It is a shock to see Arthur acting as Crown Counsel. He has stood for the defence through his career. He is temporarily lured to the other side by an interesting trial and the willingness of the Government to pay him $500 per hour.
Handsome well-to-do Randy Skyler came to Vancouver from Ontario with his best friend, Manfred Unger, to attend Expo ’86. While they are there Chumpy the Clown is murdered.
Chumpy the Clown is the nickname of Joyal (Joey) Chumpy, a resident of the infamous East Hastings, where he roams the streets in afternoons and evenings busking with a harmonica in his clown attire. He attracts enough donations to keep him in beer. Unfortunately, he also cruises the streets late at night seeking male companionship and is killed.
The police investigation puts Skylar in Chumpy’s dumpy apartment because of a fingerprint on a beer bottle. At the first trial defence counsel almost won acquittal when a sloppy crime scene investigator miscounted the bottles and opened the way for an argument the bottle with the Skyler fingerprint had been planted.
For the re-trial Arthur ensures the forensic evidence is handled correctly.
What he does not anticipate is that Skyler’s friend, Manfred Unger, will not testify to what he had said in his original statement to the police and at the first trial. Arthur fumes and threatens the recalcitrant witness before skilfully showing how a hostile witness is handled in court.
As with every book in the series the trials are fascinating as befits an author who spent his lifetime in the criminal courts of British Columbia.
There is a dramatic ending to the trial which leads to the second half of the book set 25 years into the future in 2012.
Arthur is continuing his retirement in Garibaldi Island in the Gulf Islands near Vancouver. While no longer stressed by the demands of criminal defence work Arthur is still plagued by worry:
He must stop continually seeking reasons to be unhappy. Maybe’s there’s a group. My name is Arthur, and I am a worrywart.
Every day Arthur finds much to worry about in his life.
The colourful residents of the island do provide distractions. One of the more unusual, if that is possible on the island, is the annual Potlatch, the Marijuana Growers Fall Fair, in which local marijuana growers meet with buyers from the mainland to negotiate the sale of their crops and compete for the McCoy Cup, “named after a local sculptor caught green-handed with a heroic half-ton of cannabis”.
In Sing a Worried Song Arthur’s wife, Margaret, spends most of the second half of the book in Ottawa tending to her duties as the leader of Canada’s Green Party.
Left alone on the island Arthur is inexorably drawn towards a return to court when a local, Dogmar Zbrinjkowitz, known to all as “Dog” is held in custody and charged with trafficking after selling an ounce of marijuana to a ludicrously disguised auxiliary police officer. “Free Dog” tee shirts are but one manifestation of the local efforts to save Dog.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book and the trial in the second half.
It is a good book but sagged a bit for me in the second half. All the distinctive personalities of the islanders and their antics wearied me. As well, while the second half is clever and often funny the connection to the first half was limited. It would have worked better for me if there had been two separate books.
The ending was predictable by the end of the first half. While an ending does not need to be startling (I dislike extra twists) it is difficult to create tension when a reader knows how a book will end. A surprise ending with real continuing tension would have occurred had Deverell drawn upon the real life ending from what happened after the actual trial that inspired the book. My next post will discuss that trial.
****(Vancouver) Deverell, William - (2011) - A Trial of Passion; (2011) - Snow Job; (2012) - I'll See You in My Dreams; (2012) - Removing Indigenous Children from Their Families in Crime Fiction; (2012) - "D" is for William Deverell; (2014) - Kill All the Lawyers; (2014) - The Lawyers of Kill All the Lawyers;