Dress Down Sunday: Trial of Passion by William Deverell

published 2002


Trial of Passion

[Evidence is being given, in an important trial….]

THE COURT: Just what you saw, Dr Hawthorne. In your own words.

A Well, she was, ah, somewhat in a state of nudity.

Q Somewhat. What do you mean?

A She was naked, except … she was wearing a tie.

Q Please describe it.

A It was very garish, brightly coloured.

Q But it was a man’s tie?

A Oh yes, I really wasn’t focusing very well, but I thought it depicted a scene on a beach, with a tropical palm.

Q All right, where was she wearing this tie?

A where? In the, ah, normal place. I mean, I know this wasn’t a normal situation. Around her neck. Properly knotted…

commentary: My friend Bill Selnes, of the Mysteries and More website, is my go-to guy on a number of subjects. He knows his stuff about all aspects of the law, after a long career in the business. He is Canadian, knows about the practicalities of cold weather, and is always ready to comment (I imagine him shaking his head more in sorrow than anger) on pictures of women facing the elements, or a difficult job, with the wrong footwear, a hat that will be blown off, a coat not properly buttoned up. But we also strongly suspect him of having a dandyish side, a knowledge of stylish and dapper clothes. I’m sure he knows how lawyers and law students should be dressed at all times… I wonder what he makes of the tie mentioned here?

I know that Bill loved this book: it was he and Margot at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist who persuaded me to read it. And indeed it is excellent. Protagonist Arthur Beauchamp – a very successful lawyer in Vancouver, Canada - decides to retire to a small island off the coast, escaping from a difficult marriage, a busy life, and a past with some interesting features. The court case above comes up: a young law professor is accused of rape by one of his students after a rather wild party. Arthur is determined to pursue his new life on the island – outlined in quite splendid detail – and is enjoying wearing relaxed clothes, growing a beard, and becoming involved in local politics and law cases. His Rolls Royce undergoes some unfortunate accidents, and he ends up driving a pickup truck.

Trial of Passion 2

But however strongly he resists the call from his old law firm, we KNOW he is going to take the case in the end. And so we get alternate chapters dealing with island life (pigs, bars, the fair, falling trees) and the court case (cross-examinations, sessions with therapists, the activities of law students). The result is a delight of a book, hugely enjoyable and full of surprises. The way in which the court case is finally resolved is wholly unexpected, and hard to believe it could happen in real life, but most compelling to read. And very funny, full of witty moments:
A badge is pinned to her khaki shirt that says simply, “Equality”. Doubtless a radical of sorts.
[I should stress, by the way, that though this is a funny and light-hearted book in some ways, the reality of rape is not mocked or treated lightly at all.]

The book is highly entertaining, and full of suspense – the reader really wants to know the truth of the matter. I was fascinated by the picture of legal life in Vancouver, and how small a world the lawyers and judges formed – they all knew each other and were very friendly, even socializing during the case. I know Vancouver somewhat, and also the very beautiful islands off the coast, which added to my enjoyment.

William Deverell was obviously a most interesting man – a busy lawyer, but also a prolific and talented writer. This book was the first in a series, and I will certainly be reading more about Arthur and his life…

The ties are, self-evidently, an advert.

The b/w picture is from a booklet advertising Vancouver Island as a great spot for sport… although from many years before the book, I thought the photo had a look of Arthur enjoying his island.


  1. I like that picture very much, Moira, and I can see how it suggested Arthur and his island to you. I'm very glad you enjoyed the novel. You make a strong point that this novel doesn't make light of rape or of sexual harassment. There is wit, but not about those very serious matters. I like Arthur Beauchamp's character very much, and I do respect him as a lawyer. Thanks very much for the kind mention, and I'm happy to see you thought this well-written.

    1. I was confident that any book recommended by you AND Bill was bound to be good, and the confidence was not misplaced! I loved the character of Arthur, and the really really unexpected way the plot developed. There were a couple of items about the final tenth or so that took me completely by surprise! I'm sure you know what I mean.

  2. Moira: Thanks for the kind words. I appreciated them.

    Now, those ties are perfect for the book. They are garish enough that a male observer of a naked woman wearing one of them was bound to notice and be able to describe the tie.

    I have colourful ties in the closet but NOTHING to rival those ties. Whenever I think of the book from now on I will thing of those ties. I am going to add a link of this post to my blog post reviewing the book.

    You may or may not know that Deverell graduated from the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan just over a decade before me. He had a long and distinguished career in Vancouver as a barrister before becoming a full time author.

    I commit to continuing commentary on suitable outdoor wear for the women of the world as I seek to keep them from frostbite and hypothermia.

    As to my personal attire I was giving the reflection at Church this morning. I had on a green sport jacket (think Master's Golf green), a lighter green shirt, a Celtic design tie (intertwined curving bands of red, blue, yellow and green), a small yellow rosette in the left lapel of my jacket and dark blue pants.

    1. Oh thank you Bill - yours was the verdict I really wanted! And I am glad to hear that you will continue to offer helpful advice to those women in impractical clothes...
      Your church outfit sounds extremely smart, and striking.

  3. Not singing out to me, Moira I'm afraid though I do think I ought to read something with a legalistic angle soon-ish.

    1. As a matter of fact I think you would enjoy this Col, but will not try to persuade you!

  4. There is an old, old military joke (so old it has whiskers) concerning an officer who is apprehended by the police whilst naked and in a room with a lady not his wife. He is charged with (among other things) being out of uniform and acquitted on the grounds that he is properly attired for the activity in which he was engaged at the time.


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