About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I’ll See You in My Dreams by William Deverell

I’ll See You in My Dreams by William Deverell – Arthur Beauchamp is back in a murder trial. The publication of a biography of Beauchamp by Wentworth Chance has prompted Beauchamp, now in his mid-70’s, to reflect on his first murder trial 50 years ago in 1962. At 25 he was assigned to represent a young Indian, Gabriel Swift, from the Squamish Band near Vancouver who has been accused of murdering his employer, University of British Columbia professor Dermot Mulligan.

As Louise Penny did in Bury Your Dead, Deverell is working with three plots. Unlike the Penny book they all deal with the same subject.

In the book, Deverell is simultaneously writing Beauchamp’s current reflections on the old trial, excerpts from the somewhat pompous biography and Beauchamp’s experiences five decades earlier in representing Swift. He does it very well.

Beauchamp is initially challenged because Dermot had been a mentor and hero when Beauchamp was a student at UBC a few years earlier. There is an underlying issue on what happened when Dermot was principal of an Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan two decades earlier. My next post will discuss, through a look at crime fiction in several countries, the terrible problems arising from how indigenous people were educated in past generations.

What is most striking in the book is the relationship between Beauchamp and Swift. His client is a very bright man, mainly self-educated, who speaks several languages and is a Communist.

To the RCMP of the day he is a lippy Indian. He does not fit their stereotype image of what is a good Indian. The same attitude was set out by Arthur Upfield in The Will of the Tribe.

Ordinarily the lack of a body would be a major challenge for the Crown prosecutor but there is significant circumstantial evidence of murder. Beauchamp is convinced his client is being framed.

Adding to the challenge of defending Swift is the charge of capital murder. If Swift is convicted he will be hung. (The trial, set in the early 1960’s, takes place near the end of the capital murder charge in Canada.)

Beauchamp is weighed down by the consequences of losing the trial. He forms a close bond with his client and can hardly bear to think about him being executed.

Beauchamp faces a dilemma constantly encountered by defence counsel but at its most intense in capital cases (death penalty cases in the U.S.). Should he attempt to reach a plea agreement that will save his client’s life but send a man, he is sure is innocent to jail?

Eighty years ago Saskatchewan’s most prominent criminal lawyer, John Diefenbaker, was representing a young man charged with capital murder. It appeared that his client could have pled guilty to manslaughter because of drunkenness. Diefenbaker, confident of an acquittal, urged a trial. He was wrong. His client was convicted and hung.

The issue of whether to plead guilty was the subject of another Canadian mystery last year, The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg. No longer was the client’s life at stake but the hard decision of whether to make a deal was well explored.

Compounding the situation is Beauchamp’s age. I was also a young lawyer at 25 doing some criminal defence work. I was not ready for a murder trial. Beauchamp is equally unready.

In defending someone the decision whether to recommend a guilty plea is often the most important decision to be made by defence counsel.

While the subject matter is very serious Deverell has not abandoned the comedic touch so evident in the previous Arthur Beauchamp legal mystery, Snow Job. The young Beauchamp has a sexual fetish I have not encountered in crime fiction.

I also appreciated the interactions between the lawyers. They are more sophisticated than the totally adversarial descriptions of many legal mysteries.

It is a book that made me grateful on many levels we no longer have capital murder in Canada.

Deverell has provided a wonderful picture of a lawyer in his mid-20’s and his mid-70’s. (Feb. 12/12)


  1. It sounds like a very interesting book. I am keen on legal mysteries so I shall look into this series a bit more. Thanks for the interesting post, and I look forward to your thoughts on education soon.

  2. Bill - This is an excellent review of what sounds like an absorbing book. One of the most appealing things about it is that it shows the very human side of being an attorney for some very challenging cases.
    I'm particularly keen to read what you have to say about indigenous education, too. I take up this topic in one of the courses I teach most frequently and I always like learning new things about it.

  3. Terrific review Bill. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on this and reading it, as a former lawyer (here in New Zealand) myself. I read and enjoyed APRIL FOOL, which I picked up while travelling through BC in 2008 - I also met Deverell at a Vancouver Library event that year. I've since bought KILL ALL THE LAWYERS, MINDFIELD, and SNOW JOB - so will have to add this latest one to the list.

    Great review.

  4. Maxine: Thanks for the comment. Deverell provides interesting cases with an interesting blend of humour and drama.

  5. Margot: I will be very interested in hearing from you after I post tonight on your thoughts concerning aborginal or indigenous education.

  6. Craig: Thanks for the kind comments. I appreciate them.

    I would be interested in knowing some time what took you to being a "former" lawyer.

    I have never met Deverell. I hope to meet him some time. He sounds like an interesting character.

  7. Obviously found another good legal series, with social issues, a very good find for me.

    I started reading Perry Mason books, while a teenager, and we watched the TV programs. It's still a genre of choice for me -- but it has to be good! Courtroom dialogue has to crackle. Legal arguments have to be profound.

    I'll try this one. I hate death penalty cases, especially if the defendant loses the case. I am so sickened by this horror, which happens in the U.S. often, especially in Texas and other Southern states, and often with little concern if guilt has been proven.

    I'm glad Canada nor the European Union allow the death penalty. I'm glad that South Africa, after ending apartheid got rid of this terrible holdover from the Inquisitions.

    I'll try this book. If the issues get to me, I'll go back and try earlier books.

  8. kathy d.: Thanks for the very thoughtful comment.

    Deverell is one of the few lawyer writers old enough to have participated in a capital murder case in Canada as we quit hanging people 50 years ago. (In Canada we refer to death penalty cases as capital murder cases.)

    If you have not read my review of Becoming Justice Blackmon, a biography of the Supreme Court justice, there is a reference to his decision to vote against all cases imposing the death penalty for pragmatic rather than philosophical reasons.

  9. I am in the middle of this very well-written book, enjoying the dialogue, the humor and the issues.

    I like Gabriel and I learned a lot in my youth in the 1960s from Fanon and other writers popular for activists. I learned life lessons from Fanon.

    However, I am dismayed that book reviews are giving away crucial plot developments. I am so down about what's been written that I almost feel like putting the book down mid-read.

    The older I've gotten I've realized that the death penalty is an anachronism and a horror.

    Deverell is a fine writer, with a fabulous sense of humor.

    I'm tempted to look for April Fool, which my library does not have. However, I'll try to finish this one, given that I"m already let down about what is about to happen.

  10. kathy d.: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate hearing from you. I hope my review has contained too many plot developments. I try not to reveal too much. Arthur is a wonderful character who lingers long in the memory of readers.