a neighbour who shows that she, too, can be pig-headed when it comes to the law. After mending proverbial fences with Mrs. Margaret Blake, Beauchamp can finally let down his personal wall and agrees to defend O’Donnell, whose significant fees are being covered without blinking an eye. By the time Beauchamp sinks his teeth into the case, there seems to be much more than a simple rape at hand, as the encounter was preceded by a law school party and intense flirting. Add to that, the ongoing sexual encounters that Martin and O’Donnell shared and things begin to take on an entirely new meaning. Armed with a somewhat sturdy defence, Beauchamp is prepared to cross paths with the Crown, though neither could have expected how a newly-appointed judge might handle proceedings. Beauchamp must dodge many a bullet to show that O’Donnell is not the fiend the Crown wishes to make him out to be and that Ms. Martin is anything but the innocent student lured into her professor’s lair. Deverell presents this somewhat meandering legal thriller to the reader and entertains while building a high-brow narrative that is sure to have helped garner him significant literary awards. Not for those who want a superficial legal read, but well worth the invested time of a dedicated reader.
Let me be the first to admit, literary awards mean little to me as a reader. I am more interested in a story that I will enjoy, rather than a panel of individuals seeking high-brow amusement and discovering symbolism in every verb. Deverell has laid the groundwork for an excellent series here by developing Arthur Beauchamp as not only a well-established lawyer, but one who seeks to reinvent himself. His struggle to come to terms with his wife’s decision to divorce and his attempts to adapt to rural living prove to be the ideal fodder to shape this man into someone the reader can enjoy. There is much yet to be said about Beauchamp, but I am intrigued to see if Garibaldi will remain the settling for the series, as it is a wonderful place for the reader to learn more about the aforementioned contrasts. As with any series that seeks to take the protagonist out of their comfort zone, there will be many interesting characters who emerge. Margaret Blake is one that proves to be both a thorn in Beauchamp’s side and yet curries favour with him to the point of commencing something romantic. I am eager to see where Deverell takes that, should he allow them to continue this romantic entanglement. The premise of the book was very strong and the legal aspects kept me thinking throughout, though the presentation left something to be desired. As I began reading, I found myself trying to hack through much of the verbiage that Deverell presents to come to terms with the narrative’s intended effect. Use of extensive Latin and thesaurus-rendering vocabulary left me pondering how long it would take to develop a fondness for the story. By waiting, I was able to survive the slow ascent this literary rollercoaster took and treat myself to a stunning rush once the courtroom matters began building. I soon became hooked, even with stunningly long chapters to present the point at hand. Deverell will hopefully have only used this in the opening novel, though seeing the gem at the end, I will try to persevere, should the follow-up novel be as wordy. The courtroom aspects of the novel propel the story forward and the unique style Beauchamp brings to the defence kept me wanting to learn more and witness things firsthand. I suspect that if the rest of the series, to date, is as legally balanced, I am in for a wonderful binge-read.
Kudos, Mr. Deverell for being able to balance the law and Canada in equal measure. While the setting is not quintessential in this piece you have made me proud to see a Canadian legal thriller of such high quality is available for those who want it.

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