April Fool (Arthur Beauchamp #2), by William Deverell

Eight stars

Returning to the world of William Deverell, I found myself enthralled by this second novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series. Free of the inherent glory of literary awards, the reader is able to get to the core of the story; two powerful legal matters. Enjoying life as a goat farmer on Garibaldi Island, off British Columbia’s mainland, Arthur Beauchamp has not missed the fast-paced life as a defence attorney. Married to his once neighbour, Margaret, Beauchamp has been able to enjoy the quiet life. Margaret, the consummate protestor, has turned her attention to her Save Gwendolyn Project, seeking to prevent companies coming in and destroying the forests, particularly when a pair of eagles are spotted in a nearby tree. Ramping up her efforts, Margaret agrees to sit in a makeshift tree fort to protest the environmental issues. The authorities began cracking down and gathering up some of the protestors, which brings a few lawyers in to help defend the Gwendolyn protestors, including Lotis Rudnicki, newly drawn to the profession but with a long history of small-screen stardom. Meanwhile, one of Beauchamp’s former repeat clients, Mick ‘the Owl’ Faloon has found himself wrapped up in a murder charge related to a therapist with whom he was fraternizing in Port Alberni. Faloon decries his innocence, but all the evidence points to his guilt, particularly seminal fluid found inside the victim. Beauchamp agrees to help, but is soon thrust into first chair after a familial breakdown befalls the original attorney. Working on both the environmental matter and trying to prepare Faloon for trial, Beauchamp begins to develop a closer working relationship with Lotis Rudnicki, the new-age flower child of the legal profession. With Margaret holed away in the tree, Beauchamp must use his mind rather than any other ‘brain’ to move forward and keep things proper. While away on the mainland fighting these two cases, Beauchamp cannot crack how his client’s DNA might have been placed at the scene of the crime, though does not dispute Faloon’s innocence. On the eve of the trial, Faloon organizes an escape and flees to Europe, leaving Beauchamp to begin the trial with the accused in absentia. Paired with a Crown attorney who is eager to push the case quickly before the jury and the Chief Justice presiding, Beauchamp is in for quite the legal circus. Focussed on the murder trial, though always hoping that the Gwendolyn folks remain one step in front of the legal decisions being made in an adjacent courtroom, Beauchamp cannot help but worry about Margaret and her decision to roll the dice to further enamour herself with the environmental activists around. A stunning legal thriller with the perfect development into a courtroom drama, Deverell redeems himself after a less than well-presented series debut. Those who love a good Canadian legal thriller will lap this up and soon see that William Deverell is a master at his trade.
While only the second novel in the series, I am captivated and drawn to the Arthur Beauchamp novels already. Those who had the chance to read my review of the series debut will know that I was confused by all the literary prizes for a piece that seemed to toss too much at the reader in the form of massive chapters, as if it were meant to weed out the less dedicated. Here, Deverell returns after a writing hiatus to develop the Beauchamp character a great deal. With an equally long lull in legal matters, Beauchamp has become a small-town citizen who loves his farming but still spouts Latin to anyone who will listen. He seems to love the peace and quiet that becomes his every day, though there is surely a part of him that remains sharp when it comes to legal matters. Deverell develops less of a backstory on Beauchamp than to build this post-attorney foundation and the happiness in rural British Columbia. However, the old dog still has it in him and Arthur Beauchamp is able to return to the fray at the drop of a hat, though perhaps a little more hesitant and definitely with increased sobriety. Tossing in a more grounded Margaret and a slew of other secondary characters, Deverell offers the reader some interesting contrasts within the story, if only to exemplify the various sides of Beauchamp. The story is crisp and flows with greater ease than the debut, paced out with excellent chapter breaks and poignant forks in the narrative, which allow the reader to see all that is going on. Without weighing things down too much, Deverell does force the reader to become one with the legal battles taking place, therefore he chooses not to skim over key aspects in a single sentence or paragraph. The legal arguments are strong and yet not lost on the non-legal minded reader who might enjoy some courtroom banter. Brilliantly presented and thoroughly enjoyable, William Deverell has a definite winner on his hands when it comes to this series, as long as things continue to build on this powerful second novel.
Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for making the law so entertaining and yet not skimping on it. You foist Canada into the limelight and show just how different we can be from a genre that is supersaturated with vapid American legal stories.

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