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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sing a Worried Song by William Deverell

(22. - 819) Sing a Worried Song by William Deverell – Arthur Beauchamp Q.C. (pronounced “Beecham” Arthur would prefer) is back in court. The twist is that the trial which occupies the first section of the book takes place in 1987 when Arthur, in his later prime (his 50’s), is retained by the Government of British Columbia to prosecute a murder trial mangled by the prosecutor of the first trial which ended in a hung jury.

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;


  1. Bill, I think when I first encountered this author at your blog I was interested for the legal aspects, but was not into Canadian authors and mysteries like I am now. So now I have a double reason to get started reading this author. Amazing that I have bought books by so many Canadian authors in the last three years, but haven't gotten to this one.

    I just got my copy of Cold Mourning by Brenda Chapman today. Now I have to stop buying books for a while.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I am glad you are making literary visits to Canada. I see you have been making progress on the 8th Canadian Book Challenge.

      On buying books it has been almost a month. My willpower is ebbing .....

  2. I've really enjoyed some of Deverell's Beauchamp books, including APRIL FOOL, which I bought from a nice wee store on Vancouver Island back in 2008, just a few days after meeting Deverell in person at Vancouver Library. Have several others on my TBR shelf. Enjoying your perspectives on this one Bill.

    1. Craig: Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed your interview with Deverell. He sounds like a lively guy. He actually went to law school in Saskatchewan and worked as a journalist here. I hope you get to read more of his books in the near future.

  3. Oh, that's really interesting, Bill, about the handling of the evidence. I'll look forward to your discussion of the actual trial. I do know what you mean about books that drag a bit in the middle; I think there has to bee a balance between enough detail for a mental picture, and too much detail. I'm glad, overall, that you liked the book, though.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Disputes over evidence make fictional trials more interesting than just withering cross-examinations and eloquent closing arguments.