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April Fool by William Deverell
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Set on the fictitious island of Garibaldi in the gulf between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Being familiar with the area, I can attest that the eccentric characters ring true. There are two cases for retired lawyer Arthur Beauchamp here, the first is to try and stop clearcutting forest on the island, the second is to defend thief, Nick the Owl, of a murder charge. Beauchamp is a highly respected, clever lawyer, one of the elite, yet outside court he becomes a mass of self doubt and insecurity. Deverell's style of natural, unforced humour fits very well with the laid-back west coast flavour of his stories. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Apr 16, 2017 |
Having settled into country life and new marriage to his next door neighbour, Arthur Beauchamp is enjoying retirement from a long and distinguished career as a criminal lawyer and Queens Counsel. However a particular April Fool’s day is destined to shake up Arthur’s new life on Garibaldi Island in British Columbia. Firstly one of his former clients, jewel thief Nick Faloon, is accused of the rape and murder of a relationship counsellor. Arthur feels an obligation to become involved in his defense because he still feels guilty about unsuccessfully defending Faloon against charges for a crime he did not commit some years earlier. On the same day Arthur’s wife Margaret, a staunch activist in their rural community, takes up residence in a tree house which has been constructed in the canopy of the area’s old-growth forest which is under threat from developers. Arthur is pressured to become involved in the legal side of the protest too.

This book is brimming with a wry, observational humour about the collection of lovable and/or odd characters that seem to inhabit tight-knit communities everywhere. Arthur is an unusual character for crime fiction being 68 and suffering from an odd assortment of self-doubts despite his successful career and happy home life. I really enjoyed his willingness to do the right thing even when he’d rather not have done and the credible way he explored his doubts about his relationship with his wife. I did groan though at the stereotypical needing someone else (i.e. a woman) to do even the simplest of household chores like turning on a washing machine.

In the city Arthur is assisted in his defense of Faloon by a colleague from his former law firm whose marriage is falling apart and Lotis, a young woman activist and law student. Although neither of them is the most reliable of people between them they do come through when it matters and they provide a lot of laughs along the way. Back home there are a plethora of characters to enjoy including the smelly poet who first shares the tree house with Margaret and near-criminals Stoney and Dog who do everything from build swimming pools to running the community’s taxi service (often with vehicles they’ve ‘borrowed’ from those they’re driving around). Nick Faloon has a relatively minor role but he too offers humour and engenders a surprising feeling of warmth towards him given he is an admitted thief.

At first I thought the mysterious element of the book was going to take a back seat to the character studies and environmental message but while it was slow to get going for the last two-thirds of the book this element is solidly imaginative and the resolution is both surprising and credible. Legal procedurals are not my favourite kind of reading but I enjoyed the way this case unfolded in court with first one side then the other seeming to have the advantage as different pieces of evidence came to light. The addition of even more quirky characters, such as the ultra-nervous clerk and the judge who is a stickler for punctuality add to the readability.

April Fool certainly offers a sense of its remote, environmentally sensitive location. I’m less sure that there was anything particularly Canadian about the setting as I could imagine similar events taking place in parts of Tasmania or any of the world’s other environmentally endangered remote locations but there could well have been some local nuances that I was oblivious to. Regardless of this the author has done a great job of depicting the passion and ingenuity involved in low-budget activism.

The book could have done with a bit tighter editing, perhaps a few less characters and one fewer red-herring thread in the legal case, but overall it was an enjoyable and unpredictable read. Its humour, setting, characters and solid plot make it the sort of reading most crime fiction fans will enjoy, especially those looking for a book with minimal blood and gore. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
I really struggled with APRIL FOOL even though I really wanted to read it to complete my reading for the Canadian Book Challenge 2011-2012 and also because it was a past winner of the Arthur Ellis award. Perhaps it does also show that the reader's familiarity with a setting is important. Nevertheless the book seemed to me to be extraordinarily dense and the plot very complex.

I think part of my problem may have been my lack of familiarity with Canadian geography which left me struggling with the setting changes, and perhaps also that I had not read the earlier Beauchamp book. An insidious little voice kept nagging at me to stop reading but after the first 80 pages I felt that I had invested sufficient time in reading it to continue. Besides I really wanted to know how Beauchamp solved his various problems.

The story twists and turns a lot and crosses between the murder case that drags Arthur Beauchamp out of retirement and the ecological protest that Arthur's wife is embroiled in, itself a case before the courts. ( )
  smik | Jun 25, 2012 |
Once again: this isn`t a genre I much read--the contemporary murder mystery. Don`t usually like them much, the grittiness and all. I read this because I was nestled in a Gulf Island cabin and this is a (partly) Gulf Island-based novel. I wanted to see where the author would take it.

Deverell`s story and characters definitely grew on me, and his settings--the remote coastal village of Bamfield and the invented Gulf Island of Garibaldi--are much more than mere backdrops. The communities, the people, and some of the issues they face; it all comes together and is quite entertaining.

Being a British Columbian myself, I enjoy the gentle and irreverent picture Deverell paints of environmental activism in our fair and tree-enamoured province. He is less willing to be gentle with the Janus-faced developer, a Vancouverite who tries to insinuate himself into the community as a local while intending to turn the island way of life on its head. I appreciate the aging lawyer, shaken out of retirement by the arrest for murder of a favourite client, the jewel thief ``The Owl`` Faloon, and by the ascent of his wife into an eagle nesting tree to prevent its destruction and that of the forest around it. As with many novels, I wish the antagonists were as carefully portrayed as the protagonists, but it is a small blotch and seems to be the accepted form for this genre, from the wee peek I have had.

I also like Deverell`s use of real organizations and so on--for instance Sierra Legal Defense (now EcoJustice Canada), particularly as I have a friend on staff there. It is quite amusing to see them depicted as he has done.

Recommended. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Dec 26, 2010 |
"Arthur Beauchamp, the legend of the B.C. criminal bar, is thoroughly enjoying his retirement as a hobby farmer when he reads in a newspaper that one of his old clients has been arrested. The rascally 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 life takes an abrupt turn: his new wife, Margaret Blake, has taken up residence fifty feet above ground in a tree she is determined to save for the eagles and from the loggers. Beauchamp is dragged back to court to defend his old client, and at the same time, does what he can to save the tree and get his wife back. Witty and full of twists, this irresistable story sees Deverell writing at the top of his form." - McClelland and Stewart jacket notes.

This book won the Arthur Ellis award in 2006 for Best Novel (crime). It's a Canadian mystery starring retired lawyer Arthur Beauchamp. Very entertaining - quirky and funny, two good courtroom dramas with some suspense, a love story or two, some very eccentric but likeable characters, unpredictable plot twists, and some social commentary on the politics of logging and the environment in British Columbia. Deverell has written a couple of others with Arthur Beauchamp, and I want to read them now. ( )
1 vote tripleblessings | Jun 30, 2008 |
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To the Sierra Legal Defense Fund and
all defenders of our natural heritage...
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Mick the Owl Faloon is sitting beside a stone fox by the name of Eve Winters, who is apparently some kind of shrink.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 077102715X, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Arthur Beauchamp, a retired lawyer, now a hobby farmer on B.C.'s Garibaldi Island, is dragged back to court to defend an old client who has been accused of raping and murdering a psychologist.

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