1293 The good cop of Garibaldi Island
by William Deverell
Toronto: ECW Press, 2021
$32.95 / 9781770415959
Reviewed by Alma Lee
A new book by William Deverell is always something to look forward to. One only needs to read the back cover blurbs of Stung to know it’s going to be a page-turner. The list of people who have given their opinions is high powered and these accolades can’t be ignored.
Stung is a political, legal thriller with all the elements to make the reader keep turning the pages. It’s complex, complicated, and entertaining.
This book brings Deverell’s character, lawyer Arthur Beauchamp, to life once again. Arthur is still happily living on his fictitious Gulf Island, Garibaldi. His idyll there is interrupted by a local battle about Quarry Park, a place with rare species of birds that the islanders love, which is about to be taken over by an American stone works company.
Arthur’s activist and legal background make him a natural for the locals to ask to defend their case. However, Arthur is feeling his age and is nervous about taking it on, but nonetheless he does. The case doesn’t go well…
Meanwhile, in Toronto, a group of seven activists are meeting in the back room of Ivor and Amy’s antique shop. They are the Bee-lievers. The occasion is a planning meeting for a raid on Chemican International, a major manufacturer of a product called Vigor-Gro. It has come to the attention of many activist organizations that Vigor-Gro is responsible for the death of millions of bees. The story begins with this premeditated act of sabotage.
Deverell has created a motley crew of characters who come together from a variety of backgrounds. The book is structured from the perspective of three of the main characters, Rivie Levinsky, Jake Maquire (Detective Inspector), and Arthur Beauchamp himself — who plays a crucial role in the story. Some of the aspects of the complex plot are serious and contemporary (think climate change), while others are quite comical. I had a few laugh-out-loud moments including the description of the botched sabotage on the factory. Descriptions of characters are vivid, their antics are serious, and Deverell typically injects a lot of humour into their actions.
It is Arthur’s reputation as a “winner” and environmental activist that eventually gets him involved with the “Sarnia Seven,” as they’re called by the media. Despite himself he agrees to act as their defending counsel. His exchanges with the “suspects” and his sparring with the Crown Prosecutor, Azra Khan, make for extremely gripping and entertaining reading. Added to these banterings is the judge — Madam Justice Donahue – who is egocentric and hard-nosed. There’s history between her and Arthur, and she’s not a fan. Knowing that this will not be an easy case, Arthur enlists the help of an old colleague, Nancy Faulk, who plays bad cop to Arthur’s good cop. She too has a history with Madam Justice. Nancy and Arthur know the case will be demanding since they are basing their defence on an old and rarely used law — the Law of Necessity. Madame Judge makes sure they know they are treading on shaky ground.
This brilliant, witty novel shows William Deverell at the top of his game. I believe Stung is his best to date. Deverell is our own Raymond Chandler or John Grisham, and we are so lucky to have the opportunity to have his books in our bookshelves – I’m a Bee-liever!
Alma Lee was the founder and first Artistic Director of the Vancouver Writers Festival. She is, needless to say, an avid reader whose “guilty pleasure” is reading crime fiction. She was also the founding Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada and of The Writers’ Trust. She also worked as an associate producer in charge of script development at Universal Studios when they had a production office in Toronto. She currently lives in Vancouver and, although no longer at the Vancouver Writers Festival, she continues to read – and to be involved with the literary community. Editor’s note: Alma Lee has also reviewed a book by C.C. Humphreys for The Ormsby Review.
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