LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES
[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.
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.