Snow Job (Arthur Beauchamp #4), by William Deverell

Eight stars

Taking a different spin to this fourth novel in the series, William Deverell presents Arthur Beauchamp and the cast of other characters in a new light. Still savouring her by-election victory, Beauchamp’s wife, Margaret Blake, is enjoying life in Ottawa as the sole Green Party Member of Parliament. While basking in her success, Beauchamp, himself, is not as keen, pining for full-retirement back on Garibaldi Island, where he can farm to his heart’s delight. In an effort to pave the way for an Alberta-based oil company to win rights in the former Soviet satellite state, the Canadian Government are hosting a delegation from Bhashyistan. Deverell takes the reader inside the political heads and Cabinet room to show just how painful it is for members of the Privy Council to play nice with these less than refined men, with their forward ways and backwards thinking. Margaret is in her heyday, finding much that she can critique about these men and plays aghast that the Government would so blatantly allow themselves to be seen to curry favour with the environmentally unsound Bhashyistani representatives. While out walking one morning, Beauchamp comes across the security convoy that is shepherding the Bhashyistanis back to the airport, when it explodes before him. Flashbacks to fifteen years before and the country’s former leader, who was assassinated on Canadian soil. The alleged assassin at that time was found not guilty and this would be his ultimate second kick at the proverbial cat. In a state of shock, Canadian officials do all in their power to contain the situation, which includes knocking the Bhashyistani airliner from the skies for non-compliance with emergency security measures. What follows is a declaration of war by Bhashyistan and a Canadian Government unprepared for how the world will portray them. With the five Calgary oil executives taken prisoner in Bhashyistan, the Prime Minister must act quickly, starting with Operation Eager Beaver, in hopes of crushing this wayward state while the world’s opinion remains on their side. As they bumble through this, news that the aforementioned alleged assassin, Abzal Erzhan, was seen taken from the streets just outside his home have fuelled concerns that there may be a tit for tat taking place, putting Canada in the centre of an international diplomatic gaffe. Sitting idly by, Arthur Beauchamp swoops in to act as counsel for the missing Erzhan and his family, a pro bono gesture that takes him around the world. Meanwhile, as the country teeters on the edge from poorly executed extraction efforts, Parliament learns that it has been prorogued and a new election is forthcoming. Margaret Blake does all she can to hold onto her seat and help the Greens grow, while the ruling Conservatives must crush Bhashyistan and hope their efforts lead to a landslide victory. With a Bhashyistani propaganda machine being run through YouTube, the world watches, only to learn that three Canadian women may have inadvertently drifted into the country while on vacation. With eight Canadian hostages hidden away, the war between Bhashyistan and Canada reaches a head, though no one could have predicted the fallout. Deverell plants tongue firmly in cheek with this latest story, that adds a wonderful political flavour to things and keeps the reader hooked until the very end. Series fans may love it, though without that courtroom drama, there is a different angle of enjoyment whenever Arthur Beauchamp graces the page.

I have come to really enjoy all things Arthur Beauchamp, even when there is no courtroom to add a certain spice to the mix. Being a Canadian political nut, I have long sought out a novel that plays into the inner workings of the Canadian system and how effective the parliamentary system might be portrayed in a piece of fiction. Deverell does a masterful job here, painting Beauchamp as a wonderfully supportive husband who is still miserable in all he does. He seeks to make sense of what is going on, but does not hog the entire narrative. The cast of secondary characters, both those known to series readers and new ones that emerge in Ottawa, offer up a wonderfully entertaining connection to all things political and military, as Canada is thrust into a confrontation that rivals the opening day of Roll Up the Rim (you must be Canadian to understand) at the local Timmy’s. The story is wonderfully developed and delivered, placing a mockery of all things political in docile Canada. Still, Beauchamp is able to advocate for his client and meet many an interesting character along the way. I can only hope that with the results of the election, there is more excitement for both Beauchamp and Margaret, whose mission to create a greener (and Greener) country might come to pass before long. Paced beautifully and injected with enough humour to keep the reader hooked, Deverell has outdone himself here.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for keeping things light while addressing some interesting situations. I can only hope that you have more to come in the next Beauchamp instalment.