William Deverell’s chief contribution to the genre of mystery and detective fiction has been the legal crime novel, with its emphasis on lawyers and courtrooms, criminals and police, the manifold activities that bring these forces together, and the often strange results of their dramatic encounters.
Deverell’s novels, like those of his American contemporaries Scott Turow and John Grisham, reflect the public fascination with criminal law and fictional depictions of legal proceedings that have the ring of authenticity. The appeal of legal crime fiction intensified tremendously in the aftermath of the televising of the O. J. Simpson criminal trial in the United States in 1995.
Most of Deverell’s fiction is set along the west coast of Canada, around Vancouver, a part of the country often associated with flamboyance, eccentricity, radicals, and excess. Deverell’s stories are filled with eccentric characters, colorful dialogue, and strange and surprising twists and turns. They are also enriched by references to classical literature and by Deverell’s deep concern for environmental issues.
Deverell’s novels are often based on actual legal cases and incidents. A practicing lawyer for many years, Deverell was involved in hundreds of cases. For his novels, he conducted extensive research to ensure accuracy. His work has enjoyed enormous popularity in Canada and worldwide. In terms of quality and impact, Deverell’s fiction bears comparison with the best in the field, including that of Turow and Grisham.