Sing a Worried Song
Globe & Mail Review By Margaret Cannon
Confession time: I love Bill Deverell’s books. I’ve been a fan since the villainous Dr. Au appeared in Needles and Deverell never fails me.
This sixth Arthur Beauchamp book is simply brilliant and should be shortlisted for next year’s Arthur Ellis Award.
The story begins with a bit of court testimony. The witness describes a man arriving in a motel room. It is stark and scary. This leads Beauchamp back to 1987, battling alcoholism and his wife’s infidelity. He’s one of Vancouver’s best defence attorneys but, faced with a truly vile crime – a thrill kill of a local clown – he takes the prosecutor’s role. He wins. He returns to his life and personal demons. Thirty years later, retired, married, fulfilled, and relaxing on glorious Garibaldi Island, Beauchamp is summoned to defend a local man. But his past is lurking there, waiting to rise up and take revenge for murders long thought settled. You won’t put this one down and, as an added bonus, Deverell is one of Canada’s best at developing the B.C. setting. Almost as good as a trip west.
Toronto Star review by Jack Batten
In William Deverell’s new novel, readers can only nod in agreement when he writes of his central character, “Arthur Beauchamp is a worrier. It is what he does best.” After six novels featuring Arthur, we’ve learned to accept and love him as the champion of all worrywarts. He’s 75 now, and he still frets about his manliness, his performances as a criminal defence counsel, his standing in the community, and practically everything else under the sun.
Sing a Worried Song gives us Arthur in full worrying mode at two different stages of his life. The first half of the book takes place more than a quarter century ago when Arthur was still married to Annabelle, the beautiful artistic director of the Vancouver Opera and a serial cheater. At this time in his career, in late 1986, Arthur briefly changes roles in the courtroom, taking on his first and only job as a prosecutor, acting for the Crown in a murder trial.
The case involves a slippery young guy accused of stabbing to death a Vancouver busker. As Deverell presents the trial, it’s gripping stuff. He may be the most convincing of all writers of courtroom stories, way up there just beyond the lofty plateau occupied by such classic courtroom dramatists as Scott Turow and John Lescroart, and in the new book, it’s Deverell at peak form.
The novel’s second half brings us forward to 2012. Arthur has now moved to Garibaldi Island, is married to Margaret Blake, the Green Party MP, and has mostly retired from law. In this half, Arthur has many mini-adventures dealing with Garibaldi’s rustic eccentrics. But throughout this gently humourous stretch, a hangover from the old murder prosecution nags at Arthur. It worries him, and maybe, we readers realize, he may have very good reason for the worry.
National Post Review by Naben Ruthnum
William Deverell’s Sing a Worried Song is about the murder of a clown. While those who fear and hate clowns believe that this is no crime at all, Deverell and his series character, lawyer Arthur Beauchamp, are quick to establish the corpse as a real and troubled person. Joe Chumpy was a gentle Vancouver downtown eastside busker, stabbed several times in his apartment in what appears to be a pointless thrill murder by a visiting Toronto rich kid. The killing could also have been the work of one of the gay prostitutes that Chumpy sometimes hired, but what little evidence and valid testimony there is seem to point to the out-of-town boy.
The book opens at the 1987 trial of the killer, Randolph Skyler — an excellent sinister rich kid name. Deverell’s two kinds of pro at once: an extremely experienced lawyer and a longtime writer of crime fiction, he makes the courtroom scenes lively and realistic, animating the proceedings with details of personality conflicts and Arthur Beauchamp’s shaky hold on his sobriety.
The second half of the novel takes us out of the courtroom and 25 years further on in time, with the retired Arthur Beauchamp leading a much more pleasant life on Garibaldi Island in 2012. The sense of unfinished business from the trial hasn’t faded, and one of the major players from the events of 1987 is threatening to make a reappearance in the most unpleasant of ways.
Deverell writes the first section in the past tense and the second section in the present tense, a neat division that works quite well. Leaving the courtroom also allows each half of the book to be in a slightly different subgenre, making Sing a Worried Song entertaining in a couple different registers.
The Publishers Weekly Review
From the back jacket copy…
The sixth novel in the acclaimed Arthur Beauchamp series
Everything is going well for Arthur Beauchamp in his early middle age. Life is so good for the top-notch defence lawyer that, in a moment of career restlessness, he decides to switch sides, just the once, and prosecute a young man charged with murdering a clown. Beauchamp is confident he can prove Randolph Skyler is guilty. Confident, but still worried and surprisingly blind to how precarious the evidence is — and, worse, to the fissures opening in his personal life.
It’s a case Beauchamp will never forget, not even years later, when he’s happily remarried and retired to a bucolic life on Garibaldi Island in the glorious Salish Sea. As Beauchamp is about to learn, the older you get, the greater the chance is that the past will come back to bite you. In Deverell’s latest marvel in his Beauchamp series, Arthur has causes aplenty to sing a worried song.