Archive for the ‘William Deverell’ Category

Snow Job by William Deverell is a humourous sort of mystery/thriller, certainly not my usual genre but well worth the read.  The plot itself it’s terribly special: an (unwelcome) delegation from the Glorious Republic of Bhashyistan are victims of an attack in the streets of Ottawa.  Are they the victims of Abzal Erzhan, a former Bhashyistani revolutionary, now a teacher in Montreal who has mysteriously disappeared?  Or is there something more sinister afoot?  (Hint: it’s the latter).

Our hero is Arthur Beauchamp, a lawyer, hobby goat farmer, and husband to Margaret Blake, the leader of (and only MP for) the Green Party of Canada (this is one more seat than the party has ever won in real life).  Semi-retired, Arthur spends his time bouncing between his beloved BC island home and his wife’s political base in Ottawa, picking up cases and eccentric clients along the way.  Arthur is an interesting character and the hero of several other Deverell novels.  Perhaps because of that, I didn’t really feel like I got a full introduction to him – in a series, there’s always the assumption that the reader is familiar with the stock characters and that there’s no need to provide much background.  This leaves readers like me, picking up mid-series, rather lost and frustrated as Arthur is a most sympathetic and intriguing character.

While Arthur is our hero, the book focuses just as much (if not more) on the foibles of the politicos – namely the Conservative cabinet of PM Huck Finnerty.  These passages are certainly the highlight and it’s easy to see why Deverell won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (for Kill All the Judges).  There’s no satire like political satire and it’s a treat when done well, as it is here.  It is also so exciting to read something Canadian – as much as I enjoy laughing at other people’s governments, I still get the most enjoyment from laughing at my own.

The focus is on the characters and, even then, there are far too many of them.  Yes, I enjoyed the political satire, but there was no need for all those politicians to be given their own story lines – the same with Arthur’s island neighbours.  When the two groups interacted, as they did in one particularly tiresome plotline, it made for laboured reading.  In a shorter book, it might have been amusing, but there was already too much going here.  However, even as I complain about there being too many characters, I must confess my love from the epistolary part of the story told by Jill, one of three Canadian women stranded in Bhashyistan when the tensions between the two countries boil over.  The women are hidden in the country and eventually picked up by the Canada-loving revolutionaries.  Jill is a humourous and touching contrast to the Ottawa egomaniacs. 

What I truly appreciated about this book was how Canadian it is.  The descriptions of Canadian politics assume some previous knowledge (the different federal parties are all mentioned, and several former Prime Ministers) as do the descriptions of the cities: having lived in Ottawa and Vancouver, I was excited by the detailed depictions of both.  It’s rare that Canadian novels are ever unapologetically Canadian – too off-putting for foreign readers supposedly.  If I can read so many books that loving describe Paris or London or, god forbid, Los Angeles, then I daresay the rest of the world can handle descriptions of Vancouver’s Gastown or Ottawa’s canal-side footpaths.

I really did enjoy this.  It took me quite a while to read, mostly I think because the genre is not one I’m overly fond of, but it was good and I would certainly recommend it to others, mostly for the delightful satirical edge.

Read Full Post »