Kill All the Judges (Arthur Beauchamp #3), by William Deverell

Eight stars

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.

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.

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.