Stung (Arthur Beauchamp #8), by William Deverell

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, William Deverell, and ECW Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

The arrival of a new Arthur Beauchamp novel is always reason to celebrate. It shows that William Deverell has been hard at work, using his unique style to craft a truly Canadian legal thriller that has layers of strong plotting and even better off-the-cuff comments about the world in which we live. Deverell does not disappoint with this piece, which takes the reader on many an adventure, with a court case that is sure to pique the interest of those who enjoy such things. Highly recommended to those who love courtroom dramas, as well as the reader who has a penchant for all things Canadian.

It was all about the honeybee, or at least that’s what they said. Chemican-International is touting their new pesticide, Vigor-Gro, which has been useful to hep farmers and their crops, but has been wreaking havoc on the bees that try to pollinate. Rivkie Levitsky is working with a group of young eco-friendly people, all of whom are trying to make Chemican see the error of their ways. Their latest ploy is to get inside the Canadian plant outside Sarnia, where they will be able to stop things, at least temporarily.

All the while, Arthur Beauchamp (that’s “Beech’m”) has been enjoying life on his tract of land in Garibaldi, British Columbia. With his wife away serving as a Member of Parliament, he’s taken to enjoying the farm life and still thinking back on his many courtroom victories as a criminal defence attorney. Beauchamp has also been using more of his time to tend to local issues, which includes blocking an American company from mining the resources out from under him. While Beauchamp has a few minor dust-ups with the law, he’s peaceful for the most part.

Once Rivkie and her crew strike at the local Chemican plant, they cause quite the stir, which begins an extensive police investigation. The ‘Sarnia Seven’ are collected after the evidence is gathered and a few well-timed sting operations locate their lair. Helping out an old friend (and with the insistence of his wife), Beauchamp agrees to defend five of the members, prepared to use the necessity defence. While Beauchamp is not as familiar with it, he understands that arguing the act of sabotage was needed to protect the larger community—read: the bees—though this will be a hard sell.

In the lead-up to trial, Beauchamp must not only handle the cross-country travel to meet its his clients and co-counsel, but also handle some issue on the home front that he would likely prefer stay on the back burner. It’s going to be a lot to take on, especially as he has a long record of victories in the courtroom, matched against a Crown Prosecutor with an equally long string of victories. This is sure to be one trial no one wants to miss.

As the trial comes to a head, it will not only be a necessity defence that Beauchamp presents, but one vilifying Chemican-International. Fallout from the pesticide has not only been hurting the bees, but there are studies that show human consumption, albeit minutely, has been causing issues as well. Beauchamp must push this line of inquiry against the Crown’s insistence that it is futile, while the judge is keen to see things wrapped up swiftly. Add to that, there are issues within the jury that could cause things to topple over before closing arguments are finished. Beauchamp will have to use all his legal prowess, but even that might not be enough.

I discovered the wonders of William Deverell a number of years ago. His writing is not only detailed and highly addictive, but also layers the wonders of the Canadian legal system, putting a spotlight on its nuances, contrasting nicely with the supersaturation of American law in the genre. Of particular note, the Arthur Beauchamp series offers the reader a great escape into some true Canadiana with subplots that are second to none. Any reader who has the patience to sift through many of the tangential plot lines will not be disappointed with the series.

Arthur Beauchamp is a great protagonist in yet another novel. A brilliant legal mind, as is mentioned throughout the series, Beauchamp does not come across as pompous or egotistical. Quite the opposite, he struggles to sink into the background and enjoy retirement. Deverell places him in numerous sticky situations throughout the story, both of the legal and personal variety, which adds to the reader’s enjoyment. Those who have followed Beauchamp throughout the series will see how certain pieces connect in this novel, while others are new and exciting additions to an already full plate. Deverell does showcase the wonderful legal mind Beauchamp possesses, particularly in the courtroom, though the reader is not inundated with legalese that is sure to leave them befuddled.

The cast of secondary characters is quite complex and all encompassing, which adds to the depth of the narrative. The story takes place in various domains and tackles a few interconnected plot lines, all of which require strong characters to keep the momentum up. Deverell delivers unique and enjoyable characters, some of whom complement each other well, while not losing the reader in the tangential nature of the story. There are returning faces that add flavour to the story, as well as first-timers, some of whom I hope will return, should Arthur Beauchamp have more steam to offer in another novel.

The story itself was one of the best I have read from William Deverell. While it was a Herculean effort due to the details, most of his novels are, though they flow with ease. There is so much going on that the reader must almost keep a scorecard to set matters straight. Arthur Beauchamp is on display throughout, tackling so many interesting aspects of his life, as well as the case. The story is split into three narrative perspectives, which adds depth to the piece and keeps the reader pushing ahead. Add to that, Deverell has separated the book into chapters, as well as sub-chapters, which effectively serve to divide up the action for the reader. The flow of the book is not lost with the repeated divisions, though some may wonder why a more traditional approach was not taken. The narrative is sprinkled full of tongue-in-cheek moments, which lightens the mood in what is surely a high intensity piece. One cannot escape some of the science related to the topic at hand, though Deverell handles it effectively, educating the reader without drowning them in minutiae. I can only hope there is more to come, as Arthur Beauchamp is one character who never is at a loss for dramatic interactions.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another stunner. I love the mix of courtroom, rural Canada, and flashy crime thriller aspects. You are in a league all your own and I hope others discover your magic. Pardon the pun, but there is a real ‘buzz’ in this piece, well worth the attention of the masses.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Whipped (Arthur Beauchamp #7), by William Deverell

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, William Deverell, and ECW Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having finally caught up in the Arthur Beauchamp series, I can bask in the superior writing style that William Deverell brings to Canadian legal thrillers, peppered with some tongue-in-cheek commentary on current events. Lou Sabatino and his family were forced into Witness Protection after an explosive four-part series hit the newswires. Now forced to hole-up in a dingy triplex, Sabatino hides from the Mob and must make the most of his new life. Sabatino is shocked when his neighbour, a Russian dominatrix, shows him a secretly-filmed session with Alberta Member of Parliament and federal Minister of the Environment, Emil Farquist. Minister Farquist shows himself in full BDSM glory and Sabatino knows a scoop when he sees one. Copying the video when no one is looking, he must now find a way to release it to the public. Meanwhile, eminent lawyer Arthur Beauchamp is still rattled upon learning of his wife’s brief affair. It plagues him as he remains firmly rooted on Garibaldi Island, along Canada’s West Coast, as Margaret Blake spends much of her time in Ottawa, Member of Parliament and Leader of the Green Party of Canada. Blake focusses her ire on Minister Farquist and his environmentally disastrous plans for the country. Sabatino knows of this and seeks a secret meeting with Blake, where he plays her a copy of the video. Blake and her assistant are caught discussing the matter on an hot microphone days later, which is recorded by a conniving journalist, who seeks to track down the validity of the claim. Somehow, the recorded conversation leaks through Twitter and Blake is hit with a massive defamation lawsuit by Minister Farquist. Using his hometown of Calgary as the central point for the legal action, Farquist denounces the apparent smear campaign by Blake and promises to end her political career. With no one else to help her, Blake turns to her husband. Beauchamp has never fought a defamation suit, but trusts his wife when she says she saw the video. Trouble is, no one can find either Sabatino or the dominatrix, leaving the defence without a copy of the alleged video and seriously hampering their argument. With the trial in March, depositions are set for just after Christmas, forcing both sides to make their star witnesses available for preliminary questioning. Beauchamp has moved mountains before in his legal career, but he may have bitten off more than he can chew here, as he fights to save his wife’s reputation. Deverell remains on his game with this novel and pulls series fans deep into the legal, political, and humerous aspects of his storytelling. Rich with its numerous plots, Deverell remains one of the premier writers of this genre that I have had to pleasure to discover. Perfect for series fans and those who want a uniquely Canadian legal thriller.

While I was eager to read this novel, I am happy that I located and read the previous six books before delving in. Save for the opening novel of the series (which earned numerously ill-deserved awards, in my opinion), the entire collection of Arthur Beauchamp books have taken readers on a wonderful series through his legal career and paved the way for this hands-on piece. Deverell introduces so many characters to his stories, but is able to juggle them effectively, plotting their development throughout the entire series. Arthur Beauchamp and Margaret Blake have made significant progress in six previous books and this novel is no exception. Playing on their personal and relationship foibles, Deverell sketches out a wonderfully complex banter between the couple, both as a unit and individuals pushed together by this legal matter. The premise of the novel is highly entertaining and educational on many levels, pulling on some of the lower-brow commentary one might expect when BDSM graces the pages, but also injecting a degree of justification and, at times, all-out exploration of it being a mainstream activity. Deverell never shies away from his direct approach in the narrative, which might offend the prudish reader, but goes to show that he makes no qualms of telling things as they are. I found the addition of the political (read: parliamentary) angle to be exactly what I have been looking for in a novel for many years. Deverell speaks with (mostly) error-free confidence about life in Ottawa and within the hallowed walls of Parliament. Any reader who enjoys this most unique aspect of the Canadian experience will revel in all that is revealed in this novel. Brilliant in its balance between series legal matters and off-the-cuff humour, Deverell’s latest is not to be missed by those who seek literary entertainment.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell for such an enthralling piece that does not let-up until the final paragraph. Now that I have finished the binge, I wait patiently to see what else you have in store for readers.

Sing a Worried Song (Arthur Beauchamp #6), by William Deverell

Eight stars

William Deverell offers up another wonderful legal thriller, taking his protagonist back into the earlier days of his eventful legal career once again. By 1987, Arthur Beauchamp has made quite the name for himself as a criminal defence attorney. However, as with any challenging job, there are always new hurdles and adventures to overcome. When asked to act as prosecutor on the retrial of a murder, he obliges. Hoping for a three-day trial where he will again present the air-tight evidence, Beauchamp works against his long-time friend, Brian Pomeroy. The accused, Randolph ‘Randy’ Skyler, is said to have stabbed a down and out clown seven times while visiting Expo ‘86 in Vancouver. The legal approach taken to this apparently motiveless crime suggests that he was fuelled by the desire to commit and thrill kill. That the clown was a well-known homosexual may also have played a part, something that Beauchamp wants to jury to ponder during deliberations. Beauchamp learns of a murder mystery novel the accused and his friend are said to have obsessed over, which outlines the rush felt by the murderer in committing a random kill. Wanting to reach deep into Skyler’s psyche, Beauchamp receives a copy and synthesises it for himself. Using some of the key aspects of the narrative, Beauchamp storms into court and makes numerous accusations, paralleling the story and insinuating that the thrill kill had some similarities to the novel. While some less than legal tactics were used to get to that point, Beauchamp convinces the jury in record time and Skyler is sent away for murder, but not before uttering that he will exact his revenge at some point. Durning this time, Beauchamp is also wrestling with the ongoing infidelity of his wife, Annabelle, and learns that her choice of men is varied and might even cross into his own friend pool. Jumping forward to 2012, news crosses the wire that Skyler has been released on parole and has been making some utterances that he has some business that needs handling. Brian Pomeroy, repeatedly down on his luck (as series fans will know from past novels) surfaces to offer his friend, Beauchamp, some guidance and advice. Is Skyler on his way to Garibaldi Island to kill the man that put him behind bars? The possibility exists, as Beauchamp seeks to remain firmly rooted on the Island and keep to himself. Flashes from the past emerge, fuelled not only by his own memory, but a specific chapter of his biography, A Thirst for Justice. While Skyler has been seen working in Northern Ontario, there remains a strong paranoia that something could go awry at any moment. Should Arthur Beauchamp worry about this or anything else as he seeks to help those in the community, knowing that a murderer is potentially on the loose? And what about his own worries that his current wife is being unfaithful? All this and more await the reader in this wonderfully crafted sixth novel. A must-read for series fans and those who enjoy tongue-in-cheek legal thrillers.

William Deverell has mastered this series through a collection of well-plotted novels that develop the Arthur Beauchamp character in a slow and methodical manner. Working not only to advance the current Beauchamp, these flashback novels seek to allow the reader to fill the voids left by character trait breadcrumbs on offer in the first few novels. This story pulls on a well-established Beauchamp of the 1980s, whose career is rising with a strong reputation in the community. Going all-in with this rare prosecution, Beauchamp shows that he has a passion for the law, even when the case is not flamboyant. However, Deverell is clear to also add some angst to the mix as it relates to Beauchamp’s personal life, if only to keep that story from suffering bouts of tunnel vision. Series fans will know that Beauchamp struggled with alcohol abuse for many years, but it is in this novel that the kernel of his sobriety comes to the surface. Balancing things out with a wonderful modern narrative on Garibaldi Island, Deverell keeps his cast of characters exciting and playing their role in the larger story. The novels are rich with detail and humour, which helps propel the reader through them with ease. No one can say that Deverell lacks the ability to tell a story or that is pieces fall flat. Nuggets of literary genius pepper every page, as long as the reader is patient enough to coax them out. Brilliantly told and wonderfully written, this instalment of the series is yet another gem!

Kudos, Mr. Deverell for tantalising me repeatedly with all your wonderful stories, pulled on actual experiences from your legal career.

I’ll See You in My Dreams (Arthur Beauchamp #5), by William Deverell

Nine stars

Taking the reader on a heart-wrenching journey, William Deverell presents his fifth novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series and shows his literary brilliance throughout. With the recent release of Beauchamp’s biography, A Thirst for Justice, much has been made of the eminent lawyer’s first murder case in 1962. This becomes the premise for the story, as the reader is pulled back almost five decades to a point when Arthur Beauchamp was still extremely wet behind the ears. Handed the defence of Gabriel Swift, who was accused of murdering Professor Dermot Mulligan, Beauchamp is forced to swallow his pride and gut feelings. It appears that Prof. Mulligan was not only an acquaintance of Beauchamp’s, but his thesis advisor before the law became a more alluring mistress. Swift denies having anything to do with Mulligan’s murder, though does admit that he was employed to tend to the yard and did see him on the day of the alleged crime. With no body having ever turned up, Swift (and Beauchamp) cannot see how this sham of a charge can stick, even with a jailhouse snitch swearing he heard an out-and-out admission one night. An outspoken man with strong ties to his Native roots, Swift turns his attention to shining the spotlight on the disparity that has befallen his people at the time when the law and authorities would not only ignore their pleas, but intentionally twist the facts to convict and incarcerate Native Canadians. Working with what he has, a large pile of circumstantial evidence, Beauchamp tries to navigate his way through preparing for trial and the actual legal presentation of facts, only to hit the same wall. Pitted against a legal legend, Beauchamp cannot even use the confidence his second chair exudes to remain firmly committed to seeing the trial through and seeks to convince his client to take a plea, rather than face capital murder charges and hang for his alleged crime. Through a series of influential conversations with others, Swift takes the plea, but refuses to speak to the details of the crime, still holding firm that he is innocent. It is actually the release of the biography in 2011 by Wentworth Chance (series readers will remember him from an earlier novel) that lit a fire under Beauchamp to re-examine the evidence and to probe deeper into the crime, examining the life of Mulligan all the closer. With his wife busy in Ottawa and his friends on Garibaldi Island engrossed in some of these early stories about their favoured son, Beauchamp puts all his efforts into overturning the guilty verdict through the Court of Appeal. However, with so much time having passed and Swift in hiding in South America after an escape, is there any point? Deverell stuns the reader with raw truths and suppositions from the early 60s while portraying Beauchamp as a younger and more scandalous version of the man who has spoken frankly about his legal past. Not to be missed by series fans or anyone with a passion for Canadian political or legal history.

By now, the series reader has a firm understanding of Arthur Beauchamp and all he has done in his career, or so we are led to believe. Deverell’s thorough narratives in the past novels have brought out many of the praiseworthy and horrid pieces of his protagonist, but nothing will prepare the reader for what is inside the covers of this book. Beauchamp is young and naive throughout the novel’s flashback scenes, knowing little about murder, defending an outspoken client, or the struggles of Natives at a time when racism was rampant and accepted in this peaceful country. However, pairing that with his oft-hinted at obsession with drink and the reader can see the early foundations of a long career mired in booze to act as a crutch for a hard day’s work. By also pulling on a minor storyline about his parents, Beauchamp is forced to drag himself from under their smothering and critical ways, only to invent himself at a time when he is still highly impressionable. Deverell also layers much in this story, from the biography, two time periods, contentious murder trial, and in-depth discussion of Native residential schools, it is no wonder that the reader must pace themselves through this literary journey. I will not delve into these areas, for it is the reader’s chance to experience it for themselves and pass their own verdict on how things happened during those times mentioned throughout the novel. I cannot, however, stand here and not comment on how seamlessly the entire delivery ended up being, mixing excerpts from Chance’s own biographical piece with a narrative of the actual events leading up to the trial and then the ‘current day’ happenings as Beauchamp seeks to fix his most serious (known) legal gaffe. Brilliantly portrayed and sure to bring about much discussion amongst those who take the time to read this book. I can only hope that others enjoy this novel as much as I did.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for not shying away from the deep and dark areas of the legal and political past for which Canada cannot hide their blemishes. You have captivated me with all your work and this might just be the best one yet.

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.

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.