William Deverell creates a stunning work where courtroom drama mixes with national politics, in a macedoine of Westcoast attitudes and Canadian foibles. Set in Vancouver, the plot unfolds with judges being offed one by one. Arthur Beauchamp, a retired veteran of jurisprudence, lives on Garibaldi Island with his goats, content to let big, bad Vancouver disappear in the rearview mirror of his life. But alas, he is pulled back in when the accused is a fellow islander and the town poet, to boot. The crosshairs are aimed at one Cudworth Brown, a man-about-town and famous raconteur whose penchant for capricious carnal liaisons has placed him in a peculiar position yet again.
Beauchamp’s wife is running for power in the local elections as well, compounding the mess. Arthur is not only faced with the imminent collapse of retirement bliss but also faces thankless winters in the drab bureaucracy of Ottawa, should his wife win. He reluctantly dons his barrister’s cloak and sallies forth to save the accused. We see the absolute tolerance my fellow Vancouverites have for all sorts of aberrant behaviour, further reinforced by a laissez-faire attitude that leaves well alone. We have the transplanted Newfoundlander whose diction obeys all the rules of Newfinese. We have the sultry heiress who goes through men casually, contrasted with the classy lady of old money who is blind as a bat but whose word is respected by all, by virtue of her pedigree and breeding.
The book is a literary delight, not least of all for its Latin gems: Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit and Ubi dubium ibi libertas. Read and enjoy.