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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Mind Games, by William Deverell

Seven stars

Returning to another William Deverell novel early in my 2019 Reading Challenge, I turned to one that has been collecting virtual dust for a while. Deverell’s novels can be hit or miss, depending on the reader’s engagement with the characters and story. In this piece, Dr. Timothy Dare finds himself visiting fellow psychiatrist Dr. Allison Epstein, filled with a number of issues that could use the detached analysis of an established therapist. Dare brings these issues to the therapeutic couch, including an impending hearing on professional conduct, a patient who is likely a serial killer, and Dare’s own relationship struggles. Throughout the novel, Epstein opens each chapter with some session notes and excerpts from the conversation before the narrative switches to Dare recounting, in detail, the happenings that fuel the discussion. The reader can see the ongoing struggles that Dare has with his fiancée and how an attractive patient plays on this, soon pushing him to the brink and turning a spurned seduction of her therapist into Dare having used his power to persuade her into a tryst. At the same time, Dare and Epstein appear to be forging a platonic bond, one that could have troubling fallout the further things spin out of control for the beleaguered Dr. Dare. As the intensity ramps up, the reader is subjected to many troubling revelations in a story whose ending builds in intensity. Deverell does well with this piece, whose mind games are plentiful, for reader and character alike!

I have come to realise that when I begin something by William Deverell, I am never sure where it will take me, or if I will find myself committed to the cause. This novel steers away from legal matters, for the most part, keeping those readers who revel in Deverell’s masterful presentation of Canadian law from becoming too excited. Rather, focus remains with Drs. Dare and Epstein, both sifting through the detritus of the former’s life choices. Dare bears all and shows the writer that his life is anything but smooth sailing, learning much in therapy as he tries to glue the pieces back together. Epstein appears to be the bystander, forced to sit through her patient’s narcissism as he deflects many of his poor life choices. Some of the other characters who grace the pages serve as narrative vessels to push the story along, much needed in this psychological piece that has some coming of age alongside self-discovery. Deverell does well trying to weave a patchwork of ideas and vignettes together to create a cohesive novel, though I do wish it had been one where the courtroom was the primary setting, not a therapist’s office. Still, as with all Deverell books, the name of the game is thinking and piecing it all nicely together.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for your hard work and dedication to the cause. I do enjoy novels that force me to think a little, though the mind games here may have been a bit much so early in the reading year.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

High Crimes, by William Deverell

Seven stars

With 2018 coming to a close, I chose to try one final William Deverell novel. With his vast knowledge of the Canadian legal system and experience with clients involved in many criminal activities, Deverell brings a unique realism to his writing, though asserts that it is all fiction. In this piece, the story opens in a Newfoundland courtroom, where a wily lawyer has been able to turn the tables and help his client elude conviction. Thereafter, there are whispers by drug trafficking kingpin Peter Kerrivan of a plan to bring a new and highly potent form of marijuana into Canada, directly under the noses of both local and American officials. Gathering a small group of diligent workers, Kerrivan is able to facilitate a trip to Columbia to check out the product, literally tons of ‘female bud’ marijuana. From there, it will have to makes its way up the coast and back through Newfoundland, where distribution is sure to garner hundreds of millions of dollars, should all go right. However, RCMP and DEA officials have been tipped off, but must play their cards right, in order to ensure the law is on their side when they intercept the drugs before arriving in Newfoundland. If that were not enough, lawyers await to tie government officials in knots and possibly keep anyone involved out of prison. It’s an adventure on the high seas that no one could have predicted. Deverell does well to keep the reader hooked throughout this novel, which finds new and exciting ways to tell a story of dealing, trafficking, and using in 1980s North America. Some who are familiar and enjoy Deverell’s writing may enjoy this one, though it is written in his highly dense style, which is sure not to appeal to all readers.

As Canada has recently legalised cannabis use by its citizens, there are some interesting aspects to this novel that make it a worthwhile read. However, very little of Deverell’s premise involves personal use of the product, but rather massive shipments through numerous borders, all while eluding authorities during America’s War on Drugs. Deverell fills the pages with information, drug-use, and legal meanderings to give the reader interesting angles on the entire business of the drug trade. While there could surely be called a few protagonists, many of the key players melded together for me, leaving a general group of ‘drug runners’ who seek to make their millions by taking a sizeable gamble. These include one fellow whose personally recorded journal is placed within the pages of various chapters. The story is strong and its ideas are quite interesting. That said, I am not sure I was ready for as dense a read as Deverell offered, as I was sifting through the narrative and trying to extract precisely what themes were being presented. However, the story flowed well and kept my attention, educating and entertaining me in equal measure. While not my favourite piece, I am happy to have given Deverell another chance to impress me in the final days of this year!

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting novel. I love how you make me think while I read, even if my brain is not always able to compute what you want the reader to understand in short order.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Platinum Blues, by William Deverell

Eight stars

In another of William Deverell’s legal thrillers, the reader learns a little more about life in the bucolic town of Foolsgold, California, and an attorney who discovers the ins and outs of copyright law. Oliver Gulliver is one of two attorneys in Foolsgold, making a living as best he can. While also serving as the town’s mayor, Gulliver is a widower and raising two daughters. The elder returns from a time away in San Francisco, where she has partnered with her musical idol, a washed-up rocker who is living out of a bottle of booze. While trying to find himself again, C.C. Gilley begins composing new songs dedicated to his newest love, much to Gulliver’s chagrin. After Gulliver helps Gilley out of his contract, he works to secure the artist’s recordings at the copyright office. However, someone seems to have had other ideas, as a rival musical group soon as an identical song climbing the charts. With little to lose, Gulliver flexes his legal muscle to assert the copyright, which has him making his way to the offices of Oriole Records, where he is met with distain. A small-town lawyer finds himself in the big courts to fight a million-dollar lawsuit, against a gaggle of lawyers who are happy to bury him in documents. Will Oliver Gulliver be able to keep his head above board, while also juggling some of the concerns back in Foolsgold? Deverell offers another unique approach to the law, using his own writing style to keep the reader engaged throughout this shorter piece. Recommended to those who enjoy William Deverell’s work, as well as the reader who likes the law presented in a unique and tangential fashion.

My enjoyment of William Deverell’s work began when binge reading his Canadian legal series last spring/summer. This led me on a subsequent one-off binge, as I have been taking time to read some of his other work. There have been pieces I thoroughly enjoyed while others remain baffling to me. This piece was surely one of the greater single novel experiences I have had with Deverell. Not only does it take the reader into the quaint parts of America, but there is also some unique legal angles that are explored. Oliver Gulliver comes across as a no nonsense father who enjoys his small town life. That he has been pulled into the middle of this legal drama comes across as being more a thorn than a challenge for him, but he soon discovers how passionate he becomes defending the rights of ‘the little man’. Not one to back down from the hurdles placed before him, Gulliver grows, both as a lawyer and personally, throughout the piece, which the reader will readily discover throughout. Others that populate the pages of the book have their own entertaining characteristics, which both help and hinder the protagonist along the journey. With some of Deverell’s trademark courtroom drama, legal-minded individuals make an appearance and offer some interesting interpretations of the law. The story was sound and worked well with the quaint theme throughout. It has moments of grit and others of trying to see ‘The Man’ slain for their cockiness, which works as a decent theme throughout. If someone were looking for a great starting point, I would surely direct them to this novel, before requesting a plunge into some of the spectacular Canadian legal work that William Deverell has authored.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another winner. I am enjoying this journey through your writing and will continue exploring, as best I can.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Needles, by William Deverell

Seven stars

William Deverell has a knack for dazzling fans with his unique writing style, tackling the Canadian legal system as only he appears able to do. Drawing on decades of experience, Deverell’s fiction has a great flavour of truth that cannot be discounted by the attentive reader. Here is his debut novel, which first appeared in 1979 and won some significant awards. Drug addicts in Vancouver have long been trying to find the ‘next new hit’ to awaken them to the glories of that lasting high. When a cartel based in Hong Kong sends a senior member to Canada’s West Coast, they hope to open a shipping line to bring White Lady heroin to the streets and find a large and hungry clientele. Leading the cartel’s Canadian network is one Au P’eng Wei, nicknamed ‘Dr. Au’, who brings a ruthless nature to the drug trade as he seeks to make copious amounts of money. Those who cross Dr. Au are sure the face the consequences of his medical training, as one Jim Fat learned the hard way. When Fat’s body is discovered, Au is fingered as the likely suspect, though it is hard to get anyone to speak out against him. Scrambling to prosecute, Vancouver’s senior Crown attorney turns to Foster Cobb, whose legal abilities seem somewhat questionable. Cobb is not only an attorney whose shingle is rusting, but he has a heroin addiction all his own, chasing it down dark hallways just to stay level. As Cobb begins to cobble together a prosecution, he discovers that Dr. Au is not one who will be easily convicted. With a wife who has all but checked out of the marriage and a second-chair who wants into his legal briefs—we’re not talking about arguments to the judge, here—Cobb must risk it all to find justice while trying to slay his own closet full of dragons as well. Deverell delivers a powerful story embedded in his complex writing style. Those who are fans of the author will likely find something worthwhile here, though I caution the reader new to Deverell’s work to begin with something a bit more grounded before making a decision.

Many will know that I discovered William Deverell when binge reading his Canadian legal series last spring/summer, where I was able to meet the sensational Arthur Beauchamp. From there, I agreed to branch out and see just how great Deverell could be with his one-off novels. Some I found to be well grounded in legal arguments and societal norms of the day, while others appeared to miss their mark. This novel finds itself somewhere in the middle, as I could see a great deal of legal potential, though some of the periphery writing was not as crisp as I would have liked. I attribute at least some of this to Deverell’s early writing, which I have come to discover is a lot harder to digest with ease (though it all seems to have won many literary awards). Foster Cobb proves to be an interesting character, much like the early Beauchamp, who struggles with addiction and a marriage that is hanging by a thread. However, Cobb seems quite lacklustre in his legal workings and therefore his character does not compensate for the addiction that looms over him. I had hoped for a sensational courtroom display—a la Arthur Beauchamp—to balance the novel out, but it failed to materialize and the story dragged for me. While I love a good courtroom drama, Deverell served up something more tepid. Surely I am biased from all my reading of his past work, so I suppose I must take that into account. The other characters proved less than persuasive for me as well, offering up placeholders for the narrative in a legal thriller that lacked the thrill. Crooked cops, scared cartel members, a wife who is unplugged and close to useless… all names that crossed the page and proved to be stumbling blocks as I sought to finish the read in a timely manner. The story could have been sensational, though it lacked many of the elements that I hoped to find. This was Deverell’s debut novel and, admittedly, penned before many of the books to which I am comparing this work. I have seen Deverell hone his skills and so I will give this one its due and not harp on it any longer.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting piece. It is sometimes hard for a reader to go back and not judge more recent (read: refined) works against it. The premise was there and yet the delivery needed something else.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Mindfield, by William Deverell

Seven stars

William Deverell has dazzled fans with his wonderful writing on all things involving the Canadian legal system. However, he stepped back with this piece to offer up something quasi-psychological with a dash of mystery. Kellen O’Reilly has served as a police officer in Montreal for many years. There was a period of time spent spent in a psychiatrist clinic, where he was part of an ongoing set of tests, but his recollection of those events are fuzzy at best. Now, 25 years later, he is having horrible flashbacks about his time there, when mild-altering drugs were used to implant suggestions into his memory, including the death of O’Reilly’s own father. Meanwhile, Sarah Parardis is trying to bring suit against the doctor who ran the clinic, Dr. Satorius, claiming that it was the site of CIA testing over a long period of time. Seeking damages for many of the victims, Paradis is being stonewalled by the Agency and cannot produce any records, presumably because Satorius destroyed them when things got out of hand. When Paradis and O’Reilly come together on an unrelated labour dispute between Montreal Police and their union, pieces begin to come together. Might O’Reilly be the key to opening up the Satorius files? When someone fails to delete electronic evidence of these psychiatric tests, O’Reilly and Paradis sense they may have a chance to score a point for justice, but they will have to survive as they enter some very dangerous crosshairs in the meantime. An interesting read that shows the breadth of Deverell’s writing capabilities. Not one of his best, in my opinion, but still quite thought-provoking.

I have enjoyed many of the novels William Deverell has published over the years. While a few have been harder to digest than others, the reader is always given a serious topic on which to postulate and this novel was no exception. Kellen O’Reilly proves to be an interesting protagonist, though I did not find him to be entirely captivating. His past as the victim of serious mind experiments keeps the reader eager to see what he will be able to remember and how much of his ‘planted’ memories have become part of his personal backstory. There is an interesting mix of flashback moments with a little development as he struggles to piece it all together. Sarah Paradis offers some interesting flavouring to the story as well; a leftist lawyer whose love of labour disputes leaves her the hero to some and the enemy to others. She is seeking justice while coming up against The Man if ever there were a perfect definition of one. Seeking justice wherever she can, Paradis will stop at nothing to make sense of a world that does not offer up concrete solutions. While I sped through the book, I found myself lost or lacking complete connection at times. The premise is strong, but I felt myself looking for that gem amongst the tepid moments. I remember that I struggled with Deverell’s opening novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series, but came to love it, so I am sure that one book does not make the man. That being said, there was something lacking here for me, though one-off novels can sometimes prove to be hit and miss.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting piece. While not entirely my type of book, I am sure others will enjoy it and offer much praise.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Mecca, by William Deverell

Eight stars

William Deverell has dazzled fans with his wonderful writing on all things legal, particularly as they relate to the Canadian system. However, he stepped back with this piece, one of his early works, to offer up something completely different, as fitting now as it was upon its original publication. During a period of torture and deprivation, an agent of the East German Rotkommando utters a single word, ‘Mecca’. This clue can only mean that there is something planned in the holiest of Muslim cities by this terrorist organisation, though that remains entirely unclear. After washed-up poet, Jacques Sawchuk, is about to be extradited back to Canada, he panics about having to face jail time for his involvement in a terror attack over a decade before. However, he may be the perfect new recruit to place within Rotkommando to learn of their plans. Used as a pawn, Sawchuk is brought to Canada before being shuttled off to Europe, where he undergoes significant training akin to that given to new Mossad agents. Once he is planted inside a cell within Rotkommando, Sawchuk slowly learns of the plan to attack the Saudi palace. Meanwhile, there is a story developing that the American president is set to broker a deal with the Saudis to sell them missiles. These weapons will likely be used to obliterate the Isaraelis without a second thought. Needing only a few more votes in the Senate, key legislators have been bribed, paving the way to the approval of the sale. One journalist seeks to uncover this story and blow the deal out of the water, but it will take all his effort and a great deal of strategy not to find himself out of a job, or worse. When Sawchuk finds himself in the middle of the Saudi attack, he soon learns that those he thought were his friends only have his back when it suits him. Might he have been better off rotting in a Canadian prison? Deverell does a masterful job in this piece, completely out of his normal genre, to dazzle the reader and pull them in with this reasonable story of espionage. Recommended to those who like stories within this genre, set years before the topic became stale.

I came to discover William Deverell for his legal writing and have not looked back. His novels are deeper than most to which I am accustomed, but this is by no means an issue for me. Being forced to think kept me on my toes and allowed me to discover a more complex set of characters. Jacques Sawchuk proves to be less vapid than he presents in the opening chapters, as he is gritty and knows how to handle himself in touch situation. That being said, he is no hulk, as he undergoes significant pain at the hands of his enemies during a portion of the story, such that the reader cannot help but have pity for the man. His left-leaning sentiments bleed through they narrative, though this is a time when the world was truly in flux and ideological differences meant something a lot different than they do today. Many of the other characters that pepper the pages of this well-crafted book complement many of the subplots effectively, fuelling a gradual build-up of what could be cataclysmic circumstances. From spies to security personnel, Deverell places a number of key characters in specific spots to tell his story. The narrative is balanced and works effectively throughout. Set in the early 1980s, the story is free of that ISIS/September 11th theme that has been beaten to death, but chooses to focus on an increasingly powerful Israeli military that is pushing back its Arab enemies. There are some poignant moments throughout that seek to address rises in ideological clashes without flinging mud and using the 24 hour news cycle to bury opponents, which is a refreshing change. Stepping away from all things legal, Deverell makes a name for himself in the world of espionage writing without being forced to lose that Canadian flavour. This makes the novel all the more alluring to me, for I have issues with those authors who repeat the same themes in their works, as though no one has ever thought to discuss al Qaeda or ISIS as a veritable enemy of the protagonist. While I am eager to get back to his legal writing, I thoroughly enjoyed this Deverell treat!

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another stellar piece of writing. I’ll be sure to check out more of your books to see if I can continue my praise!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Slander, by William Deverell

Eight stars

William Deverell is one author whose work is not for the reader interested in superficial legal dramas. He sinks his teeth into an issue and explores it in depth, providing the reader with a thorough exploration of its foundations, as well that the characters involved. In this piece, Deverell takes the reader into Seattle, where Elizabeth Finnegan has been honing her legal skills. Her passion is women’s rights, particularly the right to choose, which has brought her much work, even in the late 1990s. When Judge Hugh Vandergraaf issues a slap on the wrist sentence to someone before him for rape, Finnegan cannot help but cry ‘old boys club’. This earns her much ire from Vandergraaf and fifteen minutes of media attention. While she is not one to reject some free publicity, she does not want to be chastised by any judge with whom she may have to work later in her career. When Elizabeth is approached by a woman who accuses Vandergraaf of rape, she cannot help but jump to offer her services. Might this judge be as horrid as the men he lets off with tepid punishment? The greatest issue is that the assault was twenty-seven years ago, meaning the statute of limitations has long since expired. This shoes not stop Elizabeth from piecing together a case and a handful of others who speak to Vandergraaf’s sexual proclivities while a university student. In what might be a saving grace, the assault happened in Canada, so the rape change could see a courtroom. As the novel progresses, Vandergraaf has chosen to take Elizabeth to court for slandering him about these rape allegations. It is here that the crux of the novel develops. While Elizabeth is on the hot seat, she chooses to defend herself and brings up much of the evidence that may be used in her Canadian trial, trying to pin Vandergraaf down as a sexual predator and someone who not only did rape her client, but should be held accountable. The further things go, the more trapdoors emerge, pitting Elizabeth Finnegan and Hugh Vandergraaf in one final stand-off that could ruin them both. Deverell shows why he is the master with this novel, pulling the reader in and holding their attention until the final sentence. Highly recommend for those readers who love the law but are not looking for something light and airy!

I stumbled onto Deverell’s writing last spring when I was reading his stellar Arthur Beauchamp series. While it took a while to get acclimated, the series grew on me and by the end I know I would have to try some of the author’s one-off work, which has been a sensational adventure all on its own. Deverell paints his characters so vividly and keeps them developing throughout. Elizabeth Finnegan has a lot going for her as she seeks to keep women from being downtrodden in her own way. While she may have a passion for the law, she surrounds herself in a law firm with a number of men who seem not to fully comprehend equality or be in touch with empathy. With a few scandalous issues outside of work to contend with as well, Elizabeth is forced to juggle quite a bit as she seeks to keep from scorching herself while pushing back against her legal opponent, the great Judge Vandergraaf. On the other side, Vandergraaf has quite the reputation that he has kept under wraps. Said to be on a shortlist for a prominent federal court position, Vandergraaf must face his dalliances head-on as he brings suit against young Finnegan. Refusing to let his pride stand in the way, Vandergraaf issues blunt admissions, as the reader sees that he is sure he can bury this young lawyer simply because he is in a position of authority. Deverell adds an interesting diary of sorts to the end of certain chapters, where the reader sees some of the judge’s insights, which reach their climax in the closing pages of the book and provide some strong aspects to his ongoing character development. The handful of other characters offer some added flavour and help pace the story and the legal action throughout, keeping things interesting without getting too bogged down in legal minutiae. The story flows really well and keeps the reader hooked, bouncing from the legal matter at hand to some of the more vapid aspects of Finnegan’s life. Told in chapters that encapsulate an entire day, Deverell offer an interesting build-up throughout each day and the slow—or sometimes jagged—ending before hitting that reset button. This is an effective measure, as the reader is kept wondering what is to come without too many drastic cliffhangers, at least until the ending, and what a culmination it is! I am impressed yet again with William Deverell and his writing. He mixes an interesting legal matter with highly complex characters, creating a winning formula.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another great novel. I have a pile of your work still to read and I am even more excited to get to them now!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Street Legal: The Betrayal, by William Deverell

Eight stars

William Deverell is one author who is able to take the nuances of the Canadian legal system and put them into a well-developed piece that anyone can enjoy. I have read some of his stunning works and while this was not as powerful for me, I can see some of his wonderful style seeping from each page. Back in 1980, young lawyers Carrie Barr, Leon Rubinovitch, and Chuck Tchobanian were making names for themselves within Toronto’s legal community. After a man is charged with being the Midnight Strangler—raping and murdering women around the city—Barr is able to get him off on a technicality. While she’s flying high on this moral victory, she must come to terms with her philandering husband, who cannot seem to see what he is tossing away. After removing Ted Barr from their legal enterprise, these three young lawyers seek to make it on their own, armed with significant legal matters that find their way woven into the narrative of the book. Barr takes on defending a man whose ties to the criminal underworld and narcotics leave her wondering if she might have grasped for the first thing that came across her line of sight. She cannot help but hope that she will find something to help the situation before she is left with a bullet in her own head. Tchobanian is trying to push the limits of free speech in a pre-Charter Canada, with a client pushing pornographic novels who’s been threatened with numerous criminal charges. Perhaps most interesting of all is Rubinovitch’s work trying to defend a man who is peddling hate literature and trying to sell the world on the conniving nature of the Jewish population. All this, while more women are being murdered on the streets of Toronto, likely at the hands of the Midnight Strangler. What’s to be done and how will these young lawyers show that they belong in the cutthroat world of criminal law? Deverell does a wonderful job showcasing these young characters in a novel that was written to play the role of prologue to a highly successful legal drama on Canadian television in the 1980s. Recommended for those who like a darker legal novel with all the nuances of the Canadian system.

I stumbled onto Deverell’s writing last spring when I was reading his stellar Arthur Beauchamp series. While it took a while to get acclimated, the series grew on me and by the end I know I would have to try some of the author’s one-off work. Deverell paints his characters in such a way that the reader wants to love them, or at least get to know them before hating them outright. The three core lawyers in this novel all bring unique attributes to the table, but I do not feel as though Deverell sought to focus his attention on any one of them. There is the banter that Carrie has with her husband, while also delicately handling a client who has such strong ties to the underworld that she cannot make a single mistake. Chuck seeks to find that loophole in the Bill of Rights legislation to allow free speech in an era where constitutionally entrenched rights are still two years away. Leon seeks to hold his nose and hope his anti-Semitic client does not ruin things before they can find a way around some of this disturbing hate literature is read in open court. All three provide much entertainment and education for the attentive reader. The secondary characters fill the gaps these three leave, if only to push the narrative along in an interesting fashion. From quirky judges to members of the police community who feel that they are above the law, through to the criminal element demanding not only a day in court, but also that they be allowed to continue their lifestyles, characters fill the pages and Deverell shapes them all to be curious individuals. With a true Canadian flavour throughout the narrative, one can only presume that this novel serves to introduce the reader to the central characters in Street Legal, the television series Deverell wrote for CBC back in the 80s, which I vaguely remember seeing in the television listings as a youth. I did not watch it, but can only imagine how compelling it would have been, based on the intricacies that Deverell puts into his books. Deverell does great work pacing the narrative while educating the reader of the legal and social issues prevalent in Canada at the time. Balancing an interesting legal matter with highly complex characters, Deverell has penned a winner.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for a great novel. I am so pleased to get my mind working as I digest these Canadian legal thrillers!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Dance of Shiva, by William Deverell

Nine stars

There are few who can weave a gripping legal and courtroom drama into a single novel and fewer still who can do so in a Canadian setting. William Deverell is one such man whose novels not only touch on the core of the Canadian legal system, but also inject social and political aspects that are unique to this great country. Maximilian ‘Max’ Macarthur is a young lawyer who has lived in his father’s legal shadow all his professional life. Working inside the Vancouver courtrooms in the mid-1980s, Macarthur seeks to push speech and expression rights to their limits under the new Charter. When he is approached by legal giant Arthur Beauchamp to second chair a highly-politicised murder trial, Macarthur jumps at the opportunity, hoping for some significant tutelage. Their client, Shiva Ram Acharya, was found at his commune, surrounded by his followers, most of whom had recently been slain by gunshots. Shiva is said to have been inviting his followers to die and attain some higher understanding. With fingerprint and eyewitness evidence stacked against Shiva, it would seem this is a slam dunk case. However, Macarthur is not ready to let the facts speak for themselves and makes a trip to the crime scene, where something comes to light and an alternate suspect may have been overlooked. Communicating with Beauchamp, Macarthur seeks to bring this information before the jury, even as the Crown is closely supported by a judge who has little use for the antics the defense has brought into the courtroom. Beauchamp is a masterful courtroom player and has the jury eating out of his hands while Crown witnesses are pulverised before they know what’s going on. When a freak accident sees Beauchamp out of commission, all eyes turn to Macarthur to take over and win the case for Shiva, who remains stoically silent, sputtering inane transcendental positions to his counsel at the least opportune moment. All the while, Macarthur is trying to keep his personal life from exploding and his firm from bursting at the seams in this entertaining legal piece. Highly recommended for those who love a legal thriller that is a little more ‘intellectual’ than those on the market, as well as readers who are familiar (and enjoy) Deverell’s work.

I stumbled onto Deverell’s writing last spring when I was reading the—of all things—Arthur Beauchamp series. While it took a while to get acclimated, the series grew on me and by the end I know I would have to try some of the author’s one-off work. Deverell does well to paint his characters in such a way that the reader cannot help but love them, or want to know more. Max Macarthur may be a newer attorney (five years since his call to the Bar), but he is energetic and has a strong inclination towards defending his clients. Juggling a troublesome attempt to keep his personal relationship on track as he seeks justices, Macarthur is a man many readers may admire, though he has little time for praise. The master, Arthur Beauchamp, is as exciting as he was in his own series. The reader will love (or hate) his incessant use of Latin to get the point across, drowning those around him with legalese and seemingly non-sensical blather to sting them. While Beauchamp has a seductive mistress in the form of alcohol, he is usually ready to slay the Crown witnesses at the drop of a hat. Many of the other characters who find a home on the pages of this book help to solidify the legal and courtroom aspects of the narrative, moving things along effectively. With a true Canadian flavour, both the legal proceedings and the indigenous witnesses provide something that few unfamiliar with the Great White North would effectively understand, though the story is not lost on the non-Canadian (or younger) reader, as the narrative is that well developed. Deverell’s masterful work at pacing the narrative while instilling a better understanding of legal and social issues is to be applauded, as well as trying to handle cults in a way that leaves the pejorative at the door. Balancing an interesting legal matter with highly complex characters, Deverell has penned a winner that I hope many explore at their leisure.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another stunning novel. I am so pleased to have been able to get my hands on some of your non-series novels. Bring them on!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons