William Deverell, McClelland & Stewart, 2006, 448 pages.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
An irresistible story of justice heading off the rails.
Arthur Beauchamp, the scholarly, self-doubting legend of the B.C. criminal bar (and one of Deverell’s most amiable — and crafty — protagonists), is enjoying his retirement as a hobbyist farmer on B.C.’s Garibaldi Island when he is dragged back to court to defend an old client. Nick “the Owl” Faloon, once one of the world’s top jewel thieves, has been accused of raping and murdering a psychologist. Beauchamp has scarcely registered how unlikely it is that the diminutive Faloon has hurt anyone when his own personal life takes an abrupt turn. His new wife, Margaret Blake, organic farmer and environmental activist, has taken up residence fifty feet above ground in a tree she is determined to save for the eagles and from the loggers. Beauchamp shuttles between Vancouver and the island, doing what he can to save the tree and get his wife back — and defend Faloon.
Part courtroom thriller, part classic whodunit, April Fool sees Deverell writing at the top of his form as he puts these characters through some entertaining and very surprising twists and turns.
I read this book while sitting on a beach on an island very near to Garibaldi Island, where Arthur Beauchamp, the main character, lives. I love all of the description of island life and the pace of things on the island. There is some great description of the forests and people - Deverell has a great vocabulary and he uses it.
April Fool is told in the present tense, something that was a bit hard to get used to. There was often changes in point of view and the characters went back into their thoughts, then I felt jarred as they returned to the present. I imagine this was a way to separate the past and present, but it kept taking me out of the story.
The beginning of the book was intreguing and certainly made me want to find out who had committed the crime and how they had done it. Faloon is a thief and he starts off by stealing from guests in a local resort. There is great authentic sounding detail here, as there is with all of the crime description - it would seem that Deverell has done his research. The flip side of this is that he used a lot of criminal slang vocabulary that the reader had to interpret. Again, this was offputting at times as it drew me out of the story if it wasn't immediately obvious what the word meant.
This is a book in two parts, the crime and investigation and then the courtroom drama. Both were carried off well and we were carried along with Beauchamp as he not only wanted to defend his client, but be able to solve the crime and point the finger at the real criminal in a dramatic gesture.
I enjoyed Arthur Beauchamp, and this is the second book I have read featuring this character. However, I also found him annoying at times. At first his insecurities about his wife were amusing, but after awhile they just got to be annoying. I found it difficult to believe that a man of his age would be so insecure about his wife and I did get tired hearing about it. Again, there was a flip side to this, Deverell was able to use this relationship to compare to others in the book and the dynamics of marriage, for example the womanizing, urban lawyer in marriage councelling, and the Viagra popping lawyer keeping a mistress.
In the end, I did enjoy April Fool, but did not love it. There was just too much repitition in the descriptions and the main character stopped being charming. I did enjoy the mystery of who committed the crime and the suspense of Beauchamp's wife trying to save the forest from development. There are definitely some local political issues at work here.